Archive for Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Business illegally dumped thousands of gallons of grease into city sewer, necessitating massive cleanup

Various health advisory signs were posted around a creek just west of Monterey Way between Sixth and Eighth Street where unauthorized dumping of used cooking grease was recently discovered.

Various health advisory signs were posted around a creek just west of Monterey Way between Sixth and Eighth Street where unauthorized dumping of used cooking grease was recently discovered.

July 5, 2017


A business illegally dumped several thousand gallons of cooking grease into a city manhole, causing water contamination and intensive cleanup.

“I’m concerned that somebody thought that this was OK to do or didn’t care,” said Matt Bond, city stormwater engineer. “Somebody had to have known that this was wrong and they still did it.”

Bond said the grease was dumped last week into a manhole near the intersection of West Sixth Street and Monterey Way and was of a magnitude he had not seen before. He said it isn’t yet known what business dumped the grease, but that it was done deliberately.

“It wasn’t just a five-gallon pail that somebody dropped in there,” Bond said. “It almost looks as if somebody opened up our manhole and a grease truck deliberately dumped stuff into it.”

Cooking grease — whether it be animal fat or vegetable oil — is as damaging to the environment as petroleum oil, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Dumping oil of any kind is illegal under federal law and city ordinances that regulate pollutants, and Bond said the Lawrence Police Department is investigating the incident.

Specifically, the manhole used by the business to dump the grease is located between Hy-Vee grocery store and a strip mall that includes Chipotle, Subway and Little Caesars Pizza. The manhole and adjoining storm sewer line are located in the Quail Creek watershed. The city issued a health and stream advisory Saturday for the area near Sixth Street and Monterey Way after elevated bacteria and contaminants were detected.

After a days-long cleanup of the city sewer system and the creek, Bond said the advisory was lifted Wednesday. He said the city hired plumbers to clean the city sewer lines, a hazardous materials cleanup crew to decontaminate the creek and a septic service to collect runoff from the cleaning.

Bond said the total cost for the cleanup isn’t yet known, but that “easily dozens” of hours were spent, some of which were after regular business hours.

“Ace Pipe Cleaning came out Friday night and was here until 1:30 Saturday morning cleaning that pipe,” Bond said. “And then Monday we came out and started cleaning up the stream banks.”

Bond said before the decontamination, the creek was covered with a sheen of oil.

Dumping or spilling animal fats and vegetable oils can cause “devastating impacts” on aquatic environments, according to the EPA. A spill of only one gallon of oil can contaminate a million gallons of water. Spills can suffocate animals and plants by coating them with oil, form toxic products, produce rancid odors, clog water treatment plants and catch fire when ignition sources are present.

Dumping is illegal under the Clean Water Act, and federal regulations for the discharge of cooking oils have the same prevention and control requirements as for petroleum oil.

The Lawrence Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for additional information regarding the investigation Wednesday afternoon.

Contact city reporter Rochelle Valverde
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Bill Turner 1 month, 2 weeks ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Lynn Grant 1 month, 2 weeks ago

I hope the city finds out where this mess came from. The should be fined, at the least!

Bill Turner 1 month, 2 weeks ago

I wholeheartedly deny that I violated the terms of the site usage agreement in making my above comment. My comment, while speculative in nature, was my own opinion and I can see nowhere where a violation occurred. If the staff is going to censor us, they should at least do us the courtesy of providing more logic behind said censoring than the extremely vague "violation of the usage agreement". I do my best to conform to the rules and regulations in every way, and am disappointed in the treatment I've received here.

Nick Gerik 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Hi, Bill. Unfortunately, we don't have much control over that default message. Your comment was removed because, until someone is charged, we'd rather not provide a forum for criminal accusations.

— Nick Gerik, LJW digital editor

Bill Turner 1 month, 2 weeks ago

That understandable, however your article already implicitly suggests culprits by naming "...Chipotle, Subway and Little Caesars Pizza." Why those particular businesses? Why not Ditto? Or The UPS store? Or Alvin's? Those businesses are in the same strip mall. I'm thinking it's because the business you named in the article are the type of businesses that might generate grease, which could then be dumped down a storm drain. I simply named another, and suggested the most likely culprits based on the volume of grease they are likely to generate.

Nick Gerik 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Those particular businesses are directly adjacent to the manhole where the dumping occurred. Others are not. The removal of your comment was intended to be a simple effort to steer the discussion away from specific accusations of criminal conduct, which we'd like to discourage on all stories about active investigations.

