Water board shoring up grease trap rules

Paul Clinton

NEWPORT BEACH -- As regional water regulators move to prohibit any

future sewage spills caused by grease blockages, the city is readying a

program to include more monitoring and regulation.

By March, officials at the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control

Board say they hope to have a new zero-tolerance policy in place for

spills.

The city has been taking it on the chin from those very same

regulators for failing to do enough to prevent spills into Upper Newport

Bay.

The sticking point, it seems, has been the city's unwillingness to

step up requirements on grease-interceptor devices at restaurants. The

traps catch much of the grease before it gets stuck in city lines.

The new policy, known as the Orange County Sanitary System Overflow

permit, would force Newport Beach and other agencies that manage sewer

pipes into line, board division chief Michael Adackapara said.

"What it requires is that the cities actively monitor their sewage

systems network," Adackapara said. "Newport Beach may be slightly better

[than the other agencies], but some of their problems are [due to] a lack

of maintenance [of the traps]."

In response to the board's criticism, the city has already taken a

number of steps to comply with the tightening of the regulatory screws.

The rules are also a benefit to the city's primary tourist resource --

Back Bay.

"These are the most extensive rules on sewage overflows that have ever

been written," said Assistant City Manager Dave Kiff. "They're important

rules to keep the bay clean and keep the visitors coming."

In November, the city hired a consultant to analyze the town's 325 or

so eateries and other places where food is prepared.

The resulting survey found 120 businesses that had a trap of the

correct size, Kiff said.

Of the restaurants surveyed, 87 don't have a trap but need it. Only 60

restaurants don't need a trap, while 29 have interceptors but they are

the wrong type.

"I don't think it's a good idea to require interceptors for everybody

because some of them can't afford it," Kiff said. "Those groups that

can't comply might have to agree to an aggressive cleansing schedule,

which we would bill them for."

In 1997, the City Council passed a grease-control ordinance that

requires new restaurants and existing eateries revamping their menus to

install a trap.

The law, which initially would have required all restaurants to have

the traps, was substantially softened after a group of restaurant owners

protested it.

One of those was Dan Marcheano, who owns the Arches on Mariners Mile

and is also a founder of the Newport Beach Restaurant Assn.

Additional rules and regulations aren't needed, he said, because a

clogged sink quickly disrupts any smooth running kitchen. It's bad for

business, he said.

"It has an accomplish level of zero," Marcheano said about the new

rules. "Logic will tell you that a restaurant will not do anything to jam

up the pipe. We would be the most cautious people."

Marcheano said it would cost him a minimum of $50,000 to install an

interceptor.

Bob Caustin, founder of Defend the Bay, said while some restaurants,

such as Marcheano's, are doing their part, he believes the new

regulations are needed for those that aren't.

Restaurant owners "should be absolutely required to maintain clean

pipes," Caustin said. "If they're contributing to the grease, they need

to be held responsible."

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