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Environmental Services Department
Common Questions for the Environmental Services Department
San José is dedicated to providing a sustainable environment for its residents and businesses while preserving unique natural habitats. The Environmental Services Department enables San José to respond quickly to new regulations and initiatives while improving customer services such as recycling and garbage collection, wastewater treatment, and the sale of drinking and recycled water. Read below for questions and answers specific to Environmental Services Department plan reviews and other requirements.

What is the San Jose/Santa Clara Water Pollution Control Plan?

By cleaning wastewater, the San José-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility protects our health, Bay, and economy. The Plant cleans our wastewater before it flows into the South San Francisco Bay. Wastewater is the water that goes down drains inside our homes and businesses from washing dishes and clothes, showering, flushing toilets and industrial processes. Learn more on how the City and County clean wastewater

I received a checklist that requires Environmental Services Department or San José-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility approval/clearance/stamp for my plans and specifications, what is this?

  • The City of San José Environmental Services Department reviews and provides an approval stamp and letter during the Environmental Services plan check appointment. 
  • To secure a plumbing permit, you must submit a copy of your approval stamp and letter along with your plans and specifications to the City of San José Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement Department. 
  • Also note that a City of San José Environmental Services Department approval or plan check is the same as a San José-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility approval or plan check. You may also hear this process being referred to as, approval, clearance or stamp.

Why is the Environmental Services Department sizing my grease removal device?

Plumbing and sanitary sewer grease blockages can result in overflows to creeks, rivers and the South San Francisco Bay. The City of San José reviews kitchen fixtures, food preparation, seating, plumbing and other restaurant features to evaluate grease removal to protect the: 
  • Restaurant plumbing; 
  • Sanitary sewer collection system; 
  • San José-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility; and 
  • South San Francisco Bay.

Where do I need to go and who do I need to contact to set up an appointment with the Environmental Services Department or San José-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility?

Call (408) 945-3000 24 hours in advance to make an appointment and request an Environmental Services Department plan check. 
  • Location: San José City Hall, 7th Floor, Watershed Protection Division, 200 East Santa Clara Street, San José CA 95113.
  • Hours. Monday – Friday appointments are available 8:00 am to 11:30 am and 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm.
  • Parking. Available in the City Hall Parking Garage on 6th Street between East Santa Clara and San Fernando Streets. Parking validation is available at the front desk on the 7th Floor.

What is required to obtain approval from the Environmental Services Department or San José-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility?

  • Call (408) 945-3000 24 hours in advance to schedule an appointment with the Environmental Services Department. 
  • Complete a Food Service Plan Check Questionnaire.
  • Bring all plans/specifications to your scheduled appointment for approval.

How long does the Environmental Services Department or San José-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility approval take?

Most appointments are conducted over the counter and take about one hour. Complex projects may require more time.

Why do I need to make an appointment for an Environmental Services Department plan check?

Since the Environmental Services plan check process is very quick, can be made a day ahead and is over the counter, we schedule appointments to avoid wait times and conflicts with other plan checks (the Environmental Services Department also provides plan checks for the entire treatment plant tributary area including not just the City of San José) and other Environmental Services Department Engineering Section activities outside of the plan check process.

Does the Environmental Services Department or San José-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility require retain hard copies of my plans and specifications?  

No, at the time of the appointment we sign and stamp any plans and specifications brought to the Environmental Services Department plan check appointment, but do not keep any copies in our files.

Do I need to pay a fee for an Environmental Services Department plan check? 

No, there are no fees for an Environmental Services Department plan check.

What is the stamp I need for Environmental Services Department or the San José-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility and how do I get one?

The stamp looks like “X” and includes the data, signature of the Environmental Services Department staff member and any requirements or comments based on the results of the plan check.

Is the letter received during the Plan check Important? 

Yes. Although we also send a copy of the letter directly to the Chief Plumbing Inspector, to expedite the process please provide a copy of the letter the Environmental Services Department sends to the Plumbing Inspector assigned to review your plans and specifications.

All my food is prepackaged with no washable dishes or I am just a bar serving snacks and drinks, why do I need Environmental Services Department plan check approval?  

Even projects that do not require a grease removal device require a plan check to verify that food preparation or service do not require any grease device. If there is no potential for grease into the sanitary sewer, we stamp the plans and specifications and provide an approval letter stating there are “no requirements.”

My restaurant does not generate fats, oils, or grease, why do I need a plan check?

Since fat is essential part of any diet and protects surfaces from sticking, all food facilities typically use some form of fat, oil or grease in the cooking or preparation process. Part of the Environmental Services Department plan check process is to evaluate the food processing at your facility or restaurant to tailor a grease removal device appropriate for your restaurant site and menu.

Types of Restaurant Grease Removal Devices

What is a grease removal device?

A grease removal device is a treatment system plumbed between kitchen fixtures and your restaurant discharge lines prior to the sanitary sewer collection system. The purpose of the treatment system is to separate fats, oils and grease from the restaurant wastewater. 

What is a grease interceptor?

  • A grease interceptor is a large usually underground tank most often located outside your building. The units are constructed of concrete, fiberglass or steel. By nature of their large size, grease interceptors have high capacity for grease and solids storage (about 1,000 to 6,000 gallons). They are commonly called gravity interceptors. Interceptors require retention time and internal baffles to allow fats, oils, grease and food solids to settle in the tank. As wastewater enters the tank the grease floats on the top layer, solids settle to the bottom layer and the middle layer is pushed out of the tank. Maintenance requires quarterly or sometimes more often professional pump removal of grease and solids. 
  • Learn more about specifications on grease interceptors.

What is a Grease Trap?

  • A grease trap is a small plumbing box that is located most often inside your facility near the connected kitchen fixtures. The grease trap relies on internal baffles and pipe arrangement to keep floating grease out of sewer lines. Grease must be removed manually and cleaned out at least monthly. Grease traps treat much smaller grease loads than grease interceptors and therefore, are not appropriate for all applications. For instance, dishwashers cannot be connected to a grease trap.
  • Get more information on grease trap maintenance

What is a Hydro mechanical grease Interceptor?

This is the term used for what the City calls grease traps in the Unified Plumbing Code.

What is a power-operated grease removal device?

  • A power-operated grease removal device operates mechanically — using various electricity powered mechanical mechanisms to automatically separate fats, oils and grease from wastewater by skimming floating grease into a grease storage area. Power-operated grease removal devices have moving parts; they are subject to mechanical breakdowns. Periodic maintenance is critical to keep the power device in good operating condition. Unless you have the right replacement parts and expertise on-site to fix any mechanical failures, it is recommended that you have an ongoing maintenance contract to service your power device. Power-operated devices also treat much smaller grease loads than grease interceptors and therefore, are not appropriate for all applications. For instance, dishwashers cannot be connected to a power-operated grease removal device.
  • Obtain more information on power-operated grease removal devices.


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Proper grease trap sizing and maintenance is important. At a minimum, clean grease traps every 30 days.