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Murfreesboro approves updated FOG ordinance

MURFREESBORO – Following a discussion last month about the town’s FOG (Fats, Oils, and Grease) ordinance, the Murfreesboro Town Council considered an updated draft at their meeting here on Wednesday, Nov. 18.

The topic was first brought up for discussion by Public Works Director Becky Turner, who noted that the current ordinance was too vague in regards to definitions. She also said that version was unenforceable.

The FOG ordinance explains the requirements for discharging fats, oils, and greases after cooking into wastewater flow. Without proper handling, these can cause costly blockages and obstructions in the sewer system.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Turner presented an updated version of the ordinance she had drafted.

“The definitions have been expanded as well as installation issues,” she explained. “And it does stipulate penalties.”

One change in the definitions was to define the difference between a “FOG interceptor” and a “FOG recovery unit or grease trap.” The interceptor is a passive tank installed outside a building that will remove fats, oils, and grease while still allowing wastewater to flow through. The recovery unit or “grease trap” is an indoor mechanical system designed to collect fats, oils, and grease prior to the water exiting the trap and entering the sewer system.

The ordinance applies to nonresidential establishments which cook and prepare food, including restaurants, food trucks, and cafeterias. Turner stated she believed everyone would still be in compliance with the new updated ordinance.

In addition to the penalties listed on the original ordinance (a written notice of violence and then a $500 fine each day the establishment is in noncompliance), the updated ordinance also adds a penalty of discontinuing water services. If the operation allows excessive FOG discharge, they may be liable for costs incurred by the town to fix the sewer problem. The town, however, may also defer imposing penalties for good cause shown.

“How do we know these vendors are following it,” asked Council member Berna Stephens.

“There is verbiage in there that would require them upon request that we be allowed to inspect it,” Turner replied, also noting each establishment should have a designated person to check the grease trap or interceptor and keep records on it.

“It seems very thorough and a little more specific to what the issue was the last time we talked about it,” noted Council member David Brown.

Brown asked if Turner could distribute the updated version to everyone by the beginning of the year, and she replied yes.

Brown then motioned to approve the updated FOG ordinance and make it effective Jan. 1. Council member Jay Revelle seconded, and the vote passed unanimously among the members present. Council member Sarah Wallace was unable to attend Wednesday’s meeting.