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Prevent Pollution from Food Cart Wastewater: How to connect a food cart or cart pod to Portland's sewer system

Food cart pods seeking a solution to wastewater disposal can install a dump station and connection to the sanitary sewer. Learn more about the process to connect.
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Wastewater from food preparation contains high levels of fats, oils, and grease, also called FOG. City code requires that wastewater containing fats, oils, and grease be disposed down a drain that is connected to a grease interceptor. The grease interceptor removes the fats, oils, and grease from the wastewater before allowing it to flow into the sewer system.

If not removed, fats, oils, and grease can cause sewer blockages and backups. Sewer backups can threaten public health and the environment and cause damage to property. As a result, backups resulting from fats, oils, and grease can lead to enforcement with monetary penalties to property or business owners.

The City's Role

The Clean Water Act requires the City to set rules and regulations to protect the city’s sewer and stormwater systems and Portland’s rivers and streams. Environmental Services works with Portland businesses to prevent pollution in order to protect public health, city workers, watersheds, infrastructure, fish and wildlife.

The City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services establishes requirements for connection and wastewater discharges to the sanitary sewer system. City development standards for food cart pods, which is defined as two food carts or more, are outlined in the City’s Source Control Manual.

In 2023, the Oregon Health Authority prohibited the use of aboveground graywater (wastewater) storage totes. Carts and cart pods that would like to now connect to Portland's sewer system must follow development standards outlined in the manual. Below is a summary of the process.

How to Connect a Food Cart Pod to the Sewer System

  1. Research your property’s sewer potential. Use Portland Maps to determine if sewer is available to the property and if a sewer stub or lateral exists. Or, request onsite sewer records through the Bureau of Development Services (BDS).
  2. Review the Source Control Manual. Develop a site plan for the pod that includes proposed plumbing, dump stations, grease interceptor, and trash enclosure (see figures on back). Grease interceptors greater than 500 gallons also trigger Environmental Services Administrative Rules – ENB-4.35 Monitoring Access Structure requirements.
    Diagram shows four food carts with two dump stations connected to a grease waste line that flows through a grease interceptor before flowing to the public sewer.
    Example of Source Control Manual compliance plan
  3. Apply for a BDS development permit.
  4. Submit the application to Development Review online.
  5. Environmental Services Plan Review will review the application to make sure it meets Source Control Manual requirements. Before submitting an application, you can request up to fifteen 30-minute appointments with a reviewer to address questions.
  6. Each cart dump station is assessed a system development charge (SDC). For FY 2022-23 the charge is $4,979.40. See current SDCs.
Graphic shows bird's eye view of six food carts in a lot with picnic tables. Carts' discharge hoses are connected to two dump stations that lead to a grease interceptor and then to the sanitary sewer
Illustration of food cart pod with compliant sanitary sewer connection. Figure is for reference only.

What happens after you’re connected?

Food cart pod wastewater discharges are regulated by Portland City Code Title 17, subject to BES administrative rules related to grease interceptor maintenance and extra strength sewer charges. Find more information and best management practices from Portland's fats, oils, and grease program.

It is recommended that you use a Preferred Pumper to maintain your grease interceptor. Preferred Pumpers will perform all required notifications of maintenance to the City’s FOG Program.


Pollution Prevention Building Plan and Development Review

Environmental Services
phone number503-823-7122Reviews building and development plans for industrial, commercial, and site development projects and can help identify sewer and stormwater regulations and requirements for development projects.

General Inquiries

Development Services
phone number503-823-7300Our front desk team will be available to answer Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Please leave a message if you call outside of those hours.
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Cut Through the FOG

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