September 15, 2022
Inspection Services highlighted during Environmental Awareness Month
MOBILE, Ala. — September represents Environmental Awareness Month, with the goal of promoting the protection and conservation of our natural environment. The Mobile County Health Department’s Inspection Services division plays a vital role in this mission.
Mobile typically ranks nationally as one of the cities with the highest average yearly rainfall. Anytime there is a significant rain shower, an influx of rainwater flows into the local area sanitary sewer systems resulting in backups and overflows which are required to be reported to the Mobile County Health Department (MCHD) and made public.
These sewer overflows directly impact the health of our local community by contaminating local streets, water wells and waterways with potentially harmful bacteria and viruses, making recreational fishing, swimming, and boating activities unsafe. The commercial seafood industry is also impacted with waters being closed to shrimping, fishing, and oyster harvesting.
As a part of an attempt to keep public sewer systems and private onsite septic systems working properly, free of backups and overflows, plumbing codes require commercial food establishments to provide, install and maintain grease trap interceptors.
Grease traps and grease interceptors are not the recycle collection bins seen out back of restaurants for used cooking grease. These devices servicing warewashing and cleaning drains are installed integral to the effluent plumbing pipes and are located in the ground or, sometimes, directly under the establishment’s warewashing sink. Grease trap interceptors are designed to separate and trap food solids, fats, oils, and grease from wastewater produced during the cleaning of utensils, equipment, floors, garbage cans and dumpsters.
And yes, even establishments that do not have fryers are typically required by local governing authorities to install some type of grease trap interceptor. In fact, most of the grease produced in a restaurant that is discharged through the sewer lines actually comes from the cleaning of dishes, utensils, and cooking equipment.
When fats, oils, grease, and food solids travel down through sewage pipes they can congeal and harden, creating blockages and causing a sewage backup to occur. Aggravated by an influx of water on the sewer system during rain events, sewage lines can overflow into streets, waterways, or one’s own property. They can also cause pump, lift station, septic system, and sewage treatment plant failures, resulting in discharge to local waters.
Residents, like you at home, and commercial food establishments should limit the amount of food solids, oils, grease, and fat entering the sewage system so backups and overflows may be prevented. Used cooking oil should never be poured down a drain but should instead be placed in a leakproof container to be recycled or placed in the garbage. Spilled oil and grease should be soaked up with an absorbent material and discarded into the garbage. Likewise, pots, pans, plates, and other cooking utensils should be scraped of all visible food particles and grease into the garbage before washing.
By taking these small steps, you have the ability to positively impact the health of your community and prevent backups and overflows form sanitary sewer and septic systems.
To learn more about the department, you may visit mchd.org/environmental-services.