Marksville Louisiana Mayor John Lemoine almost sounded like one of his constituents, telling the City Council that “nothing gets done” after city officials discuss what needs to be done to resolve the problem of high levels of restaurant grease entering the city sewer system.
City Engineer Rene Borrel said he has conferred with the Alexandria Sewer Department on how they address that problem.
“It’s called a FOG ordinance,” Borrel said. “That stands for Fat, Oil and Grease.”
In Alexandria, a business that dumps too much fat, oil or grease into the sewer system can be fined and have their utilities cut off.
“Alexandria has a much bigger hammer than we do because they control all of the utilities — electricity, gas, water and sewer,” Borrel said. “We have a much smaller hammer, but when you are talking about a restaurant, if you cut off their water you pretty much close them down.”
Borrel said the city’s current ordinance “would most likely get us laughed out of court” if a business owner challenged any city action against them related to grease entering the sewer system. The ordinance does not specifically mention fat, oil and grease or the sewer system.
However, the “spirit” of the garbage-trash-refuse ordinance could be expanded to include the FOG issue even if the “letter” of that law does not.
Borrel said he would prefer to have a specific ordinance to back up any action he takes against a business for not managing their waste grease dumped into the sewer system.
“I am trying to put some teeth into the effort to control the grease problem,” Borrel said. “Right now I have no teeth, but I‘m gumming it as best I can.”
Borrel said when he goes to a business where a problem has been found, “all I can do is beg them to do something.”
Council members wanted the issue to be researched to ensure that a restaurant owner could not sue the city for damages if the city cut off the business’s water and sewer service due to excessive grease entering the sewer system from improper grease trap sizing.
Lemoine instructed City Attorney Derrick Whittington and Borrel to come back next month with an ordinance that can be introduced and adopted in the near future.
He said the excess grease in the sewer system is costly to treat and can damage pumps.
Borrel said any new business construction must include grease traps in its design before it can get a building permit. The grease trap is required because the building could be converted into a restaurant in the future, he added.
Businesses in operation before the city adopted those building codes cannot be required to install grease traps, but the city can enforce an ordinance concerning excess waste dumped into the sewer system, Borrel noted.
If an existing building is renovated for use as a restaurant, the city can require a grease trap with proper grease trap sizing be installed as a condition of issuing a building permit.
“New construction is not a problem,” Borrel said. “We can enforce the ordinances on them.”
To prevent your grease trap from getting clogged with food solids leading to potential FOG ordinance violations, consider installing The Drain Strainer so you won’t have grease trap cleaning issues.