Foodservice Equipment Reports

Portland’s New Sewer Fee Is A Bit Foggy For Small Operators

Sewer bills won’t be scary for operators in Portland, Ore., if their kitchens have a grease trap, and if they rely on composting rather than a garbage disposal to keep fats, grease and oils from going down—and clogging—the drain.

In 2011, Portland spent just over $12 million to clear clogged sewer lines and remove fats, oil and grease from wastewater during treatment. For the past two decades, 72 of the city’s largest industrial businesses paid the bill.

That’s changed. Now the city is assessing approximately 3,500 foodservice operations that, like their industrial counterparts, also discharge fats, oils and greases into Portland’s sewers.

The new assessments kicked in Jan. 1 for bakeries, brew pubs, hotels and commercial kitchens; restaurants and coffees shop are on a sliding schedule to start paying higher fees by December 2013.

The Cut Through the FOG program, administered by Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services, raises those businesses' sewer rates by amounts that depend upon the practices—and the equipment—used by each operator.

The program offers—but doesn’t require—incentives that could reduce operators’ bills by decreasing what is poured down the sink. They include removing garbage disposals, installing grease traps, decreasing the amount of water usage and either donating or composting food. According to BES, operators employing these incentives will see only a slight rise in their sewer bills—anywhere from $15 to $60 a month.

There are pros and cons either way. If operators install a grease trap, BES will only slightly increase their sewer fees, but they will have to pay companies to inspect and clean those traps.

Operators are required to install a grease trap if they build a new business, take ownership of a business or remodel or make tenant improvements in an existing business or if their facility contributes to a sewer line blockage or sewer overflow.

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