Fats, Oil and Grease (FOG) pose a significant threat to the Township’s sanitary sewer system by potentially creating blockages in sewer pipes and other infrastructure.
FOG includes animal fat, cooking oils and food-related grease used or generated by food preparation. When cookware, dishware and kitchen equipment are washed, FOG enters the system with the wastewater. A short time after entering the drain, FOG begins to cool and separate, accumulating in drains, sewer pipes and sewer pump stations. Over time, FOG residue builds up, eventually causing blockages in sewer pipes, both in Township and privately owned systems. That can lead to increased maintenance costs, messy and costly overflows or backups, and potential health and environmental hazards.
To combat this threat, the Board of Commissioners adopted an Ordinance in 2013 that regulates the main “producers” of FOG through permits, inspections, sampling and enforcement. Class 1 & Class 2 producers, which typically include restaurants, schools, private clubs, delis, churches and daycares, are required to obtain FOG permits through the Township. They have received letters from the Township explaining the new FOG Ordinance requirements. Average homeowners, as Class 3 producers, do not need FOG permits but are subject to the rest of the Ordinance’s provisions.
FOG Questions and Answers
Why is Cheltenham Township concerned about Fats, Oils and Grease?
Cheltenham Township is responsible for the operations and maintenance of the public sanitary sewer system within the Township. As described below, FOG can restrict and eventually block sewer pipe and sewer pump stations. By adopting a preventative maintenance Ordinance, the Township can pro-actively eliminate problems before they happen. That translates into lower maintenance costs and prolongs the life of the sewer system. Short answer, it saves money for the Township and its residents.
In addition, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (also known as the Clean Water Act) of the US Environmental Protection Agency mandates that industrial and commercial dischargers (called industrial users) obtain permits to discharge wastewater to Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW). To comply with these regulations, Cheltenham Township approved implementation of the FOG Program under the Draft Act 537 Official Sewage Facilities Plan Update, dated January 2013.
How does FOG affect the sanitary sewer system?
Fats, oils and grease are abundant in, and on, the foods we eat. When foods are prepared, oils and greases may cook out of foods or be added as ingredients or as non-stick remedies. The FOG ends up on cookware, dishware, and kitchen equipment, etc. When these items are washed, the FOG is washed off as well and enters the plumbing system. A short time after the FOG enters the drain, it begins to cool and separate from the dishwater. The FOG accumulates in drains, sewer pipes and sewer pump stations. Over time, this residue builds up and can restrict and eventually cause blockage in sewer pipes, both in the Township and privately owned systems.
Problems Caused by Fats, Oils and Grease
· Restricted or totally blocked pipes which can lead to overflows and/or backups of the sanitary sewer. These usually result in a messy and costly clean up.
· Sewer capacity reduction, increased maintenance costs and shortened infrastructure lifespan; all of which can result in expensive bills for the Township, and ultimately residents and property owners in the form of increased sewer bills.
· Health and environmental issues in the form of odors, potential contact with disease causing organisms, vermin, and the environmental impact of FOG-laced liquid possibly leaking into the soils and water table.
Do other municipalities have FOG Ordinances?
Yes, many local municipalities such as Salford Township, Upper Dublin Township and the Borough of Collegeville have a FOG Ordinance or similar regulations within their Sanitary Sewer Ordinances.
How has Cheltenham Township addressed the problem?
The Township Board of Commissioners amended Township Code, “Chapter 288, Sewers” to provide a new FOG Ordinance regulating fats, oils and grease (FOG) entering the Township wastewater collection system. This ordinance institutes the Township’s FOG Program that regulates and reduces the amount of fats, oils and grease entering the Township’s wastewater collection system. This will be achieved by regulating the main “producers” of FOG through the use of permitting, inspections, sampling and enforcement.
How does the FOG Program affect residents and property owners?
The FOG Ordinance establishes three categories of “producers” -- any facility (business or residence) connected to the Township Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW) that creates, or produces, wastewater containing FOG above a specific concentration as stipulated within the Ordinance.
There are 3 categories of Producers as follows:
· Class 1 Producer Any Producer who has an oil and grease interceptor on the sewer line
· Class 2 Producer Any Producer who has a grease trap
· Class 3 Producer Any residential Producer
Class 1 & Class 2 Producers typically include, but are not limited to: restaurants, schools, private clubs, delis, churches and daycare centers. They are required to obtain a FOG Permit through the Township.
The average homeowner, as a Class 3 Producer will not be required to obtain a FOG Permit; however, the ordinance requirements shall be applied to all residential users.
