Cut Through the FOG
Frequently Asked Questions
What's the problem?
The City of Portland spends an average of $100,000 a year cleaning and repairing sewer lines clogged by grease, and about $12 million a year to treat wastewater containing high concentrations of fats, oils, and grease (FOG) and food waste. FOG can block sewer pipes and cause sewer backups in basements and sewer overflows from manholes. Repairs and cleanup are expensive for both the city and property owners, and sewage releases threaten public health and the environment.
While FOG and food waste enters sewer lines from homes and businesses; Food Service Establishments (FSEs) are a major source of FOG. Some FSEs pay additional fees of the added cost of treating this concentrated sewage.
What is the city currently doing to reduce the impact of FOG on the sewer system?
Some areas of Portland, especially areas with high numbers of FSEs, have repeated sewer maintenance problems. The city has designated these areas as accelerated grease cleaning areas (AGCAs) where maintenance crews clean sewer pipes 20 to 30 times more frequently. City staff also works with FSEs in these areas to adopt practices that reduce grease and food waste discharges to the sewer system.
What is new about how the city is approaching reducing FOG's impact on the sewer system?
With Cut Through the FOG, the city will take these steps to reduce the impact of FOG on the city's sewer system:
- increase the number of businesses that pay the additional fees
- require grease removal devices in all new or remodeled FSEs
Will any of these new requirements apply to my business?
Yes, if any of the following apply:
- Food is consumed at your business
- Food is processed at your business
- Your business discharges wastewater containing FOG or food products
Are any businesses currently paying the additional fee?
Yes, 72 businesses currently pay the additional fee due to the amount of FOG and food waste in their wastewater.
If the only water use at my business is for bathrooms do I have to pay the fee?
No, only businesses that generate wastewater containing excessive FOG or food waste have to pay the additional fee.
What is the fee for my business?
The fee is based on how much water your business uses and the amount of FOG and food waste in your business's wastewater discharges.
How is my rate calculated?
The city determined base rates by sampling and analyzing wastewater discharges from numerous businesses. The rates are based on the average amount of FOG and food waste in certain business classes.
What can I do to reduce my fee?
Businesses that implement Best Management Practices (BMPs) to prevent FOG and food waste from entering the sewer system can lower the additional fee they pay from five to 64 percent.
When will the additional fee go into effect?
The current schedule is listed below. There will be no changes in sewer fees for FSEs until city staff have visited the site and verified whether or not BMPs have been installed.
- Supermarkets: January 1, 2012
- Bakeries: January 1, 2012
- Donut Shops: January 1, 2012
- Meat Processors: January 1, 2012
- Brew Pubs: January 1, 2012
- Hotels: January 1, 2012
- Commercial Kitchens: January 1, 2012
- Coffee Shops: July 1, 2012 – December 31, 2013
- Restaurants: July 1, 2012 – December 31, 2013
What is a BMP and which ones qualify for these discounts?
A BMP is a best management practice, an approved practice that reduces the impact of FOG and food waste on the city's sewer system. Using the following BMPs can make FSEs eligible for reduced fees:
- Grease Trap - A grease trap is a small under-sink device designed for small facilities that captures oils and greases. Coffee shops and other small dischargers generally use grease traps. If your business uses a grease trap, the city recommends you maintain it through the Preferred Pumper Program. Go to preferredpumper.org for more information about the Preferred Pumper Program.
- Grease Interceptor - A grease interceptor is a large underground vault outside the facility designed to capture fats, oils, and greases. While installation is more expensive, interceptors are easier and cheaper to clean than grease traps. If your business uses a grease interceptor, Cut Through the FOG will require you to maintain it through the Preferred Pumper Program.
- Food Grinder Removal - Grinders (e.g. garbage disposals) are under-sink devices designed to pulverize food. The city recommends that FSEs do not use food grinders because they transport food waste to the treatment system.
- Food Composting/Food Donation - FSEs can compost food waste through the city's compost program or donate still-edible food to food rescue agencies. Contact Sustainability at Work for more information and assistance.
What if I already have these BMPs or am not sure which BMPs to install?
City staff can help you meet these new requirements. If you think you have BMPs installed or aren't sure which BMPs are best for your business, call 503-823-7885. Staff can provide assistance over the telephone or in person at your business. Staff will inspect your business to verify installation and maintenance of the BMP. After verification, your discounts will go into effect at the next billing cycle.
How much does it cost to install a Grease Removal Device?
A typical grease trap installation costs from $1,900 to $4,700. A typical grease interceptor installation costs from $9,000 to $11,000.
How much does it cost to maintain a Grease Removal Device?
Depending on the cleaning frequency, a typical grease trap can cost between $1,200 and $5,800 annually to maintain. A typical grease interceptor costs from $1,200 to $3,600 annually to maintain.
Is there a list of companies who can maintain my Grease Removal Device?
The city recommends you use a preferred pumper for your maintenance needs. Preferred pumpers are regional waste haulers who are familiar with local regulations, skilled in grease removal device cleaning, and can fully and effectively complete all notification and reporting requirements. You can get more information and see the preferred pumper list at preferredpumper.org.
Is my business required to install a Grease Removal Device?
You are required to install a grease removal device if:
- You build a new business, take ownership of a business, or remodel or make tenant improvements in an existing business
- Your facility contributes to a sewer line blockage or sewer overflow
All facilities get a discount by installing and maintaining these devices.
How do I pay the additional fee?
It will be included on your City of Portland water and sewer bill and will be listed as Net Bio Oxygen Demand and/or Net Total Suspended Solids.
What if I have questions about the additional fees on my water and sewer bill?
If you have questions about the fees, call 503-823-7885. For other questions about your water and sewer bill, contact customer service at 503-823-7770 or PWBCustomerService@portlandoregon.gov.
What if I use water that doesn't go down the drain to the sewer?
You can receive a credit on your sewer bill by installing a credit meter and reporting the meter readings to the city. This can reduce both your sewer charge and the additional fees. Call 503-823-7885 for more information.
Will I receive a visit from city staff?
City staff will meet with you at your business to answer questions about the new requirements and discuss the most appropriate best management practices for your business.
If you have best management practices installed already or plan to install them, staff will inspect them to make sure they are installed and maintained properly so that you can receive the correct reduction in the additional fees. City staff will also make periodic, random inspections to ensure that grease management devices are properly maintained and serviced.
Are there reporting requirements?
A preferred pumper will maintain your grease removal device and will file the correct forms with the city so you don't have to. If you don't use a preferred pumper, you are required to verify appropriate grease removal device maintenance and provide the city with grease removal device maintenance forms after each servicing.
Can I appeal charges or other requirements?
If you don't agree with the rate assigned to your business, you can request that the city conduct additional sampling of your wastewater.