Madison Increasing Sewer Charges For Commercial Kitchen Grease Interceptor

Madison Increasing Sewer Charges For Commercial Kitchen Grease Interceptor

Dean Mosiman of The Wisconson State Journal wrote an October 2016 story about the city of Madison Wisconsin proposing a new billing class for restaurants whose effluent is more expensive to treat than residential output because the grease interceptor in many commercial kitchens not being cleaned properly.

To align cost with use, Madison may raise sewer charges on restaurants and commercial kitchens, which would slightly lower bills for residential customers.

The city’s Engineering Division is proposing a new billing class based on the composition of sewage from restaurants, commercial kitchens and retail food establishments with more than $25,000 in annual gross sales of food manufactured on site.

A preliminary estimate suggests the charges would cost the city’s approximately 1,000 restaurants up to $1,000 annually, generating about $1 million a year, with the new revenue slightly lowering bills for the city’s 55,000 residential users.

The so-called “food establishment rate class” would be phased in over three years.

The increase is appropriate because effluent from those facilities contains levels of organic materials, nutrients and bacteria “significantly higher” than residential sewage, and costs more to treat at the wastewater treatment plant, city engineer Rob Phillips said.

In effect, residential customers are subsidizing rates charged to most restaurants and food preparation businesses, Phillips said.

Currently, the city has two classes of sewer billing, assistant city engineer Mike Dailey said. Residents and most others pay a fixed charge plus a fee for the volume of waste generated. About 20 industrial users have the same system plus a surcharge based on the makeup of the waste, which is tested for phosphorus, nitrogen and other contaminants.

Over time, the city initiated testing on about 30 restaurants due to issues with their waste — almost always a grease problem — and they are charged as industrial users, Dailey said.

It’s impractical to test all 1,000 restaurants, but there’s no reason to believe their waste output is much different from those tested, Dailey said, so the Engineering Division is proposing the new billing class to make the system more equitable.

The city would create two billing categories: strong sewage that costs 60 percent more to treat than a residence, and very strong sewage that costs 120 percent more to treat than a residential user, Dailey said. All restaurants would be placed in the 60 percent category and remain there if they provide proof of annual grease trap maintenance, he said.

The charge should improve grease trap maintenance, which will improve maintenance costs and sewer functions, he said. Businesses could also benefit from water conservation.

As municipalities continue to increase regulations on restaurants and commercial kitchens to monitor the maintenance of their grease interceptor, installing The Drain Strainer to prevent food debris from clogging your grease trap is money well spent.

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