Local News

Raleigh Sends Disposals Down Drain

Posted March 4, 2008 6:16 p.m. EST
Updated March 5, 2008 1:50 p.m. EST

— To cut down on sewer back-ups, the Raleigh City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to prohibit new garbage disposals from being installed or connected to the municipal sewer system.

The new ordinance takes effect March 17 for customers in Raleigh, Garner, Knightdale, Rolesville, Wake Forest, Wendell and Zebulon. Violators face fines of up to $25,000 a day and the loss of their water service.

Homeowners and businesses can continue using existing disposals –  city officials have encouraged them to voluntarily disconnect the devices – but they cannot be replaced under the ordinance if they conk out.

"Food and grease in the sewer lines is not acceptable for environmental reasons," City Manager Russell Allen said, noting the ordinance reinforces rules against sending food scraps down the drain.

Raleigh has had 99 sewer overflows since 2005 that were caused by grease clogging sewer lines, according to state environmental officials. Sewage from the overflows can run into nearby streams, creating environmental problems.

The state Division of Water Quality has threatened to fine the city for sewer overflows of more than 1,000 gallons.

The ban on new disposals was included in a wastewater management plan presented to the City Council in 1999. The council approved some recommendations in the plan but never acted on the disposal installation prohibition.

One of the earlier recommendations created the character of "Neusie the Fish" for an advertising campaign to remind people not to dump grease down the drain.

Although they signed off on the disposal ordinance Tuesday, some council members questioned how it could be enforced.

"When one goes out of service, you can go pick one up. It's not rocket science," Councilman Thomas Crowder said.

Allen said he plans to work with local plumbers and contractors to make sure the new rules are enforced. Home inspections also will catch some violators, he said.

Russ Buxton, a manager at a Lowe's Home Improvement store, said he doubts the ordinance will prevent people from putting grease down the drain.. He said he expects residents will fight to keep their garbage disposal.

"A lot of us are used to modern conveniences. It's like saying, 'You can't use your dishwasher. You'll have to hand-wash your dishes,'" Buxton said, noting his store sells 10 to 40 disposals a week.