Coquitlam going after restaurants that dump grease down the drain

Crackdown on fatbergs

The City of Coquitlam is stepping up measures to crack down on and educate commercial kitchens for their greasy contribution to so-called ’fatbergs’ — subterranean build-ups of fat, oil and grease that block sewers and can lead to overflows.

The move comes as at least one Burquitlam neighbourhood continues to raise the alarm over repeated sewer overflows that at one point in 2020 spewed fecal matter and toilet paper adjacent to a park and salmon-bearing stream.

A recent report to council notes the overflows can cause serious property damage, flow across roads into stormwater drains, and eventually empty into rivers and streams, devastating the environment.

Metro Vancouver is responsible for regulating the discharge of fats, oils and greases into the sanitary sewer system, every year spending at least $2.7 million to unclog hotspots.

But according to the city’s report, Metro Vancouver is losing that battle. Coquitlam city staff write that “the level of regional inspection and enforcement resources undertaken in Coquitlam is below our expectation” and has led to “undesirable grease hot spots in the city causing sewer backups, property damage and sanitary sewer overflows.”

“I think Coquitlam has a point,” said Peter Navratil, Metro’s general manager of liquid waste services. “We don’t have all that many staff. We have 13,000 food establishments. It’s spot checks at best.”

Between 2013 and 2018, the report says Metro Vancouver staff conducted 30 inspections in Coquitlam; over that same period, 48 grease-related sewer overflows were reported because of a backup.

The biggest scofflaws, according to a presentation made to council, are large and mid-size sit-down restaurants, with fast-food establishments, coffee shops and bakeries, and grocery stores also facing enforcement or education.

While commercial kitchens are currently required by law to intercept grease, oils and fats before they make it to the region’s sewers, dozens of businesses are not properly maintaining their grease traps, a device that separates grease from wastewater and stops it from entering the sanitary system.

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