Remediation crews were hard at work at the banquet facility in Raleigh New Jersey, cleaning up the illegal kitchen sewage spill that forced township officials to shut down the popular facility until further notice.
But when it re-opens remains to be seen.
Their interim manager said crews were working as fast as possible, insisting the township “only closed us for two days.”
Township Health Officer Mark Caputo, however, denied that time frame, although he said the banquet hall “could probably open this weekend.”
“They have an egregious problem,” Caputo said.
He said they could only return to business “When they can get the sewage flowing and not back up.”
The township shut down the facility Monday after learning that failure to routinely clean out the kitchen grease trap led to the back up.
Rather than clean out the trap, a by-pass was created without obtaining the required permit for the work. As a result, the grease was re-routed to the sump pump, filtering into the ground and storm drains.
The clean up may not be enough to remedy what one neighbor claims is years of grease and additional runoff that may be compromising the local environment.
While the manager insisted the problem “was an isolated incident compounded with the heavy recent rain,” Mark Sanders said the grease dumping has been going on for years.
“They have not been a good neighbor,” said the Bedminster Road resident.
Sanders, whose property abuts the back of the banquet facility, thinks the facility has for some time been polluting a retention pond that spills into a small trout production stream. That stream feeds into the the Jackson Brook, a Rockaway River tributary.
Sanders is a Realtor who specializes in industrial property, so he knows something about pollution. He said the foam the forms in the water around rocks is all grease.
The area is also imbued with a strong smell like that of rotten leaves and industrial waste that worsens when the weather warms up.
In fact, it’s that smell that prompted Sanders and neighbors to follow their noses to the odor’s origin — the retention pond – before notifying officials.
According to Sanders, the banquet hall “has been knowingly allowing cooking grease to pour out of their building into the retention pond” rather than placing it in the 500 gallon containers, called totes, for that purpose.
He said a recent walk behind the banquet building showed caked grease by the storm drains, suggesting kitchen crews poured the grease into the drains.
“They had to do that because the drains are not near the door,” he said.
Likewise, he said, the totes were also not placed near the rear door by the kitchens, but several yards away.
During his visit, he said, he opened a few of the containers but found them only about one-third filled, again possibly indicating the staff was draining the grease into the storm drains.
He said the constant pollution has led to a deterioration of wildlife as well. At one time, he said, there were “hundreds” of frogs. Now, there are just a few.
The banquet facility could also be in trouble with the state.
Because of the environmental impact, the state Department of Environmental Protection was notified. The state, however, asked Morris County health officers to take care of it, said DEP spokesperson Carin Shinske on Wednesday.
“DEP will follow up with the county at some point,” she said.
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