Three dozen Kennewick food service operators missed the deadline to screen fats, oils and grease from their wastewater.
As of March 1, the deadline to comply with the Kennewick Pretreatment Act, 36 of the city’s 279 food service operators had not installed equipment to prevent greasy material from clogging the municipal sewer lines and treatment plant.
The Kennewick City Council approved pretreatment rules in 2012, but gave operators until March 1 to make costly upgrades.
Of those that missed the deadline, five made no move to install equipment. Another 14 took preliminary steps, such as purchasing equipment, contacting a plumber or contacting the city. Another 17 installed equipment but without permits or readily available documentation. An additional four businesses closed shortly before the deadline hit.
Never miss a local story.
The five who took no apparent steps to comply were Jet Mart Conoco, Spurs Coffee, Quality Inn, Starbucks at Columbia Center and Smasne Cellars.
Starbucks officials told the city it may relocate its mall store. Smasne Cellars informed the city it is potentially moving to Prosser and closing its location in Kennewick’s Southridge area.
The manager of Jet Mart, who declined to be identified, said the fuel station will install the proper equipment within the next few weeks, but maintains that since the business has existed for 50 years it is exempt.
“I am actually grandfathered in,” he asserted.
The city disagreed. No one has been exempted.
Spurs Coffee is waiting for its landlord to install the proper equipment. Owner Rodney Andrewjeski said he hopes it happens “as soon as possible.”
Smasne had no contact and Starbucks’ media relations office did not respond to questions about its store.
Cary Roe, public works director, said the city will give operators about 60 days to make substantial progress. After that, they’ll face increasingly severe penalties, up to losing water and sewer service. That in turn could trigger referrals to the health department and the possibility of being ordered closed for lack of water and sewer service.
“The program is at a place now where there’s no more excuses,” Roe said.
The program is at a place now where there’s no more excuses.
Cary Roe, city of Kennewick public works director
Kennewick adopted the rules after the Washington Department of Ecology, which regulates the city’s sewage system, made pretreatment a priority under the federal Clean Water Act.
The state’s environmental agency focuses on municipal sewage agencies that treat 5 million gallons per day or more. Kennewick treats an average of 5.5 million gallons of commercial and residential sewage per day and discharges it to the Columbia River at an outfall downriver from the Cable Bridge.
The rules cover commercial establishments, which account for roughly 60 percent of fats, oil and grease in the sewer system. Residences account for the remaining 40 percent, but are exempt from pretreatment rules.
Roe is generally pleased that most food service operators installed pretreatment equipment, he said.
For small operators, that can be something as simple as a grease trap in the kitchen. Larger operators have to install grease interceptors that hold and cool waste water, allowing lighter fatty material to congeal on the surface. Systems can cost $5,000 or more.
Pretreatment systems must be cleaned at regular intervals or the owner can face sanctions for falling out of compliance.
Chris Espinoza, wastewater services supervisor, spent the three years leading up to the deadline reaching out to restaurants, cafes, hotels, schools and other sewer customers with food service operations. Thanks to early adopters, the city is spending less money to clean out clogged sewer lines and equipment.
The city spent $132,000 to unclog sewers in 2012. The system has 16 lift stations to pump sewage toward the treatment plant in east Kennewick. Those in commercial areas were a particular challenge.
With fewer fats, oils and grease to collect at dips and turns in the sewer lines, the cleanup costs have dropped to $101,000.
“We’ve been able to reduce costs,” Roe said.