0816 grease-01

Grease from multi-family dwellings clogging up Palestine's sewer system.

The city of Palestine spends tens of thousands of dollars a year ridding sewers, pipes, lift stations, and the wastewater plant of improperly disposed cooking grease.

To alleviate the problem, all new apartment buildings in Palestine must have grease traps, thanks to a recent ordinance written by new Utilities Director Felipe Garcia.

“I've been trying to get this passed for years,” Garcia told the Herald-Press Thursday. “I think the new city council, city manager, and finance director are more willing to listen to their department heads in saving the taxpayers money.”

The problem is widespread, Garcia said.

“Utility crews are called out to multi-family dwellings all the time,” he said. “With equipment, overtime, and repairing the damage grease causes to the city's infrastructure, we're looking at tens of thousands of dollars a year – and that's a conservative estimate.”

Grease is a hazardous material that never goes away, Garcia said. In multi-family dwellings that share plumbing systems, grease collects faster, clogging pipes and sewers.

Crews “jetting” the grease away with high-pressure hoses, or using compressed air to clear pipes, don't solve the problem. Instead, they pass it along to the wastewater facility.

Traps will be required on all apartment buildings and living areas with four or more units. Existing apartments and facilities, as well as the two apartment complexes now going up in Palestine, will not have to immediately comply with the ordinance.

“The two multi-family dwellings being built came in under the wire,” Garcia said. “Eventually, all apartment complexes and multi-family dwellings will have to install grease traps.”

Meantime, Garcia said all city residents can help keep grease from building up in the city's already-fragile pipes.

Letting grease solidify in a pan, then scooping it in the trash can go a long way, Garcia said. “Every little bit helps.”

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