The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Local Business

February 9, 2013

Prairie Farms Dairy, city officials join forces to control FOG

New procedure help control grease in sewer lines

ANDERSON, Ind. — Who hasn’t made bacon with breakfast and then upended the pan into the kitchen sink sending the liquid grease spinning down the drain during cleanup?

Probably no big deal by itself, right?

Wrong.

Multiply that one pan of grease by thousands of other residential customers, hundreds of local restaurants, plus a small number of industrial food processors, and suddenly your act of convenience takes on new significance and becomes part of a potentially big problem.

Wastewater treatment professionals call it FOG, shorthand for fats, oil and grease. FOG is a by-product of cooking or food processing, and comes from meat, lard, oil, shortening, butter, margarine, food scraps, sauces, and dairy products.

Over time, FOG can build up,  block entire pipes and cause wastewater backups and overflows. In large amounts FOG can interfere with wastewater treatment.

Anderson has been monitoring FOG since November 2011, said Nara Manor, superintendent of the Water Pollution Control department, which operates the city’s wastewater treatment system.

A recent legal advertisement identified Prairie Farms Dairy for being in “significant noncompliance” with its city wastewater discharge permit for all of 2012. Two local restaurants, Great Taste China Buffet on Nichol Avenue and Long John Silvers on 18th Street, were also tagged for noncompliance for at least part of 2012.

The public notice is required by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations, said Lucas Gilbert, industrial surveillance manager for Water Pollution Control.

In Prairie Farms’ case, Gilbert believes the violations may be attributable to reporting errors because they’ve been classified as violations of “Technical Review Criteria” violations under city ordinance.

City officials and Prairie Farm managers are still treating the matter seriously,

“We have no proof that these discharges caused the plant or treatment system any problems,” Manor said. “But it’s obviously something we’re taking very seriously.”

Lucas said Prairie Farm managers installed new treatment equipment and have made process changes at the plant to make sure the cooperative complies with regulations.

“What really affects us is that fat is a natural component of dairy products,” said Prairie Farms plant Manager Tom Stramer.

The way fats from the plant have historically entered the wastewater system, he said, is when the production of one product transitions to another, such as when employees change from processing white milk to chocolate milk. Lines are flushed with sanitized water during that process, he said.

Plant officials have installed a second 6,000-gallon “equalizing tank,”  that will reduce the amount of fat that can leave the plant and enter the wastewater system.

“We do not want any problems to exist at the Anderson wastewater treatment plant,” Stramer said.

Find Stu Hirsch on Facebook and @StuHirsch on Twitter, or call 640-4861.

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