City cracks down on ordinance to save taxpayers money

The new year has brought important changes to the ways restaurants dispose of their grease and cooking oil, as the City will be ramping up enforcement of an ordinance in order save some money.

It’s no doubt that restaurants produce a lot of waste, and a lot of that is in the form of grease, but have you ever wondered just how bad it can get if some of that grease were to get into the city's sewer lines?

Now a new operation by the City's Utility Department is hoping to eliminate that issue before it becomes a major problem.

The view inside these clogged drains isn't pretty, but this is a look at what happens when grease accumulates and clogs the city's sewage lines.

The problem is, this is what it's supposed to look like.

"This is a grease trap. Right here is the sample part. We do come in, take a sample of how much grease and oil if any is going in.”

Robert Estrada, an environmental technician with the Utilities Department, and his team do these types of inspections regularly.

"As you can see, it is dirty."

Their inspections are now part of an ordinance that was passed back on October of 2018 as businesses were given over a year to prepare.

"Now we are actually taking from their sample ports and measuring how strong of the strength of sewage is coming into the system."

City of Laredo Utilities assistant director, Michael Rogers, says the goal is to prevent drainage blockage.

"This is to help reduce the amount of clogged lines that we have."

He says cleaning out clogged sewage lines costs taxpayers a pretty penny every year.

"We constantly have to clean lines. Last year we had two different contracts that were over $3 million.”

But now some of that cost will be shifted back to the restaurants.

Restaurants that fail their bi-annual inspections will begin to receive surcharges on their utility bill, which could range from a $5 charge or surpass the $60 mark- but businesses will be able to dispute the charges.

"We send out these notices, that we picked up this sample, and they have a contact information if they want to resample, we'll come back and do it again. So that they have a way to work those numbers down."

Although the ordinance only affects commercial businesses like restaurants, the City also encourages households to dispose of grease properly.

According to the City, a way to get rid of cooking grease could be to drain it into a container, wait for it to cool and then disposed in your trash bag.

Businesses can dispute the test within 2 weeks of inspection, and a re-sampling fee of $50 will be applied.

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