There’s a reason the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandates that all municipalities in the US have policies to control the Fats, Oils, Grease, and food Solids (FOGS) that enter the waste systems. FOGS is estimated to cause over 50% of all sewer overflows, creating restrictions and blockages in sewer pipes by slowly attaching and accumulating to the walls of the pipes and drawing more solids and other FOGS particles into its sticky mass. The resulting constricted water flow leads to sewer overflows in the streets or even into the floors and basements of homes and businesses. Learn about what it can cost you if your restaurant causes a combined sewer overflow.
A Sewer Overflow in Your Restaurant
The worst of all possible options, FOGS could collect and cause your own sewer line to back up and overflow into your restaurant. Depending on your sewer systems a Sanitary Sewer (just wastewater) or Combined Sewer (wastewater and storm drain), this could happen during storms or just when the constriction is high enough. A sewer overflow into your restaurant is a disaster: not only do you have the costly damages, but you also have the reputation hit from the unsanitary disaster. Causing flooding nearby or further down the line has its own reputation issues if you’re found to be the cause, along with other issues.
Violating Local and Federal Law
The EPA estimates there are at least 23,000 – 75,000 sewer system overflows per year in the U.S., and that’s not including sewage backups into buildings. Under the Clean Water Act of 1994, the EPA regulates and enforces the discharge of wastewater for environmental and health standards, holding municipalities responsible for overflows. Depending on your local law, you might find yourself violating several laws, and your permits and licenses to run your business may be in jeopardy.
Fines, Penalties, and Required Installations
Of course, along with breaking the law comes penalties, fines, and meeting certain requirements. The EPA tends to enforce things at the municipality level. For example, EPA New England has issued a number of administrative and judicial penalties to municipalities which fail to meet the Clean Water Act and related regulations to the tune of over $2 million in penalties. Local enforcement differs depending on the laws and severity. For example, at the least, you’re looking at having to install a grease trap (see our blog, What Happens When You Don’t Have a Grease Trap, for more details on that). If it was an issue with grease trap maintenance, you might see additional fines and the need to revise your cleaning schedule. Either way, you will often be fined with the cost of cleaning up the resulting mess from an overflow you are found responsible for.
Causing a sewer overflow is no small matter. The damage you do to the sewer system, the strain you put on local government, and the ill will (and perhaps ill smell) you inflict on your neighborhood can sully your reputation, not to mention cost you a lot of money or even your business. Don’t get in that position by having the right grease trap and regular maintenance. Food Grease Trappers are experts in the field of grease trap service and maintenance and waste vegetable oil (WVO) collections for the foodservice industry, and we have been doing so for over 20 years.