Blocked Drains and How Restaurants Can Avoid Them

Fats, oils and grease (collectively known as FOG) create serious problems in the wastewater system. Hot oils and greasy waters poured away into sinks, drains or from dishwashers, cool down quickly and form a coating on the inner lining of drains. This can affect the disposal of wastewater by slowing the draining process, but over time it can cause more serious issues blocking the drains completely. Blockages can occur close to the premises in the property’s own drainage system, or septic tank and the build-up from larger numbers of properties in the public sewers can also cause more serious blockages. Wastewater treatment plants can also be affected and in the case of restaurants or other food production facilities, regulations require grease traps or interceptors to be installed.

Don’t Let Grease Slip Away

The simplest way to reduce the risk of FOG reaching your drains or the sewers is to avoid placing it in the drainage system in the first place. Yellow oil (from food fryers) should not simply be poured down drains but should be collected, stored and recycled. Licensed contractors can collect this type of oil and it is, in itself, a valuable product used for bio-fuels and energy production. When storing waste frying oil prior to collection it’s important to ensure that it is stored in tightly lidded containers and locked away securely. You should also avoid storing this type of oil in areas with drains in case of accidental spills. In addition, it’s important to remember to drain oil from pots and pans before washing. If you store grease, or oil, for collection in containers that are kept outside ensure that these do not allow water to enter to avoid potential for spills and overflows, in the event of heavy rainfall and storms.

Good Housekeeping

FOG by-products are contained in nearly all food types and a large proportion of FOG entering the drainage system is the result of poor housekeeping. Removing leftover food from plates, pots, pans and utensils before washing ensures that limited amounts of FOG can enter the system in the first place; it’s also recommended that plates and pans should be wiped with kitchen towel to remove excess grease before washing. Although waste disposal units (or macerators) are popular in many kitchens these do not help remove FOG products or prevent them from entering the drainage system. Alternatives include a strainer at the plug hole which collects any leftover scraps of food which can then be disposed of in waste bins.

Trapping the Problem

Grease traps, or interceptors are required to be fitted in commercial food production settings; these are simple devices and can be fitted either below sinks in the kitchen itself or, in the case of larger premises, externally and underground. The trap is a simple tank which effectively slows the wastewater leaving the kitchen before it enter the drains and allows time for FOG products to rise to the surface (FOG is hydrophobic and separates from water quickly). Any small food scraps that have entered the system will also sink to the bottom of the tank. The size of trap that your premises will need depends on the amount of flow expected through the trap. Smaller premises will need smaller traps and larger units will require the biggest traps. Regulations vary, but restaurants will normally require a trap based on their number of seats. Traps for commercial premises are also designed to reach capacity within two to four weeks; if they are not cleared out at the recommended interval they will cease to function effectively and FOG will begin to pass into the drainage system.

Staff Disposal or Commercial Carrier?

Grease traps can be cleaned out by your own staff and FOG disposed of in waste bins, or cleaned by commercial companies offering trap cleaning and waste removal services. For large interceptors a professional cleaning/pumping company is the recommended (and easiest) option, although smaller firms can also find this the most convenient method. If you use a commercial firm to dispose of waste FOG or oil products ensure that they are properly licensed and use landfill sites which accept this type of material.

Clean Reputations

Grease traps and good housekeeping practices will ensure that you limit the amount of FOG entering the drainage system and potentially causing disruptive blockages. Apart from the cost of unblocking drains this can be an important matter for small businesses (or large ones) as blocked drains and/or sewers backing up into your premises will almost certainly cause a short term closure, which can affect your takings and your reputation. For more information on affordable grease traps and interceptors visit the homepage.

About the author:

Your writer Alan Rosinski has worked in the catering and restaurant industry. Here he looks at how good housekeeping can save your reputation – and your drains.