Viridian Note 00257: Sewer Fat CrisisBruce Sterling [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Key concepts: sewer grease, fat infarctions, American sewer fat crisis, grease mafia, Qlear, Petroplus, biomass energy, Viridian Embrace Decay principle
Attention Conservation Notice: It's about huge amounts of lard clogging sewers. Wonderfully disgusting yet also very American. Makes one proud to be Dutch, if one were Dutch.
Links: http://www.wholeearth.com Viridian Summer 2001 issue now on display wherever fine countercultural products are sold.
http://www.petrocare.nl/ Qlear Energy and Environment in Holland.
http://win-water.org The Water Infrastructure Network, "a nonpartisan coalition of local elected officials, drinking water and wastewater service providers, environmental groups, labor unions, and construction and engineering professionals."
http://www.nassco.org The National Association of Sewer Service Companies. Their $75 "Manual of Practice" includes tips and techniques for CCTV inspection, smoke testing, dyewater testing, infrared themography, flow monitoring, radar and sonics.
http://seweralert.com/ Providing a valuable public service!
By Barry Newman, Staff Reporter of The Wall Street
"NEW YORK == Why wait until the next story about
coagulated fat in sewers comes along when you can read
this one now? (...) (((You've got to admire the way
veteran reporter Newman plunges into this plum
"(...) George Markovics shouts above the oceanic
roar of his jet-flusher truck. He is standing over a
manhole in south Brooklyn, looking down. At the bottom of
the hole, where raw sewage should be bubbling along, a
smear of sickly gray goop is blocking the pipe. (...)
"Maybe Mr. Markovics, who is 40 years old, can
qualify as a poster boy for the national sewer-fat crisis.
America's sewers are in a bad way. Three quarters are so
bunged up that they work at half capacity, causing 40,000
illegal spews a year into open water. Local governments
already spend $25 billion a year to keep the sewers
running. The Water Infrastructure Network, a coalition of
the wastewater-aware, warns that it will cost an
additional $20 billion a year for the next 20 years to
keep them from falling apart. (((Since this is the Wall
Street Journal, they quote the WIN, who are industry
"Roots, corrosion, cave-ins, bottles, broken stick-
ball bats, rusty car parts == anything will divert sewage
on its way to the treatment plant. But the blockages now
are almost all wrapped up in fat. The perpetrator is fried
"Fueled by the fast-food frenzy and an influx of
immigrant cooks, America's appetite for eating out has
bloated the national output of a viscous goop known as
restaurant grease == to three billion pounds a year.
Where does used grease go? Traditionally, into the
cauldrons of the rendering industry, which processes
animal castoffs into useful products. But for reasons
ranging from Malaysia's palm-oil boom to Mayor Rudolf
Giuliani's crackdown on New York's garbage Mafia, more
goop than ever is ending up in the sewer. (...)
"Don Montelli stands over a manhole on another
Brooklyn corner == a 'notorious grease spot,' he says, in
front of a Chinese take-out. Mr. Montelli, a high-tech
sewer worker, holds a video screen attached by wire to a
robot camera down below. (((Welcome to 21st century
"With colonoscopic clarity, the camera shows a pipe
with a drippy coating of fat. Fat won't pollute; it won't
corrode or explode. It accretes. Sewer rats love sewer
fat; high protein builds their sex drive. Solids stick in
fat. Slowly, pipes occlude. (((A round of applause for Mr
Newman; this is just plain fine writing, ladies and
"Fat infarctions have struck of late in Honolulu,
Columbus, Ohio, and Lake Placid, N.Y. A grease clot in
Cobb County, Ga., recently set off a 600,000 gallon sewage
surge into the Chattahoochee River. In January, the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency sued Los Angeles for
allowing 2,000 overflows in the past five years; an EPA
audit blamed 41% of them on fat. (...)
"This is where the Mafia comes in. (((I presume you
were expecting the Mafia.)))
"A grease disposal trick, restaurant people say, is
to freeze it in plastic and chuck it into the garbage.
Problem one: In summer, it melts all over the sidewalk.
"Problem two: In 1996, Mayor Giuliani broke the
cartels that fixed prices on garbage pickups. 'One of the
things they did,' the mayor told the press at the time,
'was to beat people up, bust their kneecaps and kill
them.' The city sent some perps to prison, asked national
haulers to take over many routes and clapped a lid on
"That took care of the Mafia, not the grease. For
pickups, haulers charge restaurants by the cubic yard; for
dumping, landfills charge haulers by the ton. That means
the profitable garbage is light and fluffy. Grease is
heavy and dense == and putrid and sloppy. With prices
capped and profits slim, haulers are raising a stink. They
won't take the grease. (...)
"So? Where does it go?
"'This is really reprehensible,' says John
Lagomarsino. 'They dump it in the sewer at 1 o'clock in
(((That's a dire story, ladies and gentlemen, but here on Viridian List we don't stop at mere lamentation. Because one month later, on the cleaner side of the grease-soiled Atlantic...)))
"Moveable power plants to turn fat into electricity
"AMSTERDAM == Roaming power plants the size of large
trucks may soon be drawing up at rubbish dumps and market
gardens to turn fat and muck into energy, if Dutch
independent oil group Petroplus' plans succeed.
"Petroplus said yesterday its majority-owned unit
Qlear had developed a small and moveable biomass power
unit which will be able to process materials such as
frying fat. The systems have the size of a transport
container and can produce about 6,000 megawatt hours (MWh)
per year, sufficient to supply electricity to more than
"Qlear's Chief Executive Paul West told Reuters that
his firm would target energy companies, food firms,
destruction companies and market gardeners in particular
to sell the new product. (((Where's yours, MacDonald's?
Overnight, you could become the next Enron!)))
"The systems can be installed within a week and can
process more than 1,500 tonnes of frying fat, animal fat
or vegetable oil per year. They also produce hot water.
"The units will be sold at prices ranging from
500,000 to 800,000 euros ($427,700-$684,300). West said a
buyer could recover his investment and the fuel costs
within three years, also because of Dutch tax benefits on
using bio-energy. (...) Petroplus said the 'Qlear
Processing System' could make a contribution to Dutch and
international efforts to cut greenhouse effects and
diminish the amounts of waste materials.
"Qlear, which is 52 percent owned by Petroplus but operates at arm's length, specialises in durable energy and water purification projects. Its Vapour Processing System, which converts polluting vapours into electricity, is already used by clients in the Benelux countries, Britain and Germany."
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