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Rock Hill targets sewer fat

City officials will have a way to prevent grease build-up in the city's sewer system if Rock Hill City Council passes the second and final reading of the Fats, Oils and Grease initiative at tonight's council meeting.

Assistant city manager Jimmy Bagley has been working with officials in utilities and other departments for months on the initiative, presenting it to city council during a budget workshop in April.

A grease trap is a plumbing device used to intercept most greases and solids before they enter a wastewater system. When it isn't maintained, water goes through the trap and takes grease with it, which carries over into the sewer lines, Bagley explained.

"The cold grease begins to clog and get hard," he said. "As soon as it hits a pipe or sediment or tree root or anything that happens to be in the line that's an obstruction, it stops up. Then you get a back-up, or manholes overflow and it goes back into people's homes."

Most of the blockages are from built-up grease, he added. A pipe that is eight inches wide can shrink to four inches once that grease builds up over the years.

"If you can eliminate that grease getting into the lines, that's less impediment for the rest of the sewer coming through the system," Bagley said.

Currently, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control requires food-service establishments or any establishment generating wastewater containing fats, oils or greases to have a grease trap and maintain it. However, Bagley said there is no legal enforcement provision.

The ordinance city officials are proposing requires that not only will restaurant owners have to maintain their grease traps but they also will face increasing penalties if they do not.

The ordinance also puts in place a full-time staff member who can conduct the inspections on a routine basis. With more than 400 places to inspect, Bagley said the staff member will be able to hit at least 25 in a week.

At its first presentation in April, city council members asked several questions, particularly about what the cost of the traps would be to the business owners.

However, Bagley said a first-time inspection would be free. Only on re-inspections would violators see fines: $250 for the first-time re-inspection, $500 for the second.

He hopes the ordinance will achieve three goals: education, inspection and enforcement.

"It also allows us to participate more heavily in educational programs to let folks know that on a residential level, they can do their part as well," he said.

One of the main suggestions he had for residents was to not pour grease down their sinks.

"If everybody does their part, hopefully it'll all fall into place," he said.

Bleachery rezoning

Also on the agenda, city council will look to create an ordinance based on a planning commission item that would rezone 52 acres located in the Textile Corridor -- from Main Street to east of White Street, between Columbia and Stewart avenues and a small area along North Wilson Street -- from heavy industry to industry business, single-family residential and neighborhood mixed use.

The corridor contains the site of the old Rock Hill Printing and Finishing Co., commonly known as the Bleachery, which the city took ownership of in April. Plans for the site have included apartments, businesses and restaurants.

The rezoning measure would prepare the area for any future redevelopment. Bill Meyer, the city's planning and development director, said that regardless of what is decided for the area, heavy industry designation is a "detriment" to downtown.

"In the modern world, we don't have use for that intense heavy industry," he said.

Some property owners had discussed issues about the rezoning with city officials, but they have since reached an agreement, Meyer said. If the council accepts the recommendation, the measure will undergo two readings before adoption.

Council will meet at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall.