Marlborough's Linko Software Automates and Simplifies Data on Permitted Industries and FOG Haulers

An online data management system for FOG and industrial pretreatment programs gives this small Massachusetts community the same capability as much larger cities.

Marlborough's Linko Software Automates and Simplifies Data on Permitted Industries and FOG Haulers

Marlborough’s Westerly Wastewater Treatment Plant handles the community’s industrial wastewater and a substantial amount of residential septage.

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Marlborough is not your average medium-sized city. With the convergence of three major highways in Massachusetts, the city has a prosperous industrial sector with big players from the food, pharmaceutical and electronics industries.

These industries use a lot of water and one of the city’s two wastewater treatment plants must process treat almost all their effluent. The city also has a relatively large number of restaurants that serve fans during sporting events and visitors who enjoy the area’s many recreational activities.

As in many smaller communities, the public works department needs to think outside the box. Matthew Santella has worked with the city for 10 years and is the creator, designer, inspector and everything else needed to manage a successful industrial pretreatment program. 

Needing insights

“Before 2017, we collected samples from our industrial users and entered the data into an old version of the Linko software on the hard drive of one of our computers,” says Santella, recently promoted to general foreman for the city’s water and sewer division. “The data had not been put to use in close to seven years.”

Marlborough, like many municipalities, was collecting volumes of regulatory data, but not gaining actionable insights. In addition, the more than 300 food service establishments were not being monitored effectively and efficiently for FOG compliance. That forced the public works crews into a reactionary approach to collection system maintenance.

“As a one-man show, it was imperative that I found the right tools to get the data entry tasks under control and streamline my processes wherever possible, so I could spend more time in the field,” Santella says.

Up in the cloud

The most logical approach was to update to the latest version of Linko (Aquatic Informatics) in order to get the data securely hosted and accessible online. This made it possible to record and retrieve inspection results on site, eliminating paperwork and data entry back at the office. It also opened up accessibility for other stakeholders’ input.

To get all the food service establishments into the system, Santella used Linko POM Portal for electronic reporting on site. The portal gathers electronic pumpout manifests from the establishments or from haulers directly, eliminating manual data entry of manifests by FOG program staff.

Santella went one step further and enabled smaller establishments, which are only required to self-clean their grease traps, to file reports online. The compliance rate is about 80%, and users like the efficiencies of the new system. Email reminders are automatically sent through the POM portal, improving the compliance rate. “Owners appreciate the reminders,” Santella says.

Automated process

“The streamlining of field data collection has not only saved time to get me in the field more often, but this data can now be used to automate a host of tasks including inspection and pumpout scheduling, issuing permit renewals, keeping us up to date with regulatory changes, and violation notices,” Santella says.

“The software also connects to my Microsoft Outlook calendar, so I don’t have to go into the system to retrieve my work plan. I can head straight to an inspection site first thing in the morning and have all the history and contact information I need to conduct an efficient inspection.”

By eliminating paperwork from the field and manual data entry at the office, transcription errors are minimized. The system has also freed Santella to focus on the noncompliant establishments who are typically the culprits for sanitary sewer overflow hotspots. 

“We now have the data at the tips of our fingers, meaning we have better intelligence from our FSE reports to prevent and solve blockages,” Santella says. Since the new FOG program was put into place, grease at both wastewater treatment plants has been noticeably reduced.

Monitoring industrial users

The industrial users with large water consumption or heavy chemical usage are under more stringent regulations through the industrial pretreatment program under the Clean Water Act.  Marlborough uses Linko to manage the permitting, sampling and compliance the act requires.

Automation is the key to eliminating errors when dealing with high volumes of sampling data, so the program allows labs to submit analytical data electronically to the industrial users. From there, the company compiles self-monitoring reports and signs and submits them online.

For each report, Santella receives an automated email from Linko saying that the industrial user has submitted its self-monitoring reports.  He then goes into Linko and checks it for compliance. The system tells him if any of the parameters are out of compliance; if there is an issue, he contacts the user to inform them to retest or whatever else may be required. Configurable views make annual reporting fast and easy.

Marlborough’s FOG and pretreatment programs now have more accurate, up-to-date data than ever before and have alleviated the risk of important information being siloed on one computer, managed by one person.

“I am proud to say that our pretreatment and FOG programs are now comparable to those of any major city,” Santella says. “All customers are in the system and are actively monitored for compliance. There was simply no way for a one-man operation to achieve that without moving to an online data management program like Linko that allows for seamless flow of information between stakeholders.”

About the author

Rich Prinster ( is in charge of strategic development with Aquatic Informatics, a supplier of water data management software with offices in Denver, Colorado, and Vancouver, British Columbia.   


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