Grease clogging sewer system
Town of Banff officials are in a stink over the amount of fats, oils and grease entering Banff’s sewer system from the tourist town’s restaurants, hotels and gas stations.
The municipality, which supplies sewer service to 8,200 residents and millions of visitors every year, says football-sized blobs of grease can be found floating in Banff’s wastewater treatment plant.
Town officials plan to educate businesses first off, before eventually beefing up current provisions on grease traps and interceptors over the long-term.
“Grease buildup within our sanitary sewer system is an expensive, risky and ongoing situation,” said Ryan Moray, the Town of Banff’s utilities supervisor. “Clearing sewer blockages are costly, both for the taxpayer and for any business affected.”
In 2011, the municipality said it spent 472 hours flushing sewers and 27 hours of overtime due to emergencies.
“We spent more time than other municipalities dealing with this,” Moray said. “We want to send the message: don’t pour it, store it.”
Moray said grease, oil and fat end up in the wastewater treatment plant, noting it plugs pipes within that structure too.
“We’ve got electric fencing at the wastewater treatment plant because the bears really love grease,” he said.
The Banff sewer bylaw currently requires all restaurants, hotels, motels, garages, gas stations and car washes to provide and maintain interceptors for grease, oil and sand.
Interceptors are devices designed to prevent grease, oil and sand from entering either the sanitary sewer or the storm sewer system, where they can contaminate the water and clog pipes and drains.
Moray said administration would likely recommend strengthening the requirements for the provision and maintenance of interceptors, particularly grease traps and interceptors used in restaurants.
Before changing the bylaw, the Town plans to evaluate the manufacture, model, size and installation of grease traps and interceptors within the commercial sector to see if they are the proper size and meet CSA criteria.
The next step would involve a plan to educate the business community on the proper use and maintenance of grease traps and interceptors. The plan is to book appointments with more than 100 restaurants, hotel and gas stations.
“We want to educate. We don’t want to be out there dictating,” Moray said.
Councillor Stavros Karlos, who owns Banff’s Balkan Restaurant, said he welcomes the move.
“This is good and I like the approach of the educating phase before taking the bylaw approach,” he said. “As an operator, it’s as fair as we’ve done things. It’s not a ‘shock and awe’ campaign.”
Banff is also considering an outright ban on the use of chemical agents, enzymes, bacteria and solvents to wash away fats, oils and grease into interceptors.
Many municipalities prohibit the use of emulsifiers, enzymes and solvents, including Calgary, Victoria, Metro Vancouver, Quebec City, St. John’s and America cities Santa Cruz, Pittsburgh and New York.
The CSA also provides recommendations for proper size, maintenance and service frequency, as well as proper disposal of fats, oil and grease.
“Administration is considering whether adopting those standards as the main guide for the revision of the current sewer system bylaw will benefit the system and its users as a whole,” Moray said.
Moray said research has shown that fats, oils and grease are the biggest manmade cause of sewer blockages.
“Approximately 90 per cent of all sewer stoppages are a result of grease accumulation in the sewer lines,” he said,
“Grease also enters the wastewater treatment plant and interferes with the treatment process,” he said.
Moray said the municipality needs to educate the food service industry to the fact that grease traps and interceptors are simple primary separation devices designed to retain fats, oil and grease and solids long enough for them to be manually or automatically removed.
“They are not systems for wastewater treatment,” he said.
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