Whether you've having your restaurant's grease pumped or you're just opening up the manhole cover to verify its condition with the county inspector, you can take advantage of routine maintenance to do an impromptu inspection of your own equipment. Knowing what an inspector looks for can help you solve problems without having to deal with citations and potential penalties. Be vigilant for these five visual signs of trouble in a grease trap or interceptor system.
First, make sure there is a plate, baffle, or t-shaped length of pipe where the waste water first flows into your grease trap. This is known as the flow restrictor, and when it is out of position or missing entirely, water speed can increase enough to knock grease loose and out of the trap. It's easy enough to move this part back into place or replace it, but you won't know it's necessary to do so unless you check it every time you open the trap for cleaning or maintenance. Leaving the flow restrictor off for too long will result in a costly sewage clog or a citation for letting grease escape into the waste water system.
Storm Drain Residue
Not sure if you experienced a loss of grease after finding a missing restrictor plate or other issue with your trap? Try going around your building and seeing if there is any shiny oil or grease residue after the latest rain storm or other major weather event. Any time you notice grease or oil in the storm drains and other drainage areas on the exterior of your business, it's a clear sign there's something wrong in the sewage system that is causing a backup. Paying for inspection and repairs at this point—while the problem is still confined to the outdoors—can prevent embarrassing and expensive backups into your kitchen or bathrooms.
It only takes a bright flashlight and a little looking to inspect even the largest in-ground grease interceptor systems when they're open for cleaning and pumping. Once the water and grease are removed and it's time for scraping down the sides of the tank, it only takes a minute or two to check the major inlets and outlets for debris like bits of food or shredded wrappers. A single bit of paper or chunk of bone can create a serious clog that leads to extensive cleanup after the trap itself overflows.
Hot Rinsing Effect
Taking a moment to look at the surface of accumulated grease, as well as the general amount floating on the water, can tell you a lot about what's happening in the trap tank between cleanings. If you notice lower-than-usual amounts of grease, it could be a leak in the system or the use of extra-hot water that is melting solids and flushing them down the line. You'll also notice thinner deposits, with a smoother, melted look, when hot water is a culprit. This is usually due to the attachment of a dishwasher that runs over 140 degrees F to the grease trap lines, but employees trying to clean the pipes with boiling water can also accidentally cause this problem.
Finally, be on the lookout at all times for cracks, lines, or any marks on the interior of the grease trap. The finest lines can very quickly grow into big leaks, so having the tank drained and inspected on a suspicion is well worth the prevention of a messy leak situation, especially if you have a buried model. It's especially important to treat concrete traps promptly when cracks develop because it's much easier to seal them from the interior, but it's only possible to repair minor damage this way.
For information on professional grease trap cleaning services, contact a company like Tierra Environmental & Industrial Services.