Commissioners unanimously approved of a new fats, oils and grease management program ordinance Tuesday morning aimed at reducing sewage spills.
“Sewer mains are similar to arteries,” said Mike Mylett, the interim director of Sarasota County Public Utilities. “You have to watch your diet and reduce your lipids because it clogs your arteries. That’s the same thing that’s happening with FOG in our system — It congeals around our collection system and reduces the volume that can move through the system.”
According to Mylett, Sarasota County is one of the last governmental bodies in the region to adopt a “FOG ordinance.” Surrounding counties — such as Hillsborough, Manatee, Charlotte and more — have already adopted countywide ordinances or implemented tighter regulations.
According to county documents, "grease disposed of by restaurants, homes and industrial sources to the sanitary sewer system" cause 47% of reported blockages that contribute to sanitary sewage overflow.
To go into effect January 2020, the two parties who will be impacted by the new ordinance include food service establishments and licensed grease haulers.
Regulated establishments will be subject to the following requirements:
- An initial survey and inspection
- Presence of a grease interceptor/trap
- Routine pump-outs every 90 days
- Record keeping of their pump-outs
- Routine reports to a licensed hauler
- Monthly assessment and program fee, paid per utility bill
“Any of the non-compliance issues we run into will be assessed on their water bill,” Mylett explained. “They can range from additional non-compliance inspections to, if we have to go out and pump because someone won’t do it, we can put that cost to hire someone to pump it on their water bill.”
In extreme cases, Mylett said public utilities officials can also terminate an establishment’s water services. All cases of non-compliance will have through the county’s code enforcement staff.
Existing establishments will be "grandfathered in," Mylett says, meaning they can continue operating their grease traps as usual until their facilities either undergo modification or are sold to a new owner.
Licensed haulers will be subject to the following requirements:
- Annual renewal of their license
- Required “cradle to grave” reporting, where they will track and report the date, location and volume of FOG that they have pumped. They must also track which grease handling facility they take FOG material to.
According to County Administrator Rob Lewis, public utilities staff will assemble monthly data reports for the Board of County Commissioners. The reports will be filed through the ordinance’s first year of implementation to ensure measurable goals and outcomes are met.
Commission Chair Charles Hines thanked Mylett and his staff for their dedication to advancing “best practices” in the county where commissioners may not have otherwise noticed the need for change.
“I commend you and your staff,” Hines said. “If you find areas like this where maybe we aren’t up to speed, please bring them forward.”
Other commissioners ultimately lauded the impact of the ordinance, noting its future contribution to water quality improvement efforts.
“I’m not in favor of regulations. I’m not a fan of adding more [full-time employees] to county staff, but sometimes you need to do it,” Commissioner Christian Ziegler said. “Water quality is a top issue for us. Eliminating and preventing these spills is a top priority of the community … This highlights our commitment and action to water quality to prevent those spills.”