The City of St. Augustine is always trying to find ways to cut costs to businesses and homeowners alike while at the same time being environmentally friendly. One often overlooked area is the disposal of fats, oils and grease into our drainage and/or sewer system.
The newest program initiated by the city is the fats, oils and grease program, FOG for short. And while direct efforts to businesses are central in the city's outreach program, good practices can also become a habit at home.
Although the ordinance (which was mandated by state law) has been in effect since 2002, the city has gradually eased into its enforcement due in part to an increase in the blockage of sewer lines.
In recent months city staff has visited with businesses one-on-one to determine their needs and questions in order for the businesses to become compliant with both city code and state law regulating grease discharges. An increase in compliance by businesses will help keep the system in working order for everyone.
In an effort to get this important information to businesses and homeowners, the city can schedule staff to visit organizations which in turn can get the information to the public.
After listening to business owners, staff developed a pamphlet with frequently asked questions (FAQ's.). The pamphlet is available to the public by calling the Public Works Department at 904.825.1040.
What is the Fats, Oils & Grease (FOG) Program and why is it necessary?
The City of St. Augustine currently has an ordinance in place (City Code Section 26-82) that requires facilities likely to discharge grease or oil into the sanitary sewer system to install and maintain a grease interceptor of adequate capacity to service the facility. Without proper maintenance, grease interceptors fail to prevent fats, oils and grease (FOG) from entering the City’s sewer system, creating problems in sewer lines, pump stations, and at the wastewater treatment facility. The intent of the FOG program is to work with FOG generating facilities to minimize the amount of grease entering the City’s public sewer system.
Where does FOG come from?
Any time food is cooked, prepared, or served, FOG coats the utensils, cookware and dishes it comes into contact with. Common sources include butter and margarine, cooking oil, shortening, baking goods, meat, dairy products, salad dressings, sauces and food scraps.
Why is FOG a problem?
When FOG is washed down the drain, it cools, solidifies, and adheres to sewer pipe walls. Over time, deposits of FOG build up and eventually block flow through pipes. Clogged sewers pipes can cause raw wastewater to back up into homes and businesses, or overflow into our streets and waterways. Such unsanitary conditions are dangerous to public health and the environment, and are very expensive to correct.
What is a grease interceptor and how does it work?
A grease interceptor is a tank that interrupts the flow of wastewater, allowing grease and solids to separate out before the wastewater enters the public sewer system.
Who is required to have a grease interceptor?
According to city code, any non-residential food service facility likely to discharge oil or grease into the sanitary sewer collection system must install and maintain a grease interceptor of adequate capacity to service the facility. This includes, but is not limited to, restaurants, food courts, supermarkets, bakeries, fish markets, hotels, nursing homes, cafeterias, sandwich shops, churches, ice cream shops and schools.
Do I need a grease interceptor if I don’t fry?
Yes. FOG is generated from many different sources, not just fried food. Dairy products such as milk, butter and ice cream contain FOG. Salad dressing, mayonnaise, gravy and meat products also contain FOG. Any time food is cooked, prepared and/or served, a grease interceptor is required.
How big is a grease interceptor?
Sizes range from small under-the-sink traps to large in-ground units. The size of device needed is determined using the Florida Plumbing Code, and is based on factors such as number of seats in business, type of plates and hours open for service.
Why is cleaning and maintaining my grease interceptor important?
A grease interceptor that is not properly cleaned or maintained does not function as it was designed. Without proper maintenance, FOG and solids may pass through to the public sewer system, causing build ups and pipe blockages down the line. FOG can also build up within the interceptor to a point at which the inlet or outlet pipe becomes blocked. If wastewater cannot exit, it will back up into your facility. The result is unsanitary conditions that can lead to expensive clean up, property damage and health code violations.
How often do I need to pump/clean my grease interceptor?
Several factors come into play when determining how often the pumping/cleaning of the interceptor needs to be performed:
Small grease traps may need to be cleaned weekly, whereas larger interceptors may need to be professionally pumped out every 30-90 days. An inadequate pumping/cleaning schedule will ultimately lead to costly clogs and backups in the system.
To what extent is the City involved with my grease interceptor?
For new installations, a plumbing permit must be obtained from the Planning & Building Department. After the initial installation, an environmental compliance inspector in the Public Works Department will regularly inspect the interceptor to ensure FOG is not passing through to the city’s public sewer system. Inspection frequency will be based on the size of the equipment.
What is involved with a grease interceptor inspection?
An inspector will visit the facility, open the grease interceptor, and insert a sampling device to view a core sample of the contents. The amount of grease and solids present will determine if your facility is in compliance. The inspector will also look at records of when the interceptor was last pumped or cleaned, and check best management practices, such as screens present on all drains and having a trash can available near the dish washing station food scrap disposal.
• Dry wipe pots, pans and dishes before washing. Use a rubber scraper or paper towel to wipe grease and food scraps into a garbage can before washing to significantly reduce the amount of grease and solids entering your sink or drain.
• Use strainers/screens in all sink and floor drains. Strainers and screens prevent large food particles and other debris from going down the drain. Discard the collected waste into a garbage can.
• Recycle used cooking oil. Properly dispose of cooking oil in a recycling container for a rendering service to collect. NEVER pour oil down the drain.