Rehoboth introduces fats, oils and grease ordinance

New rules intended to limit bacteria-causing food waste in city stormwater
October 13, 2020

Story Location:
Rehoboth Beach City Hall
229 Rehoboth Avenue
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
United States

Looking to keep the city’s stormwater system as clean as possible, Rehoboth Beach has introduced an ordinance increasing the responsibility of restaurants to maintain equipment and to keep better records of disposal.

Introduced during a commissioner workshop Oct. 5, the ordinance takes aim at the disposal of fats, oils and grease coming from the city’s restaurants.

Public Works Director Kevin Williams began his presentation by reminding commissioners the proposed ordinance was a result of stormwater testing required by Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control when it approved Rehoboth’s ocean outfall permits.

Williams said the testing showed much higher levels of bacteria in the city’s commercial district. He said the studies also highlighted deficiencies in some of the city’s infrastructure.

City code already has a section dealing with grease interceptors, recordkeeping and violations, but City Code Enforcement Officer Dennis Jeney said the new ordinance is much more thorough.

As proposed, requirements would include restaurants keeping a maintenance log and record of cleanout dates; cleanouts being performed by a licensed sewer handler; waste being stored in steel or plastic leakproof containers; and equipment being maintained in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations.

Building Inspector Matt Janis said he has spoken with restaurants about the proposed ordinance and most are accepting of it.

This past summer, in the span of a few weeks, DNREC issued two water-quality advisories for the beach at Rehoboth Avenue based on elevated levels of bacteria in stormwater samples taken there. According to press releases from those advisories, such bacteria originate in the gut of warm-blooded animals, and elevated levels in that area are often associated with heavy rainfall.

In an email Oct. 8, Williams said he thinks unwanted fats, oils and grease could be a contributing factor to the advisories. If those things get into the stormwater system, they can be a fuel source for the bacteria, which could help them thrive in the system until a big rain flushes the stormwater out into the ocean, he said.

Violations of the proposed ordinance would remain a civil offense, but the fine amount has been changed to a straight $200 per infraction. Currently, the fine minimum is $50; the maximum is $250.

The timeline for codifying the ordinance is unclear, but during the meeting, City Manager Sharon Lynn said the city would like to be able to start enforcing it by the end of the year.

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