What is wastewater?

Wastewater is water that has been used for washing, flushing, or in manufacturing processes from various industries or that carries sewage from homes and businesses. This wastewater discharges into the sanitary sewer system.

Wastewater may be an issue for many businesses, including those at the airports because legally, some businesses need a permit to discharge wastewater to the sanitary sewer system. This includes businesses such as restaurants that have wastes such as fats, oil, and grease (FOG). FOG builds up in sewers, leads to blockages, and can cause sanitary sewer overflows. It can also cause interference with the operation of the wastewater treatment plant. Grease traps or interceptors are often used to remove FOG from wastewater before it enters the sewer system. Other tenants, such as those with machine shops, may also need a permit.

BWI Marshall Airport is located in Anne Arundel County. The Anne Arundel County Health Department implements the health code applicable for the installation and upkeep of grease traps and interceptors for restaurants at BWI Marshall Airport. The county requires that grease traps and interceptors shall be installed and maintained in accordance with the County Plumbing Code.

As wastewater discharges ultimately enter the Baltimore County sanitary sewer system, it is Baltimore County that places limits on what can be discharged to the system including fats and oils from restaurants. To assure these limits are met, grease interceptors must be maintained properly and grease disposed of by a licensed hauler.

Additionally, restaurants are required to allow inspections of facilities such as grease interceptors by state or county officials. The MAA and Maryland Environmental Services will also inspect grease traps on a regular basis.

Baltimore County Department of Public Works requires any industrial user (including restaurants) to obtain a Wastewater Discharge Permit. Baltimore County identifies some types of businesses that are required to have a permit such as:

  • Industrial
  • Manufacturers
  • Restaurants
  • Laundries

Baltimore County indicates the basic factors considered in deciding whether a permit is required or not are:

  • Is water used in the business for other than domestic (sanitary) purposes?
  • Is the water disposed of to the sanitary sewer?

If the answer to both questions is “yes”, a permit is most likely required.

See the Baltimore County Industrial Wastewater User Information Website and § 20-5-114 of the Baltimore County Code for specific information on these requirements.

For restaurants, it is important that grease traps or interceptors are maintained properly. Staff or a licensed hauler can perform grease trap cleaning. Best management practices to implement include:
  • Clean grease traps weekly or more frequently if they are more than 50% full of solids on a weekly basis.
  • Keep track of cleaning frequency by maintaining records of each cleaning event.
  • Management should inspect the cleaning to assure it is done properly.
  • Remove food using “dry” cleanup methods (scraping or wiping) prior to “wet” methods that use water and typically wash waste into the drains.
  • Do not pour FOG down the drain.
  • Use paper towels to wipe down work areas. Cloth towels will accumulate grease and oil that will eventually end up in drains from towel washing and rinsing.
  • Post “No Grease” signs at appropriate locations.
  • Use absorbent materials to soak up oil and grease under fryer baskets.
  • Discuss proper practices at least quarterly with employees and inform new employees upon being hired.

For restaurants, if grease traps are not cleaned or maintained properly you may violate county code and your wastewater permit. Baltimore County Code (§ 20-5-127 and § 20-5-129) outlines civil and criminal penalties for non-compliance. Violations of program requirements can result in a civil penalty or criminal penalties of $1,000 per violation and imprisonment up to 90 days.