Grease Trap Service

oil and grease collection

Why you need to clean your grease trap

Grease traps and grease trap service prevent fats, oils and grease (FOGs) from flowing into municipal water systems. Those FOGs can cause major backups and costly repairs.

But if your grease trap isn’t regularly pumped and cleaned, all that grease can cause clogs, odors, health code violations, fines, flooding and fire hazards. Your restaurant could be closed down. ReGrease can prevent that.

grease trap inspection

Along with used cooking oil recycling, ReGrease offers grease trap cleaning service in the Houston, San Antonio, Austin triangle.

With each grease trap service call we:

  • evaluate the condition of your trap
  • pump and clean the trap
  • ensure your compliance with regulations
  • provide manifests for any service we do

We’ll help guarantee you are ready for any inspection.

Prevent backups

Regular cleaning of your grease trap prevents backups, odors and violations.

Maintain regulatory compliance

Our manifests and records insure you are ready for any inspection.

Get Emergency Service

Regular service is critical but in those unforeseen moments we provide emergency services.

What is a grease trap?

A grease trap is simply a device that traps grease from wastewater as it flows through the pipes and out of your kitchen into the local septic and sewer systems. Sewer systems transport wastewater to treatment plants and are not designed to handle FOGs (Fats, Oil and Grease).  

FOGs congeal and harden at lower temperatures (42-48F). Beef fat can congeal at room temperature. FOGs entering a sewer system can clog and damage a system, causing great harm to restaurants, homes and businesses. In extreme cases, fatbergs are a very expensive and damaging result. Grease traps are designed to separate oil and grease from wastewater and prevent the grease from entering municipal waterways.

What do grease traps do?

Animal fats and vegetable oils are significantly less dense than water, meaning they float on the top of a mixture of oil and water. Grease traps work by trapping the FOG that rises to the top to separate it from wastewater before it enters the drains. When wastewater enters a grease trap, the trap slows the water flow down, separating it into solids on the bottom, wastewater in the middle, and FOG(grease and oil) on the top. The wastewater continues to flow through the trap into the wastewater system. The solids on the bottom and the grease and oil are removed when the grease trap is pumped. The FOGs are then disposed of according to local regulations.

Why are grease traps important?

Restaurants and food service establishments must have grease traps according to municipal codes (health department, building departments etc). The municipality must interpret the EPA regulations and enact municipal codes. The Houston Health Department and Public Works Department administers the FOG Special Waste Program in Houston.

Failure to comply with regulations can result in fines and shutdowns of a business.

The  regulations are comprehensive and will be covered later but they cover everything from grease trap sizing and installation to permitting, cleaning and maintenance

Grease traps prevent costly backups

Without a grease trap, over time,oil, grease and food solids will solidify in pipes causing backups into restaurant kitchens, homes and buildings. This can create a huge, dangerous mess that can result in fines from municipalities or a shutdown of a restaurant. The cleanup costs can be enormous. This Popeye’s restaurant had the misfortune of clogging their neighbor’s septic systems when employees poured kitchen grease into a wastewater drain.The publicity alone was catastrophic. College Station, TX is actively fighting the fatberg problem.

Many cities, including Houston estimate that 70% of sewer backups are caused by fats, oils and grease tossed down the drain.

Nationwide Insurance says that there are more than 500,000 sewer backups each year across the United States. The company recommends that you avoid pouring grease down the sink, even at home, to prevent these damaging backups.

Other ramifications of not having a grease trap or using a malfunctioning trap is that grease contains contaminated foodstuffs, which create the ideal environment for dangerous bacteria to grow and thrive. Not only will that make your grease trap unsanitary, it’ll make the grease trap smell and could even attract rodents to your restaurant. A smelly grease trap which attracts rodents is a prescription for a restaurant disaster. So, improperly disposing of restaurant grease or failing to properly maintain a grease tap can cause great harm to the restaurant, its employees and its patrons.

Grease damages ecosystems and wildlife

If the FOGs reach waterways or leach out into the environment they can seriously hurt to aquatic creatures and wildlife. Remember the photos of the Exxon Valez? Crude oil spilled into the ocean and coated ducks and birds killing thousands? Few of us will forget the photos of whales, dolphins, birds and fish coated in a thick black goo. FOGs that escape into the environment can have a similar impact.

And throwing grease away on land is not a viable solution either. Grease that is disposed of on land can seep into aquifers contaminating drinking water for both humans and animals. Grease can deplete oxygen levels in water and cause harm to aquatic creatures. Grease can prevent plants from photosynthesizing, disrupting food chains and entire ecosystems.

