TPO Magazine, Feb. 2022
REGULATIONS, PUBLIC EDUCATION AND A GREASEZILLA SYSTEM HELP A MASSACHUSETTS TOWN GET A HANDLE ON FOG AND GENERATE REVENUE
By Brian Levine
As the Gateway to Cape Cod, the Massachusetts town of Wareham boasts 54 miles of coastline. Its family-friendly beaches combined restaurants and hotels attract a steady stream of tourists each year. To preserve the local ecology and the health of the Agawam River, the Wareham Water Pollution Control Facility treats wastewater that arrives through 61 miles of gravity pipe and 45 pump stations.
Guy Campinha, director of the treatment facility, has spent the last decade working to keep the sewers clean and to improve the plant’s operating efficiency. Since his arrival 2010, he has incorporated proactive measures and greener processes into the water and sewer infrastructure. A primary focus of his attention has been to educate the public, business owners and town officials on the problems of fats, oils and grease (FOG) in the sewer system. As part of the remedy, Campinha has added a Greasezilla hydronic thermal FOG separation system which collects FOG waste and recycles it into reusable resources. The system has helped reduce FOG-related blockages in the sewer system while creating a new source of revenue for the town.
TROUBLE WITH FOG
Situated on 66 acres, the town’s 1.56 mgd biological nutrient removal facility discharges effluent to the Agawam River. The facility operators face continual challenges of increased demand, seasonal flooding and aging pipes, along with occasional sewer blockages, some caused by FOG, that lead to backups and spills. Nursing homes and medical centers, along with more than 125 restaurants in the Wareham area, generate substantial amounts of grease that can filter into the sewer system. FOG accumulating in the pipes severely reduced flow and caused recurring problems.
After a 2014 grease-induced sanitary sewer overflow that resulted in temporary beach closings, Campinha escalated his efforts to address FOG issues. He took a three-pronged approach: implement and enforce regulations, educate the public, and procure specialized equipment to improve FOG collection and disposal. “If everyone did their part to keep FOG out of our sewer pipes, we could prolong the life and improve the efficiency of our infrastructure and treatment facility,” Campinha says.
Campinha spearheaded efforts to educate the town and public about grease in the sewer system. He proposed new regulations requiring businesses that generate grease to clean their grease traps regularly and contract with professionals for maintenance and waste disposal. He also led an informational meeting about grease in sewer pipes, showing video from a robotic camera that allowed attendees to see congealed FOG in the pipes for themselves.
Still, inevitably some FOG still gets through. So, in 2015, Campinha won approval from town officials to purchase the Greasezilla system; it was installed in fall of that year. Developed by Ron and Mary Crosier, the unit is a turnkey, standalone system that separates and processes FOG waste. The system removes FOG from the grease trap waste stream, reducing disposal costs and creating a new revenue source. It operates without dewatering, leaves nothing to be landfilled and has a total operating cost of 1-2 cents per gallon.
The system allows the Wareham facility to accept grease trap waste from haulers; it also treats grease skimmed from the treatment plant scum tanks and clarifiers. The FOG entering the system is heated and separated into three distinct layers:
• Brown Grease, about 10% of the finished process, is converted into an advanced biofuel, about 5% of which returns to fuel Greasezilla. The remaining 95% can be sold as fuel substitute on the commodities exchange. Its low moisture content (less than 1%) makes it an excellent feedstock for biodiesel conversion technologies.
• Batter, making up 5% percent of volume, can serve as a feedstock for anaerobic digesters. It can also be treated with traditional processes, composted or processed with the effluent water.
• Residual pasteurized effluent water, comprising 85% of the material and nearly free of suspended solids, can be safely returned to the headworks for standard treatment.
Along with better enforcement and greater public awareness, the Greasezilla unit helped Wareham reduce grease-related blockages in the sewers and pump stations, enabling plant operators to focus on other critical issues.
“We regularly check all our systems, and our team members do a great job of minimizing breakdowns and maximizing the uptime and efficiency of all our equipment,” says Campinha. “Greasezilla has taken a huge burden and transformed it into an asset. Not only are we saving time and money by streamlining FOG disposal, but we’re preventing blockages and backups. Greasezilla has become the backbone of our FOG mitigation program.”
During its first year, the unit brought in some $300,000 in grease disposal fees and now doubles that annually. Because the system can process millions of gallons each year, the town plant accepts grease trap waste from large event complexes across southern New England.
The growing worldwide demand for biofuel and biodiesel makes the town’s advanced biofuel a valuable commodity. “For me, the biggest value is what we save on grease that used to be sent to the incinerator,” Campinha observes. “Instead of just generating waste, we now decant and send the grease right to the Greasezilla as biofuel, saving us hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s a more sustainable way of handling FOG, and it makes a huge impact on our bottom line.”
Other facilities are following Campinha’s lead. Notably, the Hampton Roads Sanitation District and Southwest Water are installing systems as part of facility upgrades.
“Everyone has a FOG problem, whether they know it or not,” Campinha says. “It’s part of everyday living. For those of us trying to provide safe and effective wastewater treatment, FOG can be a constant headache. We found a huge part of the solution in Greasezilla. The system has helped us make life better for the people of Wareham and our local ecosystem.”