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Clogged sewers target of pilot program

Patrick McCartney

The video was reminiscent of an angiogram of a patient with clogged arteries.

Instead of human arteries, though, the video featured South Lake Tahoe sewer lines fouled by a buildup of ghostly white grease.

Conventional methods do not prevent grease from entering sewer collection lines, according to the district’s grease experts.

“Just a week before, we inspected (this customer’s) grease trap, and it passed,” said Mike Adams, sewer supervisor for the South Tahoe Public Utility District. “So, a grease trap is inadequate, and only an interceptor will eliminate the problem.”

Adams also displayed a 6-inch line removed from the district’s treatment plant, in which accumulated grease had narrowed the circumference to that of a half-dollar.

Following the graphic video, the district’s board of directors unanimously approved a two-year pilot program that will require the largest grease producers to install interceptors, but provide financial assistance to help them complete the job.

Under terms of the program approved Thursday, the district will identify the largest problems among the district’s 16,000 customers and give them two years to retrofit their sewer lines with grease interceptors.

Businesses to be singled out in the program will probably come from the 172 food service establishments recently surveyed by the district.

“We’ve all become grease experts,” said Diane Noble, the district’s customer service director. “We don’t need any more grease gurus; we need to address our problems.”

The program is aimed at reducing the amount of grease generated at the source, by identifying the worst cases and establishing a tight deadline to accomplish the retrofit jobs, Noble said.

Once it is completed, the district stands to save $75,000 a year on high-frequency cleaning of problem locations, and $26,000 a year on liability claims.

The assistance program will provide businesses with half the cost of the installed interceptor, not to exceed two times the cost of the device itself. The district is willing to pay up to $25,826 to help defray the cost of a 10,000-gallon interceptor – the largest of the 16 highest priority locations.

In addition, the district would pay an extra 10 percent incentive for businesses that complete the retrofit by June 30, 1999.

Estimated cost of the district subsidy is $193,000, of which $100,852 would be spent on the 16 high-priority locations.

The district developed the pilot program with the cooperation of some of its food service customers, who lobbied for the incentive program and a focus on correcting the largest problems first, Noble said.

Adams said the benefits of installing interceptors are immediate. At one collector line from a restaurant, the cost of maintaining the line dropped by two-thirds, with the frequency of cleaning going from once a month to once every three months.


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