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Microorganism Generated Fatburgs May Damage Sewer Pipelines

Arne Hendriks / Flickr
Arne Hendriks / Flickr
UH Manoa
Credit UH Manoa
Tao Yan in his lab at UH Manoa.

A UH Manoa Engineering team says microorganisms in wastewater grease traps may be contributing to a clogged sewer system.  Restaurant grease traps are designed to trap fat, oil, and grease (FOG) from getting into the sewer.

But microorganisms within these grease traps could produce “long-chain fatty acids” that harden fat, oil, and grease in sewer pipes.  Those hardened deposits of fat, oil, and grease are sometimes called “Fatburgs” and can cause system degradation and in worst-case scenarios cause them to overflow.

Tao Yan and post-doc Xia He with UH’s college of Civil and Environmental Engineering replicated the conditions within grease interceptors – where microorganisms from food waste can thrive – in their laboratory. It was found that the process increased the concentration of fatty acids within the traps and in the water that would flow into a sewer pipeline. Unsaturated fatty acids produce stickier deposits, thus are a menace for sewer upkeep as they are harder to dislodge, and corrode concrete pipes even more.

Yan says the people who design grease traps should consider microbial activities to maximize their effectiveness.  

Yan’s research was recently published in Environmental Science, Water Research & Technology.

Nick Yee’s passion for music developed at an early age, as he collected jazz and rock records pulled from dusty locations while growing up in both Southern California and Honolulu. In college he started DJing around Honolulu, playing Jazz and Bossa Nova sets at various lounges and clubs under the name dj mr.nick. He started to incorporate Downtempo, House and Breaks into his sets as his popularity grew, eventually getting DJ residences at different Chinatown locations. To this day, he is a fixture in the Honolulu underground club scene, where his live sets are famous for being able to link musical and cultural boundaries, starting mellow and building the audience into a frenzy while steering free of mainstream clichés.
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