Fats, Oils, & Grease



Sanitary sewers are designed and installed with sufficient diameter to carry the normal waste discharges from a residence or business. When cooking by-products -- fats, oils, and/or grease -- are discharged to the sewer, the FOG can cool and accumulate on the interior of the sewer pipes. Over time, this accumulation of FOGs restricts the flow and causes blockages in the sewer which can result in overflowing manholes or basement backups. Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs) can discharge to storm drains and creeks, which will ultimately flow to the Chesapeake Bay.

WSSC Water has partnered with agencies such as the Restaurant Association of Maryland to help the food service industry understand the safest and best ways to dispose of FOG, and to train them in how to use Best Management Practices (BMPs) when dealing with FOG.

WSSC Water also has more information on grease blockages and how to prevent them available. 

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Permitting Program

All Food Service Establishments (FSE) having the potential to discharge fats, oils, and grease (FOG) must apply to the Commission for a FSE Wastewater Discharge Permit. The establishments may include restaurants, cafeterias, grocery stores, hotel kitchens, church kitchens, school kitchens, bars, or any other commercial or industrial operation that discharges grease laden wastewater. A valid Montgomery or Prince George’s County Health Department Permit must also be obtained prior to discharge.

Established in 2007, annual FOG fees are billed only through the WSSC Water and Sewer account associated with the Food Service Establishment (FSE) and therefore not necessarily to the FSE’s location address. This assures the fee is paid in a timely manner and is associated with the sewer service connection provided to the property owner/account holder. Fees are properly invoiced so that the property owner/account holder can have the option to collect the fee from their tenant if they wish.

NOTE: Effective July 1, 2018, the primary Annual FOG Discharge Fee will increase to $537 annually. This fee is for any and all Food Service Establishments (FSEs) who are required to have Grease Abatement Devices. The annual fee for FSEs who must possess a FOG Discharge Permit but are not required to have a grease abatement device (BMP permit) will increase to $152 annually.


All Food Service Establishments (FSE) are subject to annual routine inspections. In addition, FSE’s may be inspected at any time in response to complaints or reports of sewer blockages. During an inspection, WSSC Water FOG Investigators will verify that all required fixtures are connected to a grease treatment device and that the grease treatment device is adequately sized and installed according to the WSSC Water Code. Investigators may also review maintenance records or other documents related to the operation of the grease treatment device.


Failure to comply with any condition of an FSE permit will subject the permittee to penalties and other enforcement action as provided for in WSSC Water's Food Service Establishment Enforcement Response Plan (ERP). These enforcement actions may include Notices of Violation, Compliance Directives, Civil Citations (fines up to $1,000), or termination of water and sewer service.

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Best Management PracticesGrease can

Can the Grease

The best way to manage FOG is to keep it out of the plumbing system in the first place!

The following are some ways to greatly reduce the amount of FOG entering the sewer system:

  • Train all kitchen staff in best management practices for grease disposal and the impacts of grease accumulation in the sewer.
  • Do not pour, scrape, or otherwise dispose of fats, oils, or grease into the sink or drains.
  • Collect fryer oil and store in barrels for recycling.
  • Dump mop water only to drains connected to your grease treatment system.
  • Use absorbents to soak up spills containing fats, oils, and grease (FOG).
  • Do not put food (including liquid food) including milk shake syrups, batters, and gravy down the drain.
  • Use strainers on sinks and floor drains to prevent solid material from entering the sewer.
  • Post “NO GREASE” signs near sinks and drains.
  • If you have an automatic grease recovery device (GRD), empty the collection pan before it becomes full.
  • Wastewater generated from duct/range filter cleaning must be routed through the grease treatment system.
  • Provide regular refresher training/discussion for proper disposal of fats, oils, and grease for all employees.
  • Inspect grease abatement devices/interceptors after pumping to ensure adequate cleaning was performed.

Dairy-based FSE Research and Review

WSSC Water has researched and reviewed the effects of small dairy-based FSE's for the FOG program. A University of Maryland research project and WSSC Water PowerPoint presentation on the matter are available at the following links:

University of Maryland Final Report DAIRY APR 2011

Relationship of small dairy-based Food Service Establishments (FSEs) to the Fats, Oils, and Grease (FOG) Program in WSSC Water

Based on laboratory and field observations, it is expected that partitioning tendencies of wastewaters rich in milks and ice cream-like products is substantial enough to justify installation of grease traps. 

WSSC Water is continuing with its plan to issue the 2012 full permits to the applicable "dairy-based" FSEs and to visit and inspect each applicable FSE to set reasonable timelines for grease (FOG) abatement installation at these facilities.

Please contact Wayne Ludwig, FOG Section Manager at Wayne.Ludwig@wsscwater.com for more information. 

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