Without Discussion, Grease Traps Law Is Voted Down

A proposed law meant to help taxpayers – as well as residents – which would require businesses to have and maintain grease traps was defeated by a 5-1 vote without any prior discussion from the governing body during the September 7th Mayor & Council meeting.

Ordinance 2501 was the municipality’s second attempt to address issues with grease from restaurants clogging up sewer lines and costing taxpayers between $10,000 and $20,000 to clean them every time. The first ordinance, 2485, was tabled and reworked into 2501. Currently, the Department of Public Works (DPW) checks the lines once to twice a week for clogged lines. As of now, no local grease trap law exists to monitor and regulate discharge into sewer lines.

After the vote was taken, members of council were asked about their reasons.

It wouldn’t be proper to use the words that they said to me. They told me that we should not pass any grease ordinance in this fashion” -Councilman Meola

First Ward Councilman Eugene Meola stated, “After speaking to a few businesses, they made it clear to me that they wanted me… it wouldn’t be proper to use the words that they said to me. They told me that we should not pass any grease ordinance in this fashion and I said what how would you like it to be done? They weren’t sure but they would not like to see this passed.”

Councilman Meola added that he voted ‘no’ because, as he put it, “I don’t think it’s good to table it . . . In short of saying ‘table it’, I’ll just say ‘no’ and we can address it at a later date.”

Councilwoman-At-Large Charlene Storey – who has spent significant portions of her council reports during two municipal meetings on her concerns about the financial impact to Roselle Park residents through county taxes over a proposed “Mind & Body Complex” development in neighboring Roselle – was silent on her reasoning before casting her ‘no’ vote and costing Roselle Park residents money.

It was only after the vote that the councilwoman said, “It was the response from businesses… I think the wording needs to be looked at. I would like to find out [and] get more input from the businesses. I was told that the businesses were involved but I didn’t talk to anyone who said that they were. I just think that it needs working over again.”

Third Ward Councilman William Fahoury responded, “I was in favor of tabling it. It happened so fast. I was reading my notes and it just happened that… I voted no.”

Councilman Fahoury further commented that he wanted to do more research on an option regarding a biological additive that was presented by Don Sinclair, president of Breakdown Products out of Bradley Beach. Mr. Sinclair stated that his company currently pre-treats grease traps in the Roselle Park School District (RPSD).

Mr. Sinclair commented during the public hearing of Ordinance 2501 that many municipalities in New Jersey use only biological products to address grease in sewer lines. He referred to an article in Waterworld magazine that gave information on Woodbridge’s use of bio-products. Research shows that the article referenced was from 2005 and listed under “Editorial Focus” (link). Mr. Sinclair mentioned Clark was another municipality using biological additives but a review of an ordinance from 2012 shows that grease traps were still mandated (link).

It is to be noted that the proposed Roselle Park law had the option to allow biological additives placed into grease traps as long as it was approved by the Health Officer. This means that even if Mr. Sinclair’s information were to be taken into consideration, there was no need to table the ordinance since that option was already covered in the bill.

Any biological additive(s) placed into the grease trap or building discharge line including, but not limited to, enzymes, commercially available bacteria, or other additives designed to absorb, purge, consume, treat, or otherwise eliminate fats, oils, and grease shall require written approval by the Health Officer prior to use. The use of such additives shall in no way be considered as a substitution to the maintenance procedures required herein.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, which occurred after the vote, former mayor Joseph DeIorio commented that a lot of businesses are already in compliance with the ordinance and asked why councilmembers chose to vote ‘no’ in place of tabling or postponing it.

Mr. DeIorio also mentioned Costa’s Restaurant as an influence on the council’s majority ‘no’ vote. Owner Nicola Cristofaro was in the audience and sat with Mr. Sinclair who called him a ‘good friend.’

“The appearance is that . . . Costa’s changed the vote,” said Mr. DeIorio, “I think that’s probably unfair to the restaurant because that’s what the appearance is going to be. It’s probably unfair to the gentleman because the information that he presented could be worthwhile. I’ve never heard of it. But it’s not to say it hasn’t worked. He’s saying that it worked in Woodbridge. But by defeating this, what’s the next step? What is the governing body going to do?”

That is the major question that remains unanswered. Every day that the ordinance is not in place means there is a potential to have another costly incident occur in the borough.

Without a proper explanation that is backed by facts, the council’s majority ‘no’ vote gives credence to the adage that government officials are putting the interests of businesses – who are at times donors and sponsors of those very elected officials – over the interests of residents and taxpayers. Businesses are not against the ordinance because they fundamentally disagree with its purpose but simply because it will cost them money.

This second ordinance was defeated with no mention as to when – or even if – it will be reviewed, reworked, or voted on again.

Fifth Ward Councilman Thomas ‘Thos’ Shipley was the only ‘yes’ vote for Ordinance 2501.

As of this publication, the proposed law, nor any alternative, is on the agenda for tonight’s Mayor & Council meeting set to start a 7 p.m. in the Roselle Park Municipal Complex located at 110 East Westfield Avenue.