How can residents reduce the amount of FOG discharged into the system?
Don’t dispose of cooking grease down the sink, even by diluting it with hot water. FOG diluted with hot water appears to run smoothly through the system; however, as the heated FOG cools, it congeals and hardens, sticking to the inner lining of the drainage pipes. Grease is especially harmful due to its poor solubility in water and its tendency to separate from the liquid solution.
Here are some simple steps to follow:
· Pour FOG into a can (a coffee can, or other lidded, non-meltable container works well)
o Caution: Make sure the storage can is cool before handling.
· Secure a lid on the can and store it to be reused until full.
· When the can is full, place it in the trash.
· When there is FOG residue in a pan or on a dish, wipe it with a paper towel before washing and throw that paper towel in the trash.
· Place a strainer in the kitchen sink drain to catch food scraps and other solids, then empty the strainer into the trash.
· For Homeowners with garbage disposals, follow the same rules above and restrict disposing of FOG related foods through the garage disposal.
How does the FOG Program affect businesses?
The FOG Ordinance establishes two categories of non-residential “producers” -- any facility (business or residence) connected to the Township Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW) that creates, or produces, wastewater containing FOG above a specific concentration as stipulated within the Ordinance.
· Class 1 Producer Any Producer who has an oil and grease interceptor on the sewer line.
· Class 2 Producer Any Producer who has a grease trap.
Class 1 & Class 2 Producers typically include, but are not limited to, restaurants, schools, private clubs, delis, churches and daycare centers. Both classes are required to obtain a FOG Permit through the Township.
What are oil and grease interceptors and grease traps?
Both are devices that collect and contain the fats, oils and grease and remove a significant portion of them from the wastewater. The main difference between them is that an “oil and grease interceptor” is located on the outside of the structure whereas a “grease trap” is located on the inside of the structure. More specifically:
· An oil and grease interceptor is typically a concrete vault with a minimum capacity of 750 gallons. It is built into the wastewater piping and located below ground outside of the food service establishment. The capacity of the interceptor provides adequate hydraulic retention time so that the suspended FOG in the wastewater has time to congeal and rise to the surface. The vault includes a minimum of two compartments, and flow between each compartment is through a 90° fitting designed for grease retention. Periodically, a service contractor will pump the accumulated grease and other food waste out of the interceptor to maintain its removal efficiency and prevent FOG from reaching the sewer.
· A grease trap is a small reservoir built into the wastewater piping a short distance from the grease producing area. Baffles in the reservoir retain the wastewater long enough for the grease to congeal and rise to the surface. These small devices need to be cleaned frequently, from daily to weekly, and this duty is typically performed by restaurant staff. Some plumbing and septic hauling companies offer grease trap cleaning services.
Class 1 and 2 Producers must registger their grease control device with the Townhsip
How does a Class 1 or Class 2 Producer obtain the required FOG Permit?
Class 1 and Class 2 Producers received a letter from the Township informing them of the new regulations and providing instructions on the specifics of obtaining and maintaining a FOG permit. The Producer will have 30 days from the date that they receive their notification letter to register for their permit. In addition, applications for the permits are available at the Planning and Zoning Department or on the Township website.
What is the permit fee?
The initial fee is $500 and subsequent annual fees are $250.
What else should Class 1 or Class 2 Producers do to reduce the amount of FOG discharged into the system?
There are “Best Management Practices” or BMPs that FOG Producers should follow to greatly reduce the amount of FOG entering the sewer system:
· Scrape pots and pans prior to washing.
· Do not pour, scrape, or otherwise dispose of fats, oils, or grease into the sink or drains.
· Collect fryer oil and store in barrels for recycling.
· Dump mop water only to drains connected to your grease treatment system.
· Use absorbents to soak up spills containing fats, oils and grease.
· Do not put food (including liquid food) including milk shake syrups, batters, and gravy down the drain.
· Use strainers on sinks and floor drains to prevent solid material from entering the sewer.
· Post “NO GREASE” signs near sinks and drains.
· Provide your employees with the proper equipment for cleaning your grease trap or oil & grease interceptor.
· Wastewater generated from duct/range filter cleaning must be routed through the grease treatment system.
· Train all kitchen staff in best management practices for grease disposal and the impacts of grease accumulation in the sewer.
· Provide regular refresher training/discussion for proper disposal of fats, oils and grease for all employees.
· Inspect grease traps/interceptors after pumping to ensure adequate cleaning was performed.