FOG: Power of Persuasion

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Courtesy of Horizon Technology, Inc.

Technically sound programs and gentle persistence helped Sierra Vista pretreatment coordinator Hector Hagele get FOG under control

Cleaning fat, oil, and grease blockages from sewers in Sierra Vista, Ariz., was an unending nightmare for Hector Hagele. He swore that if he ever had the chance to change how food establishments handled FOG, he would pursue it.

Hagele got his wish when the city built its Environmental Operations Park in 2002. The facility-includes a 10-acre automated wastewater treatment plant that handles 4 mgd without chemical or mechanical means. FOG in the all-natural process would lower pH and affect the microorganisms, so engineers limited it to 25 mg/l at the head-works - the strictest requirement in the state.

Hagele, now a Grade 3 water and wastewater operator, also completed the Pretreatment Facility Inspection Program from California State University, Sacramento. That background, communication skills, and rapport led to his becoming the city's pretreatment coordinator.

Hagele went restaurant to restaurant, educating owners about the effects of FOG. He developed relationships with Community Development and Engineering. He also established standards and construction guides for grease interceptors and directions on how pumpers should clean them. Res-taurant owners and managers vilified him, but Hagele persevered, driving home the point that businesses generating waste products should be responsible for them.

Four years passed before the pretreatment program produced results. Today, hot spots are down from 17 to five, and only one is grease related. Overflows have been reduced from 12 to one per year. In 2007, the Arizona Water and Pollution Control Association named Hagele the Wastewater Pretreatment Operator of the Year.

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