A FOG Summit in Amsterdam
Updated: Mar 25, 2019
Earlier this month (March 6) I traveled to Amsterdam to attend and present at the first ever European FOG Summit. The event was organized by Swift Comply (swiftcomply.com) and hosted by Waternet (waternet.nl), Amsterdam’s full cycle water and wastewater utility.
I thoroughly enjoyed traveling to the Netherlands for the first time. Well, I consider it the first time since I’ve only ever landed at the Airport while heading to someplace else, so that doesn’t really count, right?
We arrived a couple of days before the Summit and stayed after and through the weekend in the capital. When the city boasts that it is the bicycle capital of the world, it’s not joking – at all! It is both the most bicycle-friendly capital city in the world and, with an urban area population of over 1.1 million people, it is also the most bicycle-friendly city with over a million people in the world. And all of them appeared to be downtown trying to get out on Friday night while we were trying to get to dinner in an Uber ride.
Our car ride ended early when Becca and I got out and walked the last few blocks to the restaurant. It was much faster.
The city is also called the “Venice of the North” having more than 150 canals and 1,250 bridges. No, we did not travel all the canals nor cross all of the bridges. But we did take a boat tour, which I recommend to anyone visiting because it allows you to see the city from a different perspective. The historic architecture and gabled rooflines are amazing to see and walking around the Dam or city center area provides all of the European eye candy your soul could desire.
While touring Amsterdam was a highlight of the trip to the Netherlands, the real purpose was to participate in the first ever European FOG Summit. This was a global event to be sure with attendees and presenters representing countries like Ireland, Britain (the UK), the Netherlands, Germany, the US and Canada to name just those I can quickly think of. I got to spend time with some incredible people who all share a passion for FOG and bringing awareness to and solving the problem of FATBERGS.
It was a privilege to be asked to kick off the event with the first presentation titled, “How all Grease Interceptors Work”. Here’s a picture of me doing a demonstration on emulsification, both mechanical and chemical. If I accomplished nothing else, I shall take pride in having successfully displaced the term ‘grease trap’ with ‘grease interceptor’ for the day, as many panel members and subsequent presenters adopted the use of the new term. Hey, change has to start somewhere, right?!
What we learned about the problem of FOG and fatbergs in the countries represented is that much of the world is only now beginning to realize the consequences of unchecked FOG discharges by food service establishments (FSE), industry, and residences. Unfortunately, many countries don’t have the legal authority nor the political support, at least not broadly, to create or enforce strict requirements governing pretreatment.
Amsterdam may have the most robust program of those cities or water utilities present and they recently discovered in a recent survey that less than 50 percent of their FSEs have a grease interceptor installed, while the other half were blissfully unaware of what these mystical devices are or why they are important to have.
Another challenge that has to be looked at more closely is the standards that govern grease interceptors, how they are adopted and enforced. Currently, the European standard for grease interceptors is EN1825-2004, and while some believe that compliance with the requirements of this standard is prevalent, the fact is it’s not possible to apply this standard to many if not most installations because of property or site restrictions. Promulgating consensus standards such as ASME A112.14.3 and A112.14.4 may be the best alternative to help ensure installed devices are tested, rated, and certified for performance.
The summit was a good beginning to the global fight against FOG and fatbergs. All of the various stakeholders that came together to discuss the challenge helped fill out the mosaic to create an overall awareness that was much needed. I think the groundwork has been laid for future conferences and awareness campaigns that will ultimately lead to the changes that are necessary to mitigate FOG and the nemesis fatbergs that are stressing wastewater collection and treatment works systems around the world.