Baffled About FOG? Why Grease Trap Cleaning Is Important & How To Tell When It's Needed

14 July 2016
 Categories: Environmental, Articles

If you've recently taken over the responsibility of handling the grease interceptor in a restaurant, it's important that you understand how the system works because you cannot simply look into the grease trap to determine when it needs cleaned. It's important to have grease traps cleaned because, if not, your restaurant could face costly fines and/or the neighbors and entire community could be affected with serious illnesses. Here's what you need to know.

How It Works

To understand how a grease interceptor system works, you have to think back to your school days to when you learned that oil (grease) is less dense than water and oil and water do not mix, which causes oil to float on top of water. There are different types of grease interceptors, but they all basically work using the same principles.

A grease interceptor is located in the drainage system to catch fat, oil, and grease (FOG) so that none of it goes into the sewage system. The grease interceptor contains baffles that slow the flow of the contents of the drain as the flow goes into the drainage system. This reduction in speed helps to separate the grease and water so that the grease can rise, which prevents the grease from going into the drainage pipes. This causes the clean water in the system to fall to the bottom. 

Why Cleaning Is Important

As the drainage system is used and more fat, oil, and grease are put into the drains, the FOG layer in the grease interceptor will get thicker. When you look down into the system, you will always see a layer of FOG on the top, whether the system is working or not. Also, you will never be able to eyeball the depth of the FOG in the interceptor.

If it's not cleaned on a regular basis, the FOG will eventually take over and not allow for any room in the interceptor for the water. Of course, if your restaurant's drain interceptor is inoperable, the restaurant will need to be closed until the repairs are made due to health code regulations.  

What a Clog Can Cause

More importantly for the community, an inoperable grease interceptor can cause FOG from your restaurant to enter the sewage system, which can cause clogs. Clogs in drainage and sewer systems can cause the sewage system to back up. In most urban areas, storm drains are connected to the sewer system, which can mean that storm drains could become an outlet for sewage and water waste when FOG causes a complete blockage in the drainage system.

Due to the problems that inoperable drain interceptors and clogged drains can cause, many areas have environmental protection regulations regarding grease from restaurants and manufacturing facilities. Violations of these types of regulations can be quite costly, depending on the local regulations. In fact, a violation of the New York City's Sewer Use Regulations means a monetary penalty of $10,000 per violation.

How Often Should It Be Cleaned

Most areas have regulations in place as to how often restaurants are required to have their drains cleaned and the grease removed from their grease traps and/or grease interceptor systems. Obviously, you'll need to ensure that you follow these regulations. It's important to note that the frequency sometimes depends on the type of restaurant and what kinds of foods the restaurant regularly prepares.

Therefore, it's a good idea to personally check with the health code enforcement official in your area to determine whether or not your restaurant is in compliance with the regulations. That way, you'll start your new position of being in charge of the grease removal off on the right foot.