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District promotes sewer awareness

Emma Garrard/ Sierra SunPedro Brito fries tortilla chips at Las Panchitas in Kings Beach Monday. The Mexican restaurant has containers outside the store for recycling kitchen grease. The North Tahoe Public Utility District held a training seminar last week to teach restaurants how to prevent grease and oils from clogging sewer pipes.
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A group of North Tahoe restaurateurs were treated to a mole’s-eye view of the sewer system last week, learning how to avoid clogging sewer lines with kitchen grease and oils.

The North Tahoe Public Utility District hosted a first-ever Fats, Oil and Grease Training last week to educate the food service industry about district policies.

Images of food waste clogging sewage lines, a demonstration of the district’s waste measuring methods and a video of televised sewer inspections gave those attending ” employees from six restaurants ” a clearer understanding of the reasons behind the district’s food waste ordinances.



Grease poured down the drain cools in the sewage pipes, congealing into a solid that can build up and block the smooth flow of wastewater.

“[We wanted] to educate everybody that putting grease into the sewer system is not a good thing to do,” said district General Manager Steve Rogers.



The impetus for the training course came after the district’s third round of televised sewer pipe inspections.

“We’ve gotten very positive feedback from some of the restaurants asking if we would hold training for their employees,” said Suzi Gibbons, the district’s Fats, Oils and Grease coordinator.

The training was meant to build a working relationship between restaurants and the public utility district to prevent sewage blockages and potential spills.

“[We want] to develop that understanding before we move to the more negative enforcement side,” Rogers said.

If significant grease runoff continues, restaurants may be required to undergo kitchen or plumbing system modifications or pay a noncompliance service fee, said Rogers.

“We want to gain compliance and not [charge] the noncompliance fee,” he said.

District ordinances require restaurants to manage their grease and food waste, preventing diversion into the sewage system. Food service establishments do so by clearing debris from plates, pots and pans into a garbage can prior to washing, pouring any oil or grease into a rendering device that will later be recycled into fuel, or through a grease interceptor that catches the grease in a ground chamber before it enters the sewage pipe.

Those who attended the training found it helpful, Gibbons said.

“It was very educational, especially seeing the pictures and video of the sewer pipes,” said Alex Brambila, who owns Las Panchitas Mexican Restaurant in Kings Beach. “It really opened my eyes to actually see how grease affects the sewer.”

In addition to restaurants, the district plans to educate North Tahoe residents about grease blockage in the sewers.

“We really need people’s help to keep [grease] out of the sewer,” Gibbons said.

Gibbons suggested that homeowners dispose of their cooking grease and oil in old spaghetti jars or coffee cans instead of pouring it down the drain.

“That would be a huge help for keeping the grease out of the sewer,” she said.

The North Tahoe Public Utility district plans to hold another Fats, Oil and Grease Training session for the area’s restaurant employees next fall.


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