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Pollution Prevention for Restaurants

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The food service industry generates materials such as grease, oil, food wastes, litter, and cleaning agents that can bestormy_chef major contributors to stormwater pollution. It is especially important for restaurant owners and managers to implement best practices. Practicing responsible stormwater pollution prevention will help ensure a restaurant earns a stellar review and will protect the City’s waterways.

Storm drains are not connected to the City’s sanitary sewer system. As a result stormwater is untreated before being discharged directly into our waterways; the same waterways that are inhabited by marine life, enjoyed for recreational activities, and visited by hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. 

The benefits of practicing responsible stormwater pollution prevention guidelines include:

  • Cleaner neighborhoods
  • Cleaner water supply and safer waterways
  • Generates repeat customers, which increases revenue
  • Increases NPDES permit compliance
  • Increases safety for customers and staff
  • Protects marine life
  • Reduces expenses for clean up and violations
  • Reduces pollution
  • Restaurant earns stellar reviews
  • Shows customers your business cares about the environment

Grease Traps

One of the most environmentally responsible practices that restaurants should follow is properly managing food grease. Implementing best practices for grease reduction and disposal reduces the amount of fats, oils, and grease (FOG) that can potentially enter the sewer system from your restaurant or food service facility.

Grease traps must be installed in restaurants to collect, contain, or remove food waste, debris, and grease to prevent it from being deposited in sewer lines. The grease trap separates liquid waste from floatable materials that may contain grease, oil, and soap that accumulates on the surface, and heavy solids, such as food particles, paper, and plastics that settle on the bottom of the trap. Wastewater accumulates between the floatable levels and the solids. It is then discharged into the sanitary sewer system, which flows directly to the George T. Lohmeyer Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Restaurants

The guidelines below provide information about best management practices that will significantly reduce stormwater pollution and assist owners and managers with meeting requirements for discharge into the City of Fort Lauderdale’s sanitary sewer system.

General BMPs

  • Dispose of grease properly. Do not pour it down the drain.
  • Recycle oil and grease. The local yellow pages can provide information on businesses that provide this service.
  • Do not hose down spills. Sweep or wipe them up and dispose as solids. Keep dry materials such as cat litter, mops, rags or sawdust on hand for spills. Sweep and dispose of in the trash.
  • Cover and contain grease bins.
  • Dispose of dirty water in a mop sink or floor drain. Do not pour it on the ground outside.
  • Wash food mats, food preparation equipment, and garbage cans in a mop sink or at a wash rack that drains to the sewer via the grease trap or wash items in a location that is connected to the sanitary sewer system. Do not wash them outside.
  • Use environmentally friendly products that are free of ammonia phosphate, dyes or perfumes, and those that are nontoxic, biodegradable or recycled. Soaps contain oil. If necessary, use detergent.
  • Store chemicals inside.
  • Have a spill prevention plan and review it with employees.
  • Provide proper training for new employees and review guidelines with all employees on a regular basis.
  • Implement mock inspections to identify potential problems.
  • Make sure all trashcans have lids and are covered at all times.

Kitchen BMPs

  • NEVER empty waste from a deep fryer into a floor drain.
  • Scrape or wipe fat, oil, grease, and other food residue from cookware, utensils, etc. before washing them or placing them in the dishwasher.
  • Use paper towels or rags to wipe down work areas.
  • Use food grade paper to soak up oil and grease under fryer baskets.
  • Collect and empty grill scrapings and deep fryer vat grease in grease recycling containers.
  • Do not put food, including liquids such as dairy products, milk shake syrups, batters, and gravies down the drain.
  • Empty grease containers before they are full to avoid spilling.
  • Use strainers in sinks to capture solid materials.
  • Use garbage grinders sparingly. Food particles can pass through the grinder and get stuck in the grease trap, or get deposited in the sewer collection system, which may cause a blockage, resulting in possible fees assessed to your facility.

Outside BMPs

  • Never dump anything down a storm drain or catch basin. The City of Fort Lauderdale Code of Ordinances states that it is unlawful to dump anything into a storm drain. If you see someone dumping something down a storm drain or catch basin, please call 954-828-8000 to report it.
  • Maintain outside grease traps to prevent sewer stoppages and overflows that could reach a storm drain.
  • Sweep parking lots, dumpster storage areas, etc., with a broom. Do not spray down with a hose.
  • Inspect and clean storm drains and catch basins.
  • Inspect dumpsters and storage areas. Keep them litter free.
  • Replace leaking or damaged dumpsters.
  • Do not hose out dumpsters.
  • Do not put liquids in dumpsters.
  • Keep dumpster lids closed at all times.
  • Sweep or vacuum outside dining areas. If necessary, use environmentally-friendly cleaning products to wash these areas. Do not use toxic bleaches or chlorines.
  • Use dry materials to clean up spills.
  • Report toxic spills to the 24-Hour State Warning Point by calling 1-800-320-0519 or the Southeast Florida Emergency Response Office at 954-958-5575 between the hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. only.

Grease Trap Pollution Prevention Measures

  • Wastewater should not be hot, as the grease will not solidify. Traps should be sized to allow proper cooling of dishwasher discharge.
  • Install and maintain removable screens in the floor drains and sinks so there is no decrease in the capacity of the trap due to accumulation of solids.
  • Limit the use of chemicals and cleaners (acids and enzymes) that appear to remedy a grease trap problem. However, they have a tendency to allow the encapsulated grease to exit the trap and into our waterways.
  • Promote the use of environmentally safe chemicals and cleaners.
  • A restaurant employee should be in attendance when grease trap is being cleaned to visually inspect baffles, sides, and the discharge pipe.
  • Accurate records must be kept showing when the grease trap is cleaned and the method used to dispose of the contents removed.

Choosing a Grease Hauler

Grease hauling services for pumping and transporting grease from a grease trap can vary.  Services should include a minimum of:

  • Complete removal of grease trap contents, not just skimming the top grease layer.
  • Thorough cleaning of the trap to remove grease and other build up from inner walls and baffles.
  • Disposal at an approved location and properly maintain a record of grease disposal activities.

Recycling Grease

Grease from fryers is recyclable and can be used to make soap, animal feed, bio-diesel fuel, and other products. Grease from a grease trap cannot be used in this way. All restaurants should have waste containers to store recyclable oil and grease. These containers should have tight fitting lids to keep rainwater from entering them if they are stored outside. Check with local vendors in the local area that service facilities by picking up the oil and grease and hauling it to their processing plant.

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