Newport restaurants question proposed grease ordinance
The city of Newport continues to fine-tune its proposed FOG (fats, oils and grease) ordinance to better accommodate businesses that are properly dealing with their liquid waste.
City officials first began writing the ordinance in March after a significant grease buildup found in service lines at Tinucci’s restaurant caused sewage to back up into neighboring Opinion Brewing Company, formerly Red Rock Saloon.
The proposed ordinance, aimed at preventing similar incidents, would require food preparation establishments in Newport to install grease traps in service lines leading from the sinks, drains or other equipment that generates grease.
However, several restaurant owners have expressed concern with logistics of the new ordinance and questioned the reason for it if they already have a remedy.
Brian North, owner of the North Pole Restaurant, and his neighbor at Red’s Savoy Pizza both said that because their operations produce such a small amount of grease that installing costly equipment shouldn’t be required.
North expressed his concern with the fact that the installation, quarterly cleanings and maintenance of the receptor would be on the business owners’ dime.
Grant Brekke, owner of Brekke Sales Company specializing in plumbing services, said many of the grease receptors he sells are less than $1,000 and estimated the quarterly pumping of the equipment to be around $50.
Prior to the sewage backup at Opinion Brewing Company, the service lines at Tinucci’s were professionally cleaned twice a year. And Gus Tinucci, owner of Tinucci’s Italian restaurant, told council members last week that while he plans to install a grease trap, he was upset that a Twin Cities TV news outlet reported he was dumping grease down a drain.
“Let’s be clear, that’s not the case,” Tinucci said. “No one is dumping grease down the drain.”
City Engineer John Stewart reiterated that there was no evidence anywhere in the city, including at Tinucci’s, that restaurant owners were dumping grease down drains.
Derrick and Autumn Lehrke, owners of Opinion Brewing Company, have said they plan to install a grease trap once the kitchen is up and running, and they also plan to install new sewer pipes this spring.
Public Works Superintendent Bruce Hanson said his department has begun televising service lines at several of the city’s food preparation establishments, and said if the line is clear avoiding a grease trap could be possible.
“They basically have to prove that they don’t need it,” Stewart said. “We’re not out looking for trouble, we’re looking for those gross violators.”
He added that a waiver clause has been put into the proposed ordinance that would let business owners off the hook if a proper plan is in place.
The variance would be granted to businesses where discharge is “negligible and will have an insignificant impact on the sewer system,” the proposed language said. The establishment must show that the liquid waste contains less than 100 parts per million of fats, oils or grease.
“If there’s no reason for a grease trap then we won’t chase them down,” Stewart said.
Also part of the proposed ordinance, all new establishments must install a FOG receptor, and all new and existing establishments must keep a maintenance and cleaning record.
City Council member Tracy Rahm said he would feel more comfortable enacting the ordinance once all the data has been collected from the Public Works crew’s pipe televising efforts.
The results will be presented at the April 17 meeting and the City Council is expected to vote on the ordinance at its first meeting in May.