— Nick Gerik, LJW digital editor

Bill Turner 1 month, 2 weeks ago

The UPS store is literally between the Chipotle and Little Ceasars. How can two be adjacent to the manhole and the other not? Alvin's is literally between the mentioned HyVee and Chipotle - same question. All of those business are "adjacent" to said manhole cover, yet the LJWorld picked the ones that happen to make grease (I'm familiar with the area, if you think I'm wrong, go stand in the parking lot and see for yourself). You want to steer the discussion away from accusations of criminal conduct? Your article is implicitly making them!

Brian Dawber 1 month, 2 weeks ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Michael Dennis 1 month, 2 weeks ago

So, Bill. If you had to take a wild shot in the dark speculative guess, who would you think did it?

Bill Turner 1 month, 2 weeks ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Bill Turner 1 month, 2 weeks ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Paul Beyer 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Hope that business is identified so that potential customers will avoid them.Only 2 of named business's could possibly generate this much grease and I tend to think it's definitely not the largest one of those named.

Bill Turner 1 month, 2 weeks ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Bob Summers 1 month, 2 weeks ago

What did Free State do with their grease?

Ray Mizumura 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Donated to the fast food chains that 45th President likes?

Armen Kurdian 1 month, 2 weeks ago

I'll bet that a business legitimately paid for someone to haul the grease away, then whomever was paid to properly dispose of it did the dumping. Usually, businesses don't have grease trucks laying around. Plus, if it really was thousands of gallons, sounds like it was done all at once. Call me crazy, but restaurants don't usually keep dozens of oil drums full of cooking grease hanging around.

I'd focus on disposers vice the restaurant side.

Russell Fryberger 1 month, 2 weeks ago

All that grease had to come from a barber shop. Was there any hair in it?

Francis Hunt 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Aren't there security cameras on those businesses or in the parking lot?

Rick Masters 1 month, 2 weeks ago

This has Plato's Closet written all over it.

Zach Davis 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Given the multiple times Nick and his staff have deleted comments above after Rochelle's own article provided indirect criminal accusations I am going to assume that the above comments implicated Nick Gerick.

Nick Gerik 1 month, 2 weeks ago

I do have a thing for greasy food, Zach, but that's not why the comments were removed. As I explained to Bill, both here and via email, the initial comment was deleted because we don't allow accusations toward individuals or businesses in cases where police are still investigating (that part actually is in our user policy). We felt it was relevant to note the places that surround that manhole, but anything beyond that is unclear at this point. We'll be following up.

— Nick Gerik, LJW digital editor

Zach Davis 2 weeks, 3 days ago

Sorry I forgot the winky face or the < / sarcasm > HTML tag at the end there.

Tony Peterson 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Dumping excess grease was stupid both environmentally and economically. Some restaurants have started putting locks on their storage containers because people have begun stealing it to sell for processing into biodiesel.

Michael Kort 1 month, 2 weeks ago

I think that Armin was right .

Someone probably had a collection truck out somewhere over a period of time collecting cooking oil and just desided to do the illegal deed .

Or maybe they drove here from somewhere else to do pick ups and realized on arrival in Lawrence that their truck was already too full to do their normal pickup rounds so they made the decision to dump ...........and then.......once started...........they went for it big time ! ?

Michael Kort 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Maybe, because no one might ever be caught and convicted and pay for the clean up of oil that came from God only knows where, that waist food oil haulers should be better regulated, display a sticker on their trucks proving yearly registration and certification, etc and restaurants should have to identify who does their waiste oil hauling to the city and submit a rough schedual of it or keep pickup records on file for the city, etc.. ?

Oh no ! That might stop this from happening again and again at tax payer $ clean up expense and the $ cost to catch the idiot by asking private businesses to do something simple ! How awful ! Why this could force restaurants and cafeterias into bankruptcy and the good citizens of Lawrence to starve !

Well, somebody has to $ employ the clean up about us, that hates regulation of businesses !

I am not asking that restaurants add an expensive tagant to their grease that identifies their individual stores, as people do, to explosives, to ID their maker .

But the clean up and investigation into this will $ cost the city and police $ money and valuable time and a little bit of regulation here could go a long way towards saving the public $ expense of dealing with criminal fools who will do this again if they get the chance !

Armen Kurdian 1 month, 1 week ago

Which is possibly a bit odd...I thought there were organizations that bought the stuff.

Richard Heckler 1 month, 1 week ago

Did anyone notice a grease collecting tanker and perhaps thought it was cleaning out rather than dumping?

Michael Kort 1 month, 1 week ago

You would think that some resturant etc., parking lot camera would have caught a grease truck on tape, etc.? These days all sorts of businesses have survalence cameras and some probably face 6th St. In that area .

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