The Pelham Arms, no longer up in arms over FOG

Pelham Arms

Southern Water has been forward thinking with how they guide food service outlets when looking for solutions to tackle the ongoing issue of Fats, Oils and Grease (FOG) entering drains and jeopardising localized sewage networks.

There have been cases where hospitality and food service operators have faced continued blockages, flooding and looming fines as a result of FOG, even in cases where efforts have been made and FOG management systems installed. Southern Water is encouraging operators to make informed decisions on the right solution for their site, instead of indiscriminately applying a potentially unsuitable option.

UK Building Regulations specify that drainage serving kitchens in commercial hot food premises should be fitted with a grease separator or other effective means of grease removal. It is not enough however to simply fit a system and trust that it is effective. Operators also need to ensure that their waste does not interfere with the free flow of the sewage network, as required by law under section 111 of the Water Industry Act 1991. A fit and forget approach is not adequate.

The Pelham Arms pub in Lewes, owned by Hall and Woodhouse Brewery, has experienced a FOG predicament and substantial looming fine for two and a half years as a result of inappropriate FOG management. They had their site attended to repeatedly by Southern Water as a result of FOG blockages and flooding to the surrounding residential area. And although initially the pub had no grease management system in place, when a grease trap was later installed on the request of Southern Water it did not eradicate the problem.

The grease trap proved ineffective in preventing FOG reaching the public sewer, with further blockages and the spillage of foul sewage eight months later. It was clear to all involved that an alternative form of action was required. Andrew Mellor, landlord of The Pelham Arms, affirmed: “We had history of sewer blockage issues caused from FOG emanating from our pub kitchen. A traditional grease trap had been fitted but proved ineffective in eradicating blockages.”

Water company initiatives are all about raising the awareness of FOG issues and stimulating appropriate action.  But it is imperative that food operators are aware of all the various technologies available to them in order to fight against FOG discharge; a site evaluation should identify the most suitable solution.

On revisiting The Pelham Arms, Southern Water deemed that this problematic site would be a suitable test site for British manufacturer Mechline’s GreasePak, the most powerful and only BBA (British Board of Agrément) approved bioremediation dosing system on the market. GreasePak works by employing a powerful bio-enzymatic fluid that breaks down FOG into irreversible simpler compounds, and complies with UK legislation as an ‘effective means of grease removal’ as specified in the UK Building Regulations 2000.

In May 2016 Southern Water began a year-long trial with the installation of two GreasePaks, one for each outlet from the kitchen, as recommended by Mechline following an onsite survey. Staff were made aware of how to use and maintain the GreasePaks as well as trained with kitchen best practise – ‘Stop and think, not down the sink!’ Southern Water constantly monitored the sewers via CCTV over the 12 month period and on its completion reported that the trial of the GreasePak system at The Pelham Arms had proven successful. GreasePak proved to keep the sewer free from FOG with no discernible build-up evidential, a result not previously achieved with the installation of a grease trap!

The Pelham Arms clear sewer run

The clear sewer run at The Pelham Arms following the measures it took to manage kitchen oils and fats.

Andrew Mellor, landlord of The Pelham Arms, stated: “We (then) worked with Mechline and our water company to fit two Greasepak systems to the two drains from our kitchen. (…) Over the last year we have not had any blockages, the water company are happy with the results, the kitchen team are happy too, which means as a business owner… I am very happy.”

The improvement was clearly evident. With a carefully considered survey and appropriate placement of the GreasePaks in the kitchen, the desired effect of preventing the build-up of FOG in the sewers had been achieved. This together with proper instruction on the use of GreasePak and staff training in the kitchen had resulted in the desired result of a free flowing drain.

Southern Water’s Network Protection & Enforcement Officer, Steve Williams, commented: “It’s always great to find products that can help prevent the build-up of FOG in sewers, and even better when we can successfully work with businesses to install a system that works for them.”

Mechline’s GreasePak had proven effective where the grease trap had fallen short. GreasePak works so well in isolation as it incorporates the most powerful Multi-Strain Grease Degrader fluid on the market, consisting of naturally occurring, non-pathogenic bacteria, containing in excess of 500 million ‘bugs’ per gram.

The unique formula permanently breaks down FOG and starches in the drain, resulting in these being able to pass through drainage and, most importantly, not being able reform down the line.

