You would hope that "What's really important in the management of FOGS?" would be one of the first questions that is asked regardless of what your role, or scope of work is within the industry landscape. Right?
Well, based on my experience over the last 12+ years, unfortunately this is very much the exception rather than the rule and it partly explains why the industry has had such a hard time moving forward.
Some sectors have for sure a better awareness than others and like most industries there are for sure some thought-leaders, those people pushing the boundaries, asking the 'odd' questions, taking steps to redefine and reinvent this industry. The difficulty though is the many and often conflicting positions within a wide range of stakeholders that are involved in FOGS. For example, the foodservice professional. Be it a 'Mom & Pop' or a National Restaurant Chain, the fundamental position is the same. They began a business to prepare a particular type of food for their customer. They knew this in most cases meant a building of some description and therein lays a whole world of pain for even some of the most experienced professionals, let alone the restaurant virgin! And of course... at the very end of the "Important List of Stuff That Need Attention" typically has resided FOGS management. "I need to spend how much?", and I have to maintain it? Well how often? "What can I do to get by doing the minimum?". Depending on who that last question is being asked of, and the response given - will absolutely determine much of the next 1-5 years of operation good, bad or indifferent. It could even determine the operational viability of the business in the extreme.
The right answer from any of the stakeholders that interact in the marketplace should be..." Well you probably are not going to like this answer but...As a foodservice premises you are governed by wastewater discharge regulations that are enforced by your Sewer & Wastewater Utility. They in turn are held accountable by Regional (County), State and Federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations. These entities control what is permissible for discharge, transfer and treatment at Publically Owned Treatment Works. The sewer system was originally designed to move waste liquid and sanitary waste, but as the towns and cites have an continued to grow, the volume of waste and the nature of that waste has changed, as has the disposable and flushable mentality of the world we live in. More foodservice establishments (Over 1.2Million of them in North America today) with ever diversifying menus and cooking practices, plus an aging population resulting in more nursing homes and care facilities for example, are the primary sources of the discharge of Fats, Oils, Grease, and Food Solids into the sewer systems (regardless of type).The traditional mentality and one that remains remarkably prevalent today is that 'bigger is better' - resulting in excessively sized interceptors that have no qualification of their performance and where poorly or infrequently maintained are compromised in their function and operation. Even in Hydromechanical Grease Interceptors, that do have performance standards to which they can at least be compared on a level playing field to each other, the overwhelming conversation is about FOG capacity - How much can a particular manufacturers interceptor hold and remain effective? Its a valid and important question as it has relation to the realistic and viable maintenance interval necessary for proper function. This circles back to the beginning of this Blog - "So how often will it need to be cleaned and how much will that cost me?"
Increasingly, the answer to the question is and will continue to be taken out of the hands of the food service establishment or property owner. As a foodservice establishment operator, the Regulator, your local "Authority Having Jurisdiction" is calling the shots and what they want regardless of the decisions made in design, installation, or operation, is... consistent, effective and qualified performance (Grease Removal Efficiency and Effectiveness) to ensure that FOGS are not being discharged in any significant amount to the municipal systems that they have to manage. Bottom line for any foodservice operator, large or small, regardless of menu, location or the broad array of influences that can be in play, a properly defined and operated FOGS Control System, that ensures consistent compliance with discharge limits, will be the only acceptable mode of operation. This is very unlikely to be a single operational interceptor within or outside the building, rather a multi-product, multi-disciplinary approach that results in a Hybrid FOG Control System.
This means real time visibility of operational status with electronic monitoring and IoT solutions, efficient and effective control of not only Fats,Oils and Grease but also FOG-laden food solids, and better ways to manage the waste steams that will result from enhanced control and performance. At the last count 24 cities across the US were under EPA Consent Decree a significant part in all resolutions being focused on establishing viable and enforceable FOG Control Programs. Efficient and effective FOG management is no longer a choice it is a necessity.
So - What's REALLY important in management of FOGS? Independently verified, system-based hybrid FOG Control solutions, that deliver consistent performance in operation. If as a business you continue to do only the minimum in respect of FOGS Control, it is only a matter of time before there will be a knock on the door! I would much rather be riding the wave, than it crashing on my head!