Monroe County begins grease trap safety checks on Thursday

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Beginning Thursday, Monroe County will conduct grease trap safety sweeps at 2,500 local businesses.

According to Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo’s office, the county has not been and is not responsible for the ongoing inspection of grease trap covers located outside of dining establishments, but “due to the seriousness of the situation,” Dinolfo has asked inspectors to evaluate the security of all grease trap covers at restaurants in the county.

A team of inspectors, led by the Monroe County Department of Health, will canvass the region to check on grease trap safety, specifically the inspectors will be checking against the NYSDEC’s guidance for grease traps, which recommends that “Access covers should be of sufficient weight, or mechanically fastened, or provided with a lock system to prevent unauthorized entry.”

This initiative comes after a 3-year-old fatally fell into a grease trap at the University Avenue Tim Hortons last Monday. No charges have been filed in connection to the incident, and local state legislators have introduced new proposals regarding grease trap safety and regulation.

“I am ready if they have any concerns, it’s nothing we could not address quickly,” says Dimitrios Vamvakitis of the Liberty Family Restaurant.

Vamvakitis says he welcomes the grease trap inspections. He feels they are needed as a safety check after the death of Bryce Raynor at Tim Horton’s. Unlike the ground-level grease trap they have, Vamvakitis has a grease dumpster with grating, above ground.

“But it’s the standard. I guess it’s fairly safe in that nothing can fall in it,” he adds.

Ross Mueller, owner of the restaurants Native and Label 7, says the county inspections might be long overdue. He says what happened at Tim Horton’s was an unnecessary tragedy. 

“I think this is going to open a lot of eyes. I have no clue how it was designed and (why it was) not monitored, and the fact that it was a plastic top,” says Mueller.

He also has grease traps above ground, with locks. “The other thing is safety. You know and a padlock takes two seconds. It’s just a key.”

Mueller’s hoping the new repairs at Tim Horton’s are durable, and if any grease traps are found tomorrow to be inefficient, they’ll get fixed immediately. 

“Safety supersedes any money in this situation, and I think that Tim Horton’s has a lot of investigating to do.”

In a press release Wednesday, County Executive Dinolfo said:

As a mother and grandmother, last week’s tragedy was a horrific loss that shocked and saddened me to my core. We learned in the wake of the incident that no agency or entity, at the state or local level, is explicitly responsible for the ongoing inspection of grease traps in New York State. As we indicated last week, I intend to introduce legislation to address that ambiguity under the law and set clear standards for these covers in Monroe County as soon as possible.

Until our new local law is passed, Monroe County is leading from the front to fill the void by assessing the security of existing grease trap covers in our community. We ask that local proprietors perform a self-assessment of their grease traps as well and to be prepared for our inspectors to visit their establishments starting this week.”

Dinolfo’s office says they anticipate these inspections will be completed within two weeks. Additionally, by the end of the week, Dinolfo is expected to introduced new regulations and standards regarding grease trap security and safety.

No fines will be issued at the inspections on Thursday because there is no law. The county is committed to pushing a new law that would mean fines and citations for places with unsafe grease traps.

The county says that a bill is going to be introduced by Friday, is likely to be considered by the legislature in August, and should be in effect by September.

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