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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on July 10th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 19 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 20, Issue 19

Lompoc City Council backs businesses, not city staff on grease traps

By Zac Ezzone

Twice in the last two months the Lompoc City Council has voted against the recommendation of city staff and upheld appeals from local business owners to avoid installing grease traps. This equipment captures and prevents grease and other materials from traveling into the city’s wastewater system. 

Owners of the Vitamin and Herb Store and P.J.’s Deli both appealed the city’s requirement to install grease traps on the basis that their businesses don’t generate enough grease to make the traps necessary.

“We have about $50 a day we sell in sandwiches, salads, and smoothies. We don’t cook meats, we don’t do any of that type of thing that would generate any grease,” Vitamin and Herb Store owner Heike Turchiano said at the July 2 City Council meeting.

Charles Sommer, whose mother owns P.J.’s Deli, made a similar argument at the June 4 City Council meeting. He argued that the deli, which has been in business for more than three decades, has never had any issues with water lines backing up due to grease accumulation.

“It’s absurd to think that after 37 years of no line stoppage and almost zero change in our menu, that the city wants us to have a grease trap,” Sommer said. 

Late last year city staff sent surveys to all food establishments in the city asking whether or not they have grease traps installed. The city then began following up with businesses that didn’t have grease traps in place to ensure they are installed, city Utility Director Brad Wilkie said. 

According to the city’s municipal code, businesses must install grease traps if the city’s utility director believes they are necessary to protect the city’s wastewater system. However, the code leaves the director with room for discretion to decide if a business doesn’t require a grease trap. 

At the July meeting, Wilkie said he believes it’s more efficient and business friendly to require all businesses to install grease traps. However, the majority of City Council disagreed and said the city should implement this ordinance on a case-by-case basis.

At the July meeting, Wilkie also presented City Council with an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report on an inspection the federal agency completed of the Lompoc Regional Wastewater Reclamation Plant in April. According to the report, Lompoc exceeded its monthly average of oil and grease limits at its treatment plant in March 2017 and June 2018.

City Councilmember Dirk Starbuck raised concerns over how wastewater treatment plant staff characterized City Council’s stance on grease traps to EPA officials during the inspection. According to the report, city staff told EPA officials that the City Council hasn’t been supportive of enforcing the municipal code requiring grease traps.

“One. One grease trap we overruled, but these were told we are just cowboying it up here,” Starbuck said. “And I take that as an insult and it upsets me.”

Zac Ezzone




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