The Little Rock Water Reclamation Authority has recommended to city directors an ordinance that sets standards for food-service establishments and their third-party waste management providers for dealing with fats, oils and greases.
The proposed ordinance sets standards for interceptor installation and maintenance for food-service establishments and requires that grease-disposal service providers register, report spills and cleanups, and keep records.
Little Rock, along with all other cities of a certain size, has a pre-treatment ordinance that governs how industrial users -- which include factories and businesses that produce a large amount of wastewater, such as laundromats -- are to treat their wastewater before allowing it to enter the collection system.
Vince Hotho, a program manager at the utility who led the proposed ordinance's development, said the idea for an ordinance dealing with fats, oils and greases originated because the pre-treatment ordinance treats restaurants as industrial users, despite those food-service establishments tending to want to work in partnership with the utility.
When fats, oils and greases enter the system, they can cause noncapacity overflows -- clogs that aren't caused by the size of the pipe, which are inconvenient and can be costly for both utility staff and restaurateurs.
Restaurants and commercial kitchens have underground interceptors, also called grease traps, to separate grease from water. Third-party service providers maintain those interceptors and haul away the waste.
One provision of the ordinance requires those haulers to be registered with the city and report their processes, a move that officials say will promote accountability.
"That's probably the biggest difference," Hotho said, adding that many restaurateurs may already be using registered haulers.
That rings true for Ward 4 City Director Capi Peck, a longtime restaurateur who said she "just barely averted a disaster" once last year after a hauler didn't properly maintain her interceptor, resulting in grease buildup.
"There needs to be some accountability," Peck said. "Nobody wants more regulations, but I think it's the correct thing to do. ... It'll save everyone a lot of heartache and money."
The ordinance also provides for the creation of a receiving station for fats, oils and greases at the utility's Fourche Creek Water Reclamation Facility. Currently, most haulers dispose of the waste at off-site locations. Hotho said having them take the waste to a receiving station would be a more environmentally friendly option that would help the utility's digestion process.
The first phase of the receiving station's construction would be about $4.5 million, Hotho said, but he added that most of that money would be spent anyway on necessary renovations to the facility.
The utility's board of commissioners voted unanimously to recommend the ordinance to the Little Rock Board of Directors at its regular meeting last month after some discussion about stakeholder impact.
The city has not set a date for the Board of Directors to vote on the proposed ordinance. Hotho said the utility plans public information sessions with stakeholders in the meantime.
Metro on 09/03/2019
CORRECTION: The Little Rock Water Reclamation Commission has Ward 5 City Director Lance Hines as a liaison to the city Board of Directors. An earlier version of this story incorrectly named the commission’s board liaison.