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Have You Used Bioaugmentation Lately?
by Alex Sabelnikov

Life is tough, and certainly it is not getting easier for restaurateurs. Indeed, all those restrictions on the wastewater quality newly imposed or being imposed by municipal and state authorities throughout the country add to their day to day headaches. Among them are so called "grease trap laws" and various water and waste water surcharges.

The main pollution problem with grease (fats and oils) results from its "clogging" ability. Fats and oils, as part of the food processing wastes, tend to clump together and clog drain lines and grease traps causing frequent back-ups. What makes the latter most hateful is their complete unpredictability. They may occur during a hectic time - lunch or dinner, causing a stinking mess and scaring off the customers.

Everyone in the field knows that the traditional solution of the problem by sneaking drain lines and pumping out grease traps with subsequent transportation of the waste to the dumping sites or incineration facilities, is costly and time consuming. And though it is effective, it is not environmentally friendly, may be very messy and smelly. Another option - to use chemicals - may not be effective. Besides, chemical cleaners are usually highly corrosive and may even be dangerous, if accidentally inhaled or brought into contact with the skin or eyes. However, there is a third and, I believe, the best option: a new and promising, "preventive" technology of biological, "on site" treatment of wastes grease and fat. This novel technology, bioaugmentation, by its lower cost, simplicity, low energy consumption and safety (both for humans and the environment), far surpasses other, conventional methods. It is based on the biological digestion of fats and grease. The digestion may be partial or complete depending on the technological approach which is used.

Bioaugmentation is a "preventive" technology which helps to eliminate unpredictable backups, significantly reduce the amount of oil and grease in the wastes (to the values required by the sewage authorities or even lower), and grease trap pumping (by 40%-75%). The latter, however, cannot be eliminated completely because of the non-degradable solid debris (food chunks, trash, etc.) which can be accumulated in the trap (so you can further reduce the frequency of pumping by using floor and sink screens.)

Bioaugmentation has proved to be the method of choice in dealing with oil and grease containing wastes. It saves money and, if you pick the right product/service, you will save big. The market for bioaugmentation technology (including food-processing industry) is rapidly expanding, and there are now several dozen established companies which operate in the USA. You can easily find them on the Internet using a search quiz like "bioaugmentation companies," ‘‘waste management companies," "bioremediation companies," etc. Many of them offer proprietary blends of different bacterial species, few use products bought from the large vendors of the industry (such as Sybron Chemicals Inc., etc). At present all commercial biopreparations are based on microbial strains isolated and selected from different natural sources. They are not pathogenic to humans and animals.

Since all the vendors claim that their products are the best, be careful in selecting the proper product/service on the market. Though the general guidelines for buying are the same as for other commercial products here are some helpful hints.

Find out which bioremediation companies operate in your district or area (there may be several of them) and shop around. Find out about scientific credentials of the company (it won’t hurt, if the company has patents and/or scientific publications as backups for its products): watch for quacks. Ask for the list of the present customers/clients (if any) and do not hesitate to call them (it is your money you will be paying, after all!). Ask whether the bacterial preparations contain sporogenic or asporogenic species (usually it takes much more time for the former to gain their peak of activity). Ask what guarantees (if any) the company gives for their product performance. Ask whether the product is of a "do it yourself" category, or the company will provide a proper service. A majority of the bioaugmentation companies provide "do it yourself" products with some technical consultations, only a few provide biweekly or monthly service. Obviously, the latter is much better, though usually at first sight it seems to cost more: regular checks and service by the trained technicians practically eliminate the problem of unexpected backups, significantly reduces pumping off the grease traps (some services even offer guarantees which include free pumping, if grease related), and take all the problems of servicing off your shoulders.

So, try bioaugmentation now, if you are not using it already. It works now and has a great potential of developing further by employing genetically engineered superbugs of the future. And it won’t take long to wait for them, believe me!

Alex Sabelnikov can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at (516)-979-2900.

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