How Much is FOG Costing Us?

February 4, 2019 Brendan Ellingham

The impact of Fats, Oils and Grease (FOG) is massive. Cities around the world are wrestling with enormous globs of FOG that are choking sewer systems.  Older cities are feeling this squeeze the most – as near-ancient piping and tunnels simply can’t handle the pressure. As grease flows down the drains of restaurants, institutions and homes, it cools and congeals inside the sewer lines. Add a plethora of debris to the mix – “flushable” wet-wipes, in particular – and a self-sustaining trap is created. The debris helps trap more grease and the grease traps more debris. Before long, the accumulation results in a severe restriction of water flow; as has been coined in the U.K., a “fatberg” develops.

Scientists have recently discovered that grease flowing into sewers can create a sewer-based form of soap. The presence of calcium in concrete can combine with the grease and turn into soap – a process called saponification. Although the use of the term “soap” is purely to describe the chemical compound, there are some parallels to the household definition. The results of this combination are the formation of hardened deposits that add strength to blockages and make removal very difficult.

Restricted sewage flows can come at a hefty price to the local environment. Clogs and backups can result in the overwhelmed sewers, releasing untreated sewage into waterways. Health to fish, wildlife and humans becomes increasingly compromised when sewers and treatment facilities cannot perform the way they’ve been designed to.

The price tag for cities to manage the FOG issue is similarly daunting. New York City has reported that grease caused 71% of sewer backups in 2016, and over 5 years the city spent $18 million to fight the proliferation of fatbergs. In London, U.K., over 200,000 sewer blockages are reported every year. This costs the city around $14 million to manage. 

Minimizing FOG released in wastewater has become a priority of food industry standards and building codes. To comply with these standards, most jurisdictions require wastewater to contain less than 200mg of FOG per litre. Technological innovation has eased the burden of meeting these standards. Endura® Grease Management provides the food industry with highly effective product options for the separation of grease from sewer-bound water. The effectiveness of Hydromechanical Grease Interceptors (HGIs) also helps to eliminate the costly inconvenience of on-site drains becoming blocked and backing up. The downtime and negative impressions that can result from a restaurant’s kitchen drain backing up can be difficult to recover from. Now, with HGIs being able to manage the high capacities required from busy restaurants, these situations can be avoided.

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