New Sewage Law In Effect, But Some SF Restaurants Did Not Get The Memo

New America Media, Ethnoblog

By Vivian Po, May 17, 2011 11:26 AM

San Francisco restaurants are required to filter waste oil and grease so that it doesn’t end up going down the drain, under a new law that went into effect April 1, but it seems that some businesses in Chinatown didn’t get the memo.

San Francisco's 2011 FOG (Fats, Oils, and Grease) Control Ordinance mandates all food service establishments in the city to install grease capturing equipment in order to filter grease from going down the drains and clogging the underground sewage system, which costs the city $3.5 million to clear every year. But the city's Chinese-language newspapers reported this week that many restaurants in Chinatown are still not in compliance with the law -- and some restaurant owners didn't even know the law existed.

The Sing Tao Daily reports that representatives of the city's Department of Building Inspection (DBI) and Public Utilities Commission (PUC), along with representatives from the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, visited nine restaurants in Chinatown on Wednesday and found that seven of them were not in compliance with the new law, and two out of the seven had serious problems with their methods of disposing of grease.

Walter Wong, vice president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, said the purpose of the visit was to see how prepared Chinatown restaurants were. Wong encouraged business owners to take action to comply with the new law, saying sewage clogs cause a variety of problems for the city, including street flooding during rainy seasons and waste water backups in residences, which pose a risk to public health.

Chief Plumbing Inspector Steven Panelli with the Department of Building Inspection (DBI), who conducted the visit with the group, told World Journal that oil clogs had long been a problem for Chinatown's sewers, but before the FOG law existed, DBI had no authority to intervene. Sewage clogs are particularly problematic in Chinatown underneath Kearny, Washington, Clay, Broadway and Stockton streets. Panelli said some restaurants that have installed the grease filter are still not disposing of the grease properly and it ends up going down the same drain just as it does for those who don't have the equipment.

To help educate restaurant owners about the new law, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and the Mission Merchants Association are co-sponsoring meetings in their neighborhoods next week. The Chinatown meeting takes place May 17 at 2:30 p.m. at the Four Seas Restaurant. The Mission District meeting takes place May 18 at 2:30 at the Women's Building.

More information about the new law is available in Spanish and Chinese on the PUC website.