by Joshua Maloni
The issue of grease trap maintenance, or lack thereof, is once again rising to the surface in the Village of Lewiston.
At Tuesday's board meeting, Rich and Teresa Donaldson of Onondaga Street informed trustees of recent grease-induced backups in their basement. They claimed a Center Street restaurant was the culprit.
"What happens is, when the grease plug blocks the main, it backs up into our basement bathroom - into our shower and into our toilet," she explained following the session.
"What happens first, is that nothing goes down," he added. "We're plugged. We're not getting anything down. And then they will come with their sewer jets to blow it out. And that's when. ...
"And that's when it blows back into our house," she said.
Village Engineer Richard San Giacomo said a grease trap is "a compartment that you put in at restaurants, which traps the grease before it goes into the sewer." The trap, a plastic or metal box, has to be cleaned out on a regular basis, with grease properly disposed of (not dumped into the sewer).
"Especially in the wintertime, the grease will congeal and get hard," San Giacomo said. "What's it's doing, it blocks up the sewer so that you have backups. What's happened, it's backing up into peoples' basements, those people that have bathrooms in their basements."
Deputy Mayor Bruce Sutherland said trustees have received reports of problems on Center and Water streets. San Giacomo said, "It's a problem."
"We have a grease trap law that we instituted about two or three years ago," he explained. "We made an (initial) inspection ... and (restaurant/food establishment owners are) supposed to get a permit every year, and they get it renewed every year. When they come in for the renewal, they're supposed to give a list of all the times it was cleaned and whether they put in a new trap or whatever. There's no fee for the permits, but it's just so we have a record of them. It appears some are and some aren't. We're just going to have to make inspections more frequently, and be a little more positive about how we approach this thing."
Trustees plan to meet next week with village restaurateurs.
"Maybe some of them have become a little lax with taking care of (the grease traps)," Sutherland said. "And I think we have become a little lax in inspecting them. We've got reports of somebody putting grease down the storm sewer. It's time to revisit everybody, just to let them know what our problems are, and what it's costing taxpayers if those grease traps and things aren't cleaned out."
The point of the meeting is to educate restaurant owners and motivate them to take action.
"There are some best practices out there, believe it or not, of what people are doing. They should be shared among all the restaurants," Sutherland said.
"Whenever we've had a problem, they've been cooperative," San Giacomo said.
"We don't want to hurt any of the restaurants, but at the same token we can't have people having their basements back up because of a problem with people not cleaning out their grease traps," he added.
The Brickyard Pub & B.B.Q. is one Lewiston restaurant that has properly maintained its grease trap over the years.
"It's good for everybody," owner Ken Bryan said. "You know it's good for the village system. We knew they had problems. It's good for us, personally. (A grease trap) reduces the amount of time you clean your line, from your line outside to the street. Now we do it once, twice a year. Before we had that, we were doing it once a month. (We're) saving ourselves $150 a month. A one-time setup, probably the whole thing cost $500 to set it up. But after that it was a big savings from the get-go.
"It's good for everybody all the way around. ... If everybody can try to do the best they can, it's going to help. Hopefully everybody complies and gives it a shot."
Sutherland expects food servers to cooperate with the village. If they don't, he said the village would levy fines. Municipal law allows the board to charge violators $250 per day for each day their actions fall outside of what's permissible.