Massachusetts Businesses Face Fines For Lack of Grease Trap Cleaning

Massachusetts Businesses Face Fines For Lack of Grease Trap Cleaning

More than 70 percent of businesses, organizations and facilities in Plymouth Massachusetts that prepare food are not in compliance with state regulations that require grease traps be pumped and cleaned at least once a year.

The Plymouth Director of Public Health delivers the data with a frown, shaking his head.

“This is not a game of ‘Gotcha!’ or ‘Let me catch you in the act and let me fine you,’” he said. “If anyone comes to me and talks about this, we will help them and talk to them.”

The regulations aren’t arbitrary, he added. FOG regulations save a lot of headache, trouble and money, but only if they are followed. FOG stands for fats, oils and grease, and they are problematic in the sewer lines for the same reason that they can wreak havoc in an artery.

Fats, oils and grease congeal when they cool. When restaurants and other organizations that prepare food don’t have their grease traps cleaned and pumped regularly, that congealed gunk gets into sewer pipes and can clog them, the Public Health Director said. Over time, these clogs, known as fatbergs, build up and can cause the pipe to burst, leaking disease-causing pathogens and waste – a dangerous scenario for anyone who values their health.

“Here’s the other thing: There is a significant correlation between those who do not have their grease trap systems maintained that are on the sewer line and a potential for a fire to occur,” he said. “We know that because we’ve had roughly six fires this year alone that were associated with grease in restaurants in this town.”

The potential for a fire escalates as well if the business or facility doesn’t have the vent hood cleaned or appliances associated with the grease properly cleaned, he added.

There are approximately 184 facilities, of the more than 420, on town sewer, the Public Health Director noted.

“So, we have an abysmal 16 percent of those facilities on a town sewer lines that are cleaning and pumping their grease traps regularly,” he added. “What we found is that there are only 30 facilities out of 184 that actually documented and provided information to us about their last grease interceptor cleaning and pumping.”

The Public Health Director noted that commercial kitchens and facilities have to comply with these regulations and get their grease traps pumped and cleaned annually, with proof of same, or risk fines and license revocations.

The notice that was sent out requires facilities to detail the model number of the grease trap so the Board of Health can review each of these restaurants and facilities to ensure that their grease traps are cleaned regularly. The Public Health Director has a sophisticated technological system for monitoring these businesses, and will be double checking with haulers to make sure that all facilities are in compliance.

If a business has been able to skirt the system in the past with bogus documentation, this time around, all maintenance filings will be cross checked with the actual haulers to make sure nothing slips through the cracks, or, in this case, the sewer lines.

The Public Health Director couldn’t speak to why these regulations weren’t enforced strictly in the past. He has only been on the job since September of 2017, and has been taking measures to protect Plymouth residents’ health ever since.

And businesses and other facilities aren’t the only ones that will face fines.

The attorney general is also mandating strict enforcement of these regulations and is poised to fine the city of Plymouth $25,000 for noncompliance.

In an injunction released in July of last year, the attorney general cited Veolia, the company running the town’s waste water treatment plant, and the town as parties responsible for the unauthorized discharge of millions of gallons of untreated wastewater from the plant.

The judgment goes on to suggest that the town, through lax enforcement of the fats, oils and grease regulations on businesses and facilities that prepare foods, is partly to blame for sewer line breaks.

Town Manager Melissa Arrighi explained in January that the judgment references smaller breaks that occurred prior to the massive force main breaks that led to the $48 million in repairs that Plymouth is saddled with.

Non-compliance is no longer an option, the Public Health Director said, and that’s a good thing. Sewer line breaks put public health at risk and can cause tax hikes, because the Department of Public Works must step in and fix the problem. Making sure businesses and facilities perform grease trap cleaning regularly is a public health mandate and prevents costly repairs that get passed on to the taxpayer.

If you want to keep food solids from clogging your grease trap and causing issue with fats, oil and grease, consider installing The Drain Strainer. Invented by a former restaurant owner, The Drain Strainer lets your sinks still drain quickly while capturing the food debris inside the strainer drawer. It’s also an effective and affordable alternative to a commercial garbage grinder.

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