We had history of sewer blockage issues caused from FOG emanating from our pub kitchen. A traditional grease trap had been fitted but proved ineffective in eradicating blockages”

Where the presence of a standalone grease trap might serve as visible reassurance of FOG being ‘trapped’, this build-up of solidified fat is not synonymous with success. As witnessed at The Pelham Arms, it does not necessarily equate to clear drains. The accumulation of FOG in a grease trap can also in fact create an unpleasant haven for infestation and noxious odours if not attended to regularly.

They require substantial maintenance through cleaning and the licensed collections of this resulting hazardous waste. Food service operators have a responsibility to their employees to provide safe, clean working conditions and to customers, to serve food that is stored and prepared safely and hygienically. Ultimately the chosen FOG management system must not compromise hygiene and safety in the food service operation.

GreasePak is an environmentally friendly, trouble free solution that is discreet, easy to clean and in contrast helps prevent drains from smelling. Refills are easy to store and change and with few working parts it is very easy to install and operate. A built-in alarm system also reminds operators when they need to change the bio-fluid, prompting timely and efficient maintenance.

Mr Andrew Mellor, landlord of The Pelham Arms, commented that: “The main benefits of GreasePak from a practical perspective was that the kitchen staff had very little to do, just simply replace a cartridge every couple of weeks when the warning sound activated. No un-popular dirty cleaning jobs or waste fat disposal that are associated with traditional grease traps. The cost of running a GreasePak system is very minimal when considering the time saved in maintenance of a traditional system or jetting drains and sewers.”

Although effective as a standalone option GreasePak can also be used alongside other FOG management solutions, including grease traps, to enhance their performance. British water are an advocate for the use of multiple equipment configurations to tackle the onslaught of FOG, and highlight that the most suitable solution depends on an interplay of factors, ranging from menu type, scale of operation, equipment used, building design, accessibility and more (Code of Practise, 2015).

Kristian Roberts, Marketing Manager at Mechline reiterates that “when giving advice we need to give an overview of all the FOG management technologies and choose the correct technology or combination for any given individual.”

The sewer at The Pelham Arms site had minor evidence of FOG after the trial, which was mainly attributed to an untreated line from the pubs washing machine. This further highlights the need for operators to consider their sites own characteristics and tailor systems to suit; but also that no system will be 100% effective.

GreasePak_highres1 crop

An added benefit of GreasePak is that the dosing level can be adjusted, thus adapted to meet the specific needs and style of cooking of a particular site. To achieve the best possible outcome however end-user engagement and housekeeping are a must, as is the case with any grease management system. Mechline’s Kristian Roberts, comments that: “At Mechline we are happy to provide an advisory service and are always available to help with site and operational issues.”

This case study has not only provided additional third party evidence that Mechline’s GreasePak is effective in controlling FOG build-up, but highlights a need for operators to consider alternative options to grease traps in this fight—there is no silver bullet solution!

The most appropriate qualified option needs to be established for a particular site, in order for them to avoid repeated futile attempts and unrelenting pressures; on both their bottom line and the surrounding environment. Through the use of the correct FOG management technology and guidance and on-premises staff training, FOG entering the kitchen drainage system can be dramatically reduced.

Operators cannot simply fit and forget an inappropriate solution.

GreasePak explained

GreasePak is a biological drain maintenance system designed to work with GreasePak MSGD5 fluid, a highly concentrated active bio-enzymatic fluid specially formulated to degrade (FOG’s) fats, oils and greases found in commercial kitchen drains. GreasePaK is cost effective, easy to install and maintain, and can be used either with a grease trap or as a standalone drain maintenance system to help operators meet regulations and maintain drains. Find out more www.greasepak.com.

Legislation: What you need to know

  • UK Building Regulations 2000, amended in April 2001- H1 Foul Water Drainage: ‘Drainage serving kitchens in commercial hot food premises should be fitted with a grease separator complying with prEN 1825-1 and designed in accordance with prEN-2 or other effective means of grease removal.’
  • Section 111 Water Industry Act 1991 – makes it an offence to discharge any matter which is likely to damage the sewer, interfere with the flow of its contents or affect the treatment and disposal of its content

More details 

To contact Mechline, call 01908 261511 or visit www.mechline.com

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