Benefits of proper grease trap maintenance

A properly maintained grease trap improves the efficiency of a restaurant kitchen by preventing backups and ensuring the optimal flow of grease and wastewater. A properly functioning grease trap also reduces costs by helping you avoiding fines, lawsuits, business shutdowns and repairs. 

Further, a properly functioning grease trap avoids the costs of environmental damage, damage to waterways and the resulting fines and cleanup costs.

How do grease traps work?

Grease traps function on a couple of different principles of physics. One is gravity and the other is the immiscibility (they don’t mix!) of oil and water. Put a little cooking oil in a jar and add some water. The oil will float to the top and the water to the bottom. Oil and water don’t mix and because oil is less dense than water it floats to the top. Throw some food particles in the jar and watch gravity take particles to the bottom of the jar. You’ve just observed the simplest form of a grease trap. 

Nathaniel Whiting patented this type of gravity grease trap in California in 1884. The flow of water and grease into the trap is slowed so the grease can rise to the top, the water below it and the sludge can sink to the bottom. The grease at the top (brown grease) is then manually removed by pumping out the grease and hauling it away for proper disposal. The sludge at the bottom is periodically removed and disposed of as well.

This simple gravity based grease trap shown below operates much as the fluids in the jar described above. This grease trap uses baffles to slow the passage of liquid into and through the trap so that the grease, solids and water have time to separate and form layers.

Types of grease traps

Manual grease traps

Manual grease traps are small, inexpensive and installed indoors under sinks and dishwashers and operate with the same principles described above to let grease, solids and water separate. Smaller restaurants will typically have this type of grease trap because of its low initial cost, space saving profile and numerous sizes. The trap grease must be removed frequently by either manual skimming or pumping. The initial cost is low but the maintenance cost with frequent pumping can be high. Grease traps here indicate a wide variety of sizes from 4 GPM to 350 GPM. GPM is gallons per minute and is one way to size a grease trap.

Gravity based grease traps

More common today, and often required by municipalities, is the large in-ground gravity based grease traps that go by a number of different names. In years past, they tended to be made of concrete or steel, but steel corrodes, concrete cracks and so many large traps today are made of seamless High Density Polyethylene as is the large capacity grease trap pictured here. They handle much larger capacities and throughput than the indoor under-sink traps. You’ll need to have a relationship or contract with a grease trap pumping company as these large traps can only be pumped with a pumper truck by someone with the expertise to do it.

Hybrid or Automatic Grease Traps

Hybrid or automatic grease traps function much as the manual and gravity based traps do except when it comes to the removal of the FOGs (grease) that float to the top of the trap. An electromechanical scraper skims the grease at the top frequently and allows it to be removed from the trap and disposed of. A restaurant employee can typically do this job which means lower maintenance costs (fewer visits from your grease trap cleaning company) for the restaurant. The initial cost of the automatic trap is much higher but you can save in the long run.

This video by Big Dipper Grease Traps shows the daily maintenance steps required of an automatic grease trap.

Considerations when buying a grease trap

Buying a grease trap requires consideration of a number of different factors. First and foremost a restaurateur needs to thoroughly understand the requirements of the local health department or organization that governs grease traps in that city. 

In Houston, the city code establishes the rules. And more specifically the FOG-Special Waste Program provides the specifics for permits to generate waste, the Special Waste Generators, and for Special Waste Service Companies.

Grease trap sizing in Houston

The city of Houston calculates the minimum capacity of a grease trap based on a restaurant’s size and turnover. This is just the starting point, the minimum.  The sizing of the trap is determined by the number of fixtures attached to the trap and their flow rates. The typical size is 500 to 1500 gallons. The considerations as to location, size, placement, expected growth can get quite complex. It is best to involve a qualified plumber or engineer when beginning to think about a new or replacement grease trap. Undersizing a trap or oversizing a trap can cause problems down the road.

Grease trap sizing in Austin

In Austin the rules are a little different and a quick summary follows:

Do not purchase a grease trap/interceptor without obtaining a building plan approval including an Industrial Waste approval letter specifying the size and design of the interceptor that will be required. Purchasing an interceptor prior to Industrial Waste approval exposes the purchaser to risk of rejection and replacement costs.

Additionally, grease traps/interceptors less than 100 gallons (minimum liquid holding capacity) will not be approved for installation.

Grease trap sizing in San Antonio

The rules governing the sizing of grease traps in San Antonio  are extensive and can be found here. In short the rules specify the grease retention capacity to be twice the total flow through rating. But there are numerous other sizing regulations.

In summary, grease trap sizing can be complex and it is advisable to involve a plumber or engineer with experience in this area and in your town. The starting point is your local regulations. Gaining written approval from your local regulatory body is essential.

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We invite both existing & prospective clients to join in our recycling movement to promote a cleaner and greener future. Contact us today to begin new service. We look forward to serving you!

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