Cabaero: Grease traps

Nini Cabaero

THERE is a law that requires food establishments to have grease traps or that contraption in the plumbing or below the sink that prevents grease from entering the wastewater disposal system.

The trap collects fats, oils and grease (or FOG in grease parlance) in a receptacle to separate them from the water that goes to the main sewer. The smelly FOG that is collected is then disposed of separately by placing it in a sealed container for disposal with other garbage or in a bin for recycling. Waste from the grease trap should never be thrown back to the sewer or the canal because then you make the trap useless.

For households, experts suggest that you wipe off the grease from pans, plates and utensils before washing them in the sink. Dispose the tissue or wipe with the other refuse.

This reduces the FOG.

Inside a sewer or a drain, the collected grease and oils can harden, accumulate, cause block-ups in plumbing and block waterways, causing water to overflow back to the streets or your own property.

If these food establishments in the city do not have grease traps, then imagine the volume of FOG that contributes to the problem of flooding during heavy downpours.

This unpalatable topic of grease traps was raised by Cebu City Councilor Eugenio Gabuya Jr. when he proposed an ordinance to require eateries, commercial restaurants and auto repair shops to install grease traps.

The measure seeks approval of the “Grease Trap Requirement Ordinance in Cebu City” that also prohibits the discarding of used cooking and engine oil in rivers and creeks. Gabuya’s measure is to be reviewed by the City Council committee on laws.

There is already the Code on Sanitation or Presidential Decree 856 of the Marcos administration. Its section on sewage treatment says, “Properly designed grease traps shall be provided for sewers from restaurants or other establishments where the sewerage carries a large amount of grease.”

This Code is already decades old and the Gabuya measure apparently wants to bring it up to date because overflowing sewage is becoming a regular occurrence during downpours due in part to the improper disposal of grease. The proposed ordinance also includes in its coverage auto repair shops that use grease and oil in many of their operations. Penalties proposed are fines and suspension or cancellation of business permit.

This is a direction worth pursuing, considering that flooding has become a difficult problem to solve and that any course of action, big or small, must be welcomed.

The challenge, once the measure is approved, is to implement it immediately and consistently. Small eateries and neighborhood car shops may not know about a grease trap. Part of the law should be on educating them.

If unimplemented, then a grease trap would remain an unknown to them and the term could better be used to refer to catching corrupt individuals in a different kind of “grease trap.”