Wastewater Inspectors Verify Proper Grease Trap Cleaning

Arizona Wastewater Inspectors Verify Proper Grease Trap Cleaning

An inspector from this Arizona city’s Wastewater Department stoops over an open manhole, shining a flashlight into the depths below. The light reveals an array of unappetizing sights, from the gray gunk lining the manhole’s rim to the shimmering pool of muck several feet down.

As a member of the City’s Wastewater Department’s fats, oils, and grease (FOG) inspection team, the inspector spends more time in restaurants than most people. The grease trap they were examining was their first stop of the day, a large restaurant in midtown.

Grease is typically a dreaded sight for sewer professionals because it can harden over time, clogging pipes, overwhelming treatment facilities, and causing hazardous sanitary sewer overflows. The wastewater inspector likens the City’s sewer system to a heart, noting that more grease in the pipes increases the likelihood of blockages.

However, the syrupy slush at the bottom of the pit was a welcome sight. It indicated that the grease trap was functioning correctly and the facility has been doing a good job with their grease trap cleaning. When the inside of a grease trap appears solid as a rock, it usually means it hasn’t been pumped in years, causing significant issues.

Grease traps are essential for all facilities that prepare food, from restaurants to schools to grocery store delis. They catch grease and similar substances, preventing them from entering the sewer system. Every morning, the FOG inspection team reviews a spreadsheet and selects the facilities they will visit that day. Each visit can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the facility’s size.

The job is fast-paced, with the wastewater inspection team typically making up to six inspections daily. Every food-preparing facility must be inspected at least once every five years, with some requiring follow-up visits. The team also collaborates closely with the city’s Health Department, even providing training for new inspectors.

Given the large number of restaurants in the city, the three-person team has a significant workload. To avoid disrupting business, they aim to arrive at least an hour before the facility opens to the public, often knocking on the back door to stay out of the way.

After inspecting the grease trap, the inspector walks into the bustling kitchen of the restaurant, leaving teammates to monitor the open manhole. The inspector greets the kitchen manager and observed their practices, checking licenses and inquiring about the number of meals prepared daily. Navigating the kitchen requires fluency in English, Spanish, and commercial kitchen terminology.

One by one, the inspector pours brightly colored dye into each sink’s drain, followed by hot water, to ensure the lines between the drains and the grease trap were clear. If problems are found, the facility has 30 days to fix them before a follow-up inspection is conducted.

The goal is to educate the public as much as possible to prevent sewer overflows and avoid fines. No restaurant owner wants to be responsible for a nearby sewer overflow, and the FOG team emphasizes that their efforts are meant to save businesses money, not cost them.

At the second stop of the day, a small, casual Mexican grill, another inspector opened the grease trap and noted that it was nearly ready for grease trap cleaning, with fresh grease starting to mold on top. The kitchen’s elaborate setup, with separate sinks for washing, rinsing, and sanitizing dishes, as well as an automatic dishwasher, received approval from the inspector, indicating a commitment to cleanliness and customer care.

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The FOG team’s hard work has made a significant difference for the community. Over the years, the number of foodservice-related grease overflows has dramatically decreased. This success is attributed not only to the FOG team but also to the Wastewater Department’s Conveyance staff, who manage an extensive network of sanitary sewer pipes across the county.

The collaborative efforts of the City’s Wastewater Department have significantly improved the management of fats, oils, and grease in the city’s sewer system, ensuring a cleaner and safer environment for all.

Let The Drain Strainer™ keep your 3 compartment sinks running smoothly by capturing food solids and avoiding any drain problems.

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