The Killeen City Council discovered several clots in the city’s three-year-old Fats, Oils and Grease law, designed to keep grease out of the city’s sewers, at its workshop session Tuesday,
The FOG ordinance requires restaurant owners to maintain a grease trap — a device that removes grease from wastewater — and keep levels of grease discharge within proscribed rates.
The council requested a probe of the grease prevention program after it received letters from local food service industry stakeholders, who claimed the rates were unattainable under the city’s current practices for sampling their wastewater.
Owners of local fast food restaurants, including McDonald’s, Sonic and Burger King, presented their frustrations with the law at the workshop Tuesday, saying the rates were unattainable and the surcharges were debilitating.
Brynal Schulze, owner of four local McDonald’s, said, “There’s some people who think those arches are actually made of gold, but they’re not. We fill them up one penny at a time and (the fines) do eat into our expenses.”
The original impetus for the law, passed in March 2010, was a $900,000 bill paid by the city of Killeen to Bell County Water Control and Improvement District No. 1 for damage accrued at the city’s south sewage treatment plant.
City of Killeen Public Works Director Richard Mackey said 75 percent of the city’s sewer problems are caused by grease.
Of the more than 400 grease traps in the city of Killeen, the Public Works Department maintains 255 in a database and tests them every six months.
Approximately 150 of those sites are currently noncompliant, Mackey said.
During the presentation, city staff showed a bar chart of the data collected from sewer lines over the past several years showing the varying levels of Biochemical Oxygen Demand and Total Suspended Solids — the two calculations regulated by the city.
“Looking at the numbers on your bar chart, it’s hard to see whether the enforcement has had an effect or not,” Mayor Dan Corbin said.
Jerry Atkinson, general manager of WCID-1, which treats Killeen’s sewage, agreed with the mayor that the program did not show a lot of improvement but agreed with what city staff was doing to solve the problem.
Atkinson said in one year at the south treatment plant alone, WCID spent $130,000 in repairs associated with grease and removed 306 tons of grease, which cost them $13,000 to dispose of.
“We’ve not seen a lot of improvement but we realize these are five-year processes,” Atkinson said.
Complaints from the food service industry stakeholders ranged from the location where the tests are performed, the method by which the data is taken, and the ratio by which the surcharges are calculated.
Shulze said she was paying surcharges at all of her four McDonald’s locations; one McDonald’s currently pays $1,600 per month in surcharges.
Representatives of Sonic and Burger King said that despite many efforts and changes in business practices, it was impossible to keep their stores in compliance with the law.
Other than informative mail-out fliers, no citywide regulations are imposed on residents regarding grease control and prevention.
“We have to make a decision about who should pay this enormous cost of having grease in our system,” Corbin said.
Corbin requested that staff return in one month with proposed revisions to the ordinance “with the overall purpose of minimizing the cost to the citizens of Killeen for the damages that are caused by grease in the city’s sewers.”