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Cottonwood Shores tackles grease buildup, authorizing monthly restaurant inspections

To remain in compliance with state law, protect the water system, and save money, the Cottonwood Shores City Council adopted a grease ordinance during its April 15 meeting. Councilors also gave City Administrator J.C. Hughes the go-head to find a company to conduct monthly inspections at restaurants. 

The ordinance requires restaurants to install backflow protectors if they don’t already have them. It also informs restaurants that an extra city fee will be charged once a contractor has been hired to inspect grease traps. It is designed to prevent grease from getting into the wastewater system. 

Cottonwood Shores uses the city of Horseshoe Bay’s wastewater treatment plant. If too much grease goes into the system from Cottonwood Shores, a surcharge is added to the smaller city’s bill for removing the excess. 

The goal of the new ordinance is to team with Horseshoe Bay to find a company that will check restaurants in both cities for working grease traps and backflow preventers, Hughes said. Backflow preventers keep water from flowing back into the system and contaminating it. 

Grease traps, do just what the name says: they “trap” excess grease before it gets into the system.

“Basically, restaurants run the sink water with greasy pots and pans they cook with,” Hughes  explained. “All that goes down into a trap, and the grease floats to the top. These companies come in and remove the grease. The issue is, if it’s not operating properly, the grease gets built up. It starts to put grease into our sanitary system. It causes overflow and builds up in our lift station.”

Soap helps break up the grease and oil from dirty pots and pans to make it easier on dishwashers to clean them, but it doesn’t take away the grease and oil. It all has to go somewhere, which is down the drain, Hughes continued.

Having both commercial kitchens and residential kitchens on the system results in a lot of grease and oil that ends up in lift stations, the city administrator said.

Every Cottonwood Shores restaurant’s wastewater travels to one specific lift station. When the grease content in that station gets too high, it becomes an issue for Horseshoe Bay’s wastewater treatment facility. Horseshoe Bay officials contact Cottonwood Shores staff and alert them of the problem. 

Grease traps that operate properly and are regularly cleaned help prevent issues with wastewater treatment facilities.