Houston’s FOG-Special Waste Program
The FOG-Special Waste Program tracks fats, oils, and grease (FOG) waste from commercial establishments for the purpose of ensuring Houston’s environment is protected from pollutants that may harm ecosystems and individuals. The purpose is to keep FOGs from entering the sewer system and clogging sewer lines. Restaurants are required to have a Food Permit License and a Grease Trap Permit. In order to keep that permit, you must pass regular FOG inspections.
If you violate the city’s requirements, regulators may fine you $250-$2000. Houston utilizes a progressive enforcement response plan with actions ranging from issuance of Notices of Violation (NOVs) and Administrative Orders to sewer or water service termination and administrative fines.
Needless to say, your restaurant could be shut down.
This blog explains the importance of Houston FOG regulations to restaurant owners and how to stay in compliance.
Houston FOG Inspections
In addition to showing up immediately in response to complaints, FOG inspectors regularly conduct surprise inspections on Houston restaurants. You need to be prepared at all times. Here’s what you need to know:
- Restaurants must have permits and renew them annually
- Traps/Interceptors must be cleaned every 90 days
- Inspections come without notice
- Violations results in significant fines
- Copies of manifests must be maintained for 5 years
During an inspection, the investigator will request the following documents:
- Original Fats, Oils, and Grease permit
- Copies of waste manifests for the past 5 years
- Notice of Waiver (if applicable)
- Copies of previous inspections
Inspectors will check your trap to see if the discharge is within established parameters. Your dumpster, rendering oil bin and the surrounding area will also be checked.
Clean Your Grease Trap Every 90 Days
Restaurants are required to have fully functional grease traps or interceptors to maintain their FOG Permit. The City of Houston Code of Ordinances mandates that every interceptor located within the incorporated City limits must be fully evacuated at least on a quarterly basis (every 90 days) unless a Notice of Waiver application is submitted and approved. In some cases, you may need to clean your grease trap even more often. The requirement for cleaning traps and interceptors is less than 90 days if:
Twenty-five percent or more of the wetted height of the grease trap or interceptor, as measured from the bottom of the device to the invert of the outlet pipe, contains floating materials, sediment, oils or greases.
What you should do now
- Make sure you are permitted with the city of Houston
- Talk to your grease trapper about preparing for inspections
- Check your manifests for compliance
- Review previous inspections
- If your discharge is low-volume, apply for a notice of waiver.
Being prepared for an inspection can save a restaurant time, money and damage to its reputation.