Grease trail points to unlawful restaurant

| 22 Feb 2012 | 08:11

    Eatery that improperly disposes of its grease will remain a mystery to the public for now,By Tom Hoffman SUSSEX BOROUGH n It was a real mess. Henderson’s Service Station on Route 23 here has suffered periodic problems with its sewer connection. It’s been going on for the past three to four years, said owner Mike Henderson. Backups into the station’s toilet first occurred during or following heavy rain storms. But then the toilet began backing up during stretches of dry weather and the outflow typically occurred on Saturdays, Henderson said. But, on March 14, Henderson’s sewer problems intensified. Instead of wastewater coming out of the auto repair shop’s toilet, this time the force of the backup blew out the wax seal between the base of the toilet and floor, discharging raw sewage across the restroom. Calling in the professionals After Borough officials hired Vernon-based Earth Care to look into the matter, they discovered the cause of the backup: a grease clog. That was the pronouncement of Earth Care’s operations manager Dave Bower. In fact, the glob of grease responsible for the clog was so big that Earth Care had to be called in two more times to unblock it from other sections of the 12-inch pipe before finally removing it on March 19, said Bower. Faced with having to pay Earth Care more than $2,000 in fees, not to mention the costs to reimburse Henderson for plumbing repairs and cleanup costs, Borough officials became intent on determining the source of that grease. And they think they’ve identified the culprit. Not a household problem Sussex Mayor Chris Parrott and other members of the Borough Council discussed the problem at the group’s March 17 meeting. At the time, Councilman Ed Meyer, who was at the scene when Earth Care first addressed the problem March 14, said “there’s no way” the grease clog he saw could have been caused by one or more households. “There’s just too much build-up,” he said. Parrott, who owns Sussex Inn, is familiar with state requirements that restaurants use traps in their sinks and other methods to dispose of excess cooking grease. This includes having 55-gallon drums to store and remove accumulated grease through a third-party service. Because there are three restaurants on the same sewer connection as Henderson’s, Parrott and the council decided to find out whether one or more of the restaurants may have been illegally discharging grease into the town’s sewer system. First, an inspector from the County Department of Environmental and Health Services was called in late last week to check grease disposal practices for the three restaurants: Green Restaurant & Pub, Lorenzo’s Pizzeria & Restaurant and Bobo Kitchen. In addition, Earth Care placed cameras along the sewer connections for each of the restaurants. Cameras detected the source of the grease discharge, but Parrott won’t disclose it until Borough Council has discussed the matter with its attorney John Ursin in executive session “since there may be litigation involved.” A voice message left by The Advertiser-News to Green Restaurant & Pub, which operates Wednesday through Saturday, wasn’t returned by deadline. A man who identified himself by phone as the owner of Lorenzo’s Pizzeria & Restaurant but wouldn’t disclose his name declined to comment. The owner of Bobo Kitchen couldn’t be reached by phone. Money and the law Colleen Little, the borough’s Deputy Treasurer and Deputy Clerk, said the town received two invoices from Earth Care for its services; one for $900 on March 14 and another for $1,372 on March 20. Meanwhile, Mike Henderson just wants to make sure the situation doesn’t happen again. “The town should adopt an ordinance where restaurant grease traps are inspected at least twice a year,” said Henderson. “It’s not a big deal. There are a small number of restaurants in town.”