The city is considering changes to the potential permit fees related to its evolving grease control program.

The city is considering changes to the potential permit fees related to its evolving grease control program.
Under the current potential plan, all food service businesses would be required to obtain one of two types of permits. Those that produce little grease and would not require a grease interceptor would receive a waiver permit, while those that meet or exceed the grease production limit would be required to obtain an operator’s permit for an interceptor.  
City of McPherson Public Works Director Jeff Woodward said the proposed change between the previous and current plan is to spread the permit fees between both waiver and operator permit holders.
“We think the waiver permit will require more time than the operating permit, so we’re proposing to set the fees accordingly,” Woodward said. “This change is to spread the cost, not to generate revenue. Rather than have the costs bore out by just the operator permit holders, this would spread it across all permit holders.”
Woodward said the city believes waiver permit holders will require more city inspections to ensure their grease output remains lower than the amount that would necessitate an operator’s permit.
The grease control program has been in development during the last several years, and is being designed to make caring for the city’s sanitary sewer system more efficient and less costly.
A grease interceptor is a metal basin that is installed near a food service business in order to collect, contain or remove food waste or grease from wastewater the business produces.
Installed in the ground, a grease interceptor traps grease, which floats at the top of the water, in a receptacle while allowing the liquid underneath to flow to the wastewater collection system.
Once every three months or as needed, a truck pumps out the grease collected in the interceptor.
In a Nov. 8 interview, City Engineering Aide Justin Walker said grease control is an expensive and involved process as it’s handled now.
“Every time the sewer truck operators are out,” Walker said, “80 percent of the time, they’re pulling grease out of clogs. Grease is one of the biggest problems causing sewer blockages in McPherson.”
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates about 47 percent of all sewer blockages are caused by grease.
The city has been required to purchase expensive chemicals specifically for the cleaning of grease from sewer lines. A chemical purchase is $4,000, an amount that doesn’t cover the labor and truck usage cost for these operations.
Woodward said for a food service business to qualify for a waiver permit, it would have to discharge less than 100 milliliters of grease per liter of wastewater.
Periodically the city will do inspections to see if interceptors are being maintained. Businesses with interceptors will be annually required to send in a report detailing when the interceptors were pumped out and the volume of grease that they contained.
“We’re still working on details on how to take a representational sample,” Woodward said. “There are a lot of signs that grease output might be a problem, like frequent blockages or backups in the sewer system.”
Woodward said the cost of the permits was still under discussion at this time.
“I would hope we would have something together for the city commission to review in the next four or five months,” Woodward said. “We don’t want a profit, we just want to cover the costs of the program.”