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Fighting fatbergs with automated drain dosing systems

14 September 2018

In this article, we explore the benefits of automated drain dosing systems and how they can help prevent the built-up of fats, oils and grease, known as FOGs, in drains and sewers.

For businesses that prepare and serve food to customers, the build-up of fat, oil and grease in their drains and sewers can be bad news, as it can lead to foul smells and blocked and overflowing drains and sewers. Therefore, it is advised that businesses invest in appropriate equipment to prevent this from happening. The solution can come in the form of automated drain dosing equipment.

The built-up of fats, oils and grease, known as FOGs, in drains and sewers has long been recognised as a problem. The topic became the focus of attention in recent years, when a 15-tonne ball of congealed fat was found under the streets of Kingston upon Thames in 2013 and was described as a “fatberg”.(1)

A study by Channel 4 in conjunction with Thames Water, aired on TV earlier this year, analysed the contents of one supersize fatberg and the forensic analysis revealed that cooking fat is the biggest contributor to the mass, making up nearly 90% of the sample.(2)

Thames Water’s fatberg fighting trial campaign in 2017 found that more than 95% of food outlets visited did not have effective equipment and processes in place for disposing of fat, oil and grease. Since then, Thames Water have employed more staff for their above-ground fatberg fighting team with the aim of reducing the number of sewer blockages caused by commercial kitchens.(3)

All businesses such as restaurants, hotels, hospitals and care homes; the places that produce FOGs in huge quantities, should face up to the issue of incorrect disposal of this waste and review their grease management system to stop the build-up of fatbergs at source.

One grease management solution comes in the form of automated drain dosing equipment, where a measured and timed dose of an enzyme-based solution is automatically released into the waste pipe close to the kitchen sinks and dishwashers. This chemical helps to break down grease, food and oil, to prevent it from building up and potentially blocking drains.

How does automated drain dosing work?

A programmable peristaltic dosing pump, either battery or mains operated, will be wall mounted either in a cabinet containing both the pump and the drain dosing chemical or as a separate wall mounted pump with the drain dosing chemical bottle located nearby. The tubing from the dosing pump will be fixed with a tank connector into the drainage pipework close to the kitchen sink area or dishwasher.

The drain dosing chemical which is specifically cultured to act on fats, oils and grease, begins its work once released into the drains and helps with the breaking down of grease, food and oil to keep drain pipes clear of any FOG build-up that may potentially block the drains.

Regular dosing creates a living grease digestion culture within the drainage system, continuously providing protection from the build-up of the fats, oils and grease, associated odour and potential pest infestation. Drain dosing systems should always be considered as part of a grease management system and not as a stand-alone solution.

The benefits of automation in drain dosing:

Ensures clear drains
The use of automated drain dosing pumps keeps the drainage system clear of fats, oils and grease. Allowing the grease to build up is not only inconvenient but can be unhygienic and costly to your business. It results in bad odours and blockages, leaves a poor impression, causes complaints, and can even result in fines. Keeping drains clear prevents this.

Efficiency
Traditionally, managing grease was by using only a grease trap. However, you had to wait for the grease to rise to the surface and then dispose of it yourself or pay a specialist.

Automated dosing systems are programmable allowing the dosing cycles to run automatically. Businesses have the freedom to program the system to dose at the most suitable times, for example during the night, to maximise the effectiveness of the enzymatic products. This also eliminates the manual process of pouring chemicals into the drains, which has a potential element of human error and health and safety risk.

Reduced health and safety risks
When using grease traps, staff have to manually clear the build-up of grease, which is a tough job. The waste must then be properly disposed of and great care needs to be taken to avoid spillage and contamination of the surrounding areas.
Automated drain dosing releases an enzyme, which helps break down the grease so that it washes away easily without the need for human intervention.

Chemicals in their pure form are hazardous. Drain dosing systems ensure the safety of staff by removing contact with the chemical. This increases user-safety as automated dosing handles the chemicals for you.

Accurate dosing
Manually pouring chemicals down drains to clear grease, fat and oil is no longer an acceptable solution. This is due to the environmental impact and the guesswork of how much chemical to pour. Automated dosing systems eliminate the guesswork and dispense the correct amount of chemical in timed intervals preventing an over or under-dose.

Cost effectiveness
The use of an automated dosing system is an inexpensive and cost-effective solution, which results in cost control as the accurate dose is dispensed every time. The business can pre-set the dose and frequency so the system doses chemicals in a precise, reliable and consistent way. In addition, it reduces the expense of getting grease traps and drains unblocked professionally.

Low maintenance
Automated drain dosing systems are popular with commercial kitchens as they are easy to install and require minimal wall space so they fit into all environments. Once they are programmed, the system automatically releases the dosing solution and it requires minimal ongoing maintenance or intervention from the kitchen staff except replacing the dosing fluids.

Brightwell Dispensers offers a wide range of automated dosing systems for various applications including DrainWatch, their reliable, accurate and durable dosing system for premises that need drain and grease trap maintenance. DrainWatch is suitable for indoor and outdoor applications that require the delivery of a single chemical at timed intervals and is available as a mains operated or battery operated unit. DrainWatch can also be used for other purposes such as water treatment applications.

Automated dosing is adaptable
Automated dosing is making its mark across many different environments. The increased popularity of automated systems are due to their accuracy, safety and efficiency. They are also adaptable in that they can be used for different processes. Other types of automated dosing in the cleaning and hygiene industry include dishwash and laundry dosing systems. Automated systems such as dishwash and laundry dosing pumps ensure a consistent and accurate dosing of chemicals into commercial dishwashers and washing machines.

Overall, it is easy to see why automated dosing systems are fast becoming the norm for commercial businesses worldwide. They offer many benefits such as reduced cost, increased efficiency, safety and effective cleaning that allows businesses to focus their time on other important tasks.

Depending on the business and their environment, every businesses’ needs will vary. It’s key that suppliers work with their customers to work out a solution that caters to their needs.

To find out how we can help your business, contact us today.

Sources
(1) https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/feb/18/dont-feed-fatberg-museum-london-clogging-sewers-oil
(2) https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/apr/24/fatberg-autopsy-reveals-growing-health-threat-londoners
(3) https://corporate.thameswater.co.uk/Media/News-releases/THAMES-WATER-TABLES-ANTI-FATBERG-ADVICE