Compared to residential units, industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) facilities often discharge larger amounts of fats, oils and grease (FOG) into the sanitary sewer, causing problems internally and for the surrounding municipality.
When FOG is poured down the drain it accumulates in the pipes and eventually cools and hardens, decreasing capacity and causing potential blockages in pipes and sewers. Examples of FOG include meat fat, cooking oil, butter and margarine, dairy and sauces.
“Blocked pipes can back up into the facility or cause overflows outside,” cautions Mark Payne, program manager of monitoring and enforcement for the Regional Municipality of York. “Overflows and backups cause health concerns, environmental issues and property damage. Cleaning and clearing blockages and replacing any damaged infrastructure is costly. Legal action may be taken if municipal infrastructure is affected or if an ICI discharges wastewater exceeding local bylaws.”
Canadian municipalities currently spend more than $250 million a year removing garbage from sewer systems, according to the Municipal Enforcement Sewer Use Group. Cities require that commercial facilities help keep sanitary sewers from clogging with FOG.
“In York Region, for example, all ICIs whose site contains a restaurant or where food is cooked, processed or prepared must also install, operate and maintain a grease interceptor,” says Payne.
York Region is one of the municipal partners of the I Don’t Flush public awareness campaign, which encourages the proper disposal of FOG. The campaign is a joint effort of the Ontario Clean Water Agency and the Clean Water Foundation, also in partnership with the City of Barrie, Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury, Niagara Region and Town of LaSalle.
Here are five steps facilities can take to prevent FOG from going down the drain:
- Place screens over drains to prevent solid food particles from entering.
- Recycle FOG. Many companies provide bins and pickup services then recycle FOG into animal feed or biodiesel.
- Wipe or scrape grease from dishes and pots and place it in the organic bin or waste prior to washing.
- Train staff and place reminder signs that “No Grease” goes down the drain.
- Don’t use enzymes, bacteria, solvents, hot water or other chemicals to facilitate the passage of FOG through interceptors. Not only is it illegal to do so, but it also pushes the problem into the sewer infrastructure.