Fatbergs can be the fault of particular food businesses or they can be a community effort.
How do water companies know the difference?
Sometimes we can only know after the berg has been autopsied: it was only after the recent Sidmouth fatberg was cut up, sorted through by hand and then tested that we found out that the berg wasn’t the fault of an individual restaurant, but of a collective effort on the part of the locals.
More often than not, however, the water company’s job is much simpler:
They Follow The Trail
While many have an attitude of out-of-sight out-of-mind when it comes to Fats, Oils and Grease (FOGs), down below it can often be crystal clear where the gunk is coming from.
FOG deposits often line the walls of the sewer from the fatberg back to the polluting drain.
After walking the length of the trail (or after sending a camera into the tight spots), water company workers only have to trace the problem drain to street level to find their prime suspects.
Those suspects will be inspected.
If the inspectors find that a restaurant’s kitchen has a fully functioning grease trap and if there is evidence of good grease management practices (such as record keeping and regular cleaning schedules), they will be crossed off the list of suspects.
If a food business is found without a trap, however, that business will be much more likely to be held responsible for the nearby berg.
If you are suspected of contributing to a fatberg, however:
You May Not Be Fined Straight Away
Back in 2017, Thames Water found that 95% of food outlets in Oxford, visited as part of a research project into awareness of the fatberg problem, did not have grease traps installed and were not practising satisfactory grease management techniques.
Water companies know that many food business owners are simply unaware of the impact FOGs have when they are released into our sewers. And, as many food businesses regularly fork out hundreds of pounds to clear blockages caused by FOGs in their own pipes, water companies also know that it is in the interests of the food business owner to know how to prevent fats, oils and grease entering their drains.
So, water companies’ first step when they find an offending restaurant is to educate: inspectors will hand out leaflets and posters; they’ll talk about the impacts of FOGs and fatbergs on our waterways, and they’ll advise business owners on what kind of trap to invest in.
Only if a food business is found, over an extended period of time and through a series of follow up inspections, to have failed to heed the warnings of the water company and change its ways
will the water company fine the food business.
And those fines can be hefty, as the record £420,000 fine handed out to Hypergood Ltd. proved in early September – after the company had, for 11 months, ignored the warnings and
advice offered by Thames Water.
But, Before The Inspectors Need To Come Knocking…
Get on the right side of the fight against fatbergs.
Get in the know, get an automatic GRU or a manual grease trap and you’ll be just fine.