Foodservice Equipment Reports

Cities In Indiana, Massachusetts, Mull Grease-Trap Regulations

Everyone loves New York, but no city wants to emulate at least one foodservice issue affecting the nation’s largest city. In 2013, 62% of a record 15,000 sewer-backup complaints there were caused by buildups of fat, oil and grease (FOG). Smaller cities are taking different approaches to combat the issue and finding different outcomes.

Officials in Elkhart, Ind., are celebrating a boom in restaurant openings but facing a subsequent upswing in water use and wastewater discharge. Last year, 18 of Elkhart’s sewer lines became clogged—and all but one of those was caused by grease, according to the Elkhart Public Works & Utilities Department.

But the city’s ambitious proposals for a series of new grease ordinances and fines related to FOG discharge are facing stiff opposition in the restaurant community.

Elkhart’s proposed grease ordinance would strengthen and flesh out the details of existing requirements and allow the city to enforce new and existing penalties; restaurants would have to obtain a FOG registration certificate, submit to inspections and pay a $150 registration and an initial $25 inspection fee. But a City Council committee has tabled the main ordinance, which it had hoped to see passed and enacted by Jan. 1, after restaurant operators and some council members called for a slowdown.

A number of operators assailed the ordinance, which would require some restaurants to install interceptors or upgrade their equipment used to separate grease, as financially burdensome. Although the city agreed to establish the program without fees, the plan has been tabled for further consideration.

Meanwhile, the Board of Health in Northampton, Mass., is crafting regulations that would require all FOG-generating foodservice establishments to not only install grease interceptors, but to make sure restaurant workers are deploying best practices, such as “dry clean up,” i.e., scraping or dry-wiping excess grease for disposal in a trash can instead of down the sink.

Under the proposed rules, which are not subject to a vote by the City Council, any new restaurant or restaurant undergoing substantial renovations would have to install, operate and maintain an outdoor/underground grease interceptor with a minimum 1,500-gal. capacity or an indoor automatic grease trap with a proper “flow control device.” Existing restaurants would be required to install or upgrade such systems at the discretion of the Northampton Health Department.

The state plumbing code already requires grease traps but is mum on maintenance requirements. The rules call not only for regular cleaning of the traps, but for detailed record keeping and regular city inspections; they cover the storage of waste grease and oil, as well.

No decision will be made on the proposals until further input from the Department of Public Works and a public meeting is held with restaurant owners.

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