THE PROBLEM WITH GREASE TRAPS

grease-trapWEBIn Austin, Texas grease trap pumping is an expensive endeavor. The two landfill companies that accept it decided to double their prices a few years ago. This causes many chain restaurants to hire pumpers from other cities to pump their grease traps because it is cheaper to have another pumper drive an hour or more, pump and dispose of it in a different city. Almost overnight, it went from 25 cents a gallon to 50 cents a gallon. Disposal costs have continued to rise since then.

Of course, this meant that many Austin area pumpers lost business. All Cen Tex Grease Trap Pumping Services still maintains many local clients with smaller grease traps and a couple of government jobs. “We lost a lot of our MUD work and car washes,” says Jason Fuentes, senior technician and driver for All Cen Tex Grease Trap Pumping Services. “I can’t fault them because you have to be able to stay in business and make a profit.

“Most of what we get are emergency clients. These are businesses that have let their trap go too long without pumping, have pushed too much water through it, or can’t get ahold of their out-of-town pumper.”

EDUCATION

Fuentes says the most important thing they do with grease trap customers is to educate them. “It takes money to move these trucks down the road and pay the drivers. We want to make sure when we get called to come out that it isn’t a waste for the customer. I talk to them about how their grease trap works. Once they understand that, it becomes a lot easier.

“The traps with our routine customers are the easiest to pump out. We’ve been maintaining them and they pump out every three months.

“When we were first called out to pump Camp Mabry it had been years since they had their traps pumped. They run three huge kitchens to feed everyone and have large grease traps. It took me five hours to get it cleaned out. I had to create my own tool to get down in there and break up the solids that had built up. Now they know the importance of maintaining it and we are in and out within an hour.

“The other thing we talk to customers about is their bolts. The bolts that hold the grease trap lid in place can become corroded. We’ve even had an instance where the customer had to call someone with a grinder to come in and grind the bolts off just to get the lid off. Now, when a customer calls, we suggest that they go ahead and remove the bolts before we come out so that we don’t get out there and not be able to pump out the trap.”

BE PROACTIVE

“The key with our customers is being proactive,” says Fuentes. “We know when we last pumped out our customer’s grease traps and/or septic tanks. When the required amount of time has passed, we contact them to let them know the allotted time has passed and see if they want us to come out.

“The City of Austin requires businesses to pump out their grease traps every three months. Our routine customers would rather pay to have it pumped out regularly than to deal with the city. Some businesses in the area don’t pump every three months, but once they are caught by the city, the city stays on them.

“This is also where education comes in. An informed customer is much more likely to be proactive with their pumping.”

ABIDE BY THE LAW

“You definitely want to stay on the legal side of things,” says Fuentes. “Some of these disposal places pop up but they may not be clear with the city. You have to be very careful and do your homework. The last thing we want is to be pulled into an investigation because we disposed of grease trap waste there.

“There is a need for cheaper and more disposal options. I think at some point, things will change and we will have other options. But, right now, we have the two landfills that charge a lot.”

GETTING AND MAINTAINING CUSTOMERS

“Most of our business is repeat customers,” says Fuentes. “We also get referrals. We like to say that we aren’t the biggest, but we are the best. We are Johnny-on-the-spot and will be there when a customer needs us. We don’t leave until the job is done right.

“Robert Negrete, the owner, once told me a long time ago that there was a certain time in the industry when you needed to have your foot in the door to gain business. I’ve been here 13 years and we’ve grown the business through those repeat customers and referrals by doing a good job.”

OTHER SOLUTIONS

Grease trap disposal continues to be a problem in many areas of the country. Some pumpers have turned to dewatering systems sold by companies like AQUA-Zyme Disposal Systems, Bucks Fabricating and Flo Trend Systems, which we discussed in detail in December 2012 January 2013 articles, “Dewatering–The Beginnings of a Beautiful Friendship” and “Dewatering–The Sequel.”

Still fewer companies, like Kline’s Services have built their own treatment plants as discussed in our November 2013 issue “Building a Legacy.” Kline’s, which also appeared in our June 2012 issue, began with their Food to Fuel initiative which extracts brown grease from restaurants and food processing plants, which Kline’s pumps, and converts the waste into a heating fuel.

But for those companies that have limited land and are in an area where land costs are high, paying the high fees continues to be their only solution.

RESOURCES
All Cen Tex Grease Trap Pumping Services:
www.allcentexsepticaustin.com
AQUA-Zyme Disposal Systems: www.aqua-zyme.com
Bucks Fabricating: www.bucksfab.com
Crystal Environmental: www.crystalenv.com
Flo Trend Systems, Inc.: www.flotrend.com
Kline’s Services: www.klinesservices.com

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