OCEAN CITY – Recent complaints about leaking or overflowing kitchen grease containers around the resort was the subject of an informal discussion during a Mayor and Council meeting this month.
Nearly every food service operation in Ocean City has a large container on or near the property, typically in the rear and out of sight, for disposing of kitchen waste. Private sector companies provide the containers to the various restaurants and food service operations and empty them at regular intervals for rendering and recycling the products.
Lately, however, there have been reported problems with the kitchen grease bins leaking or overflowing with more frequency. Following a review of the agendas for the various subcommittee meetings coming up this month, Councilman Mark Paddack broached the subject with City Manager Terry McGean.
“The grease containers around town, is that a town of Ocean City function, or is that something we contract out?” he said.
McGean said the town is not involved in supplying the grease containers or the collection of the byproducts.
“We don’t contract it out,” he said. “The grease containers are the responsibility of the properties. Each individual business contracts those out.”
McGean explained the current situation with some of the containers around town.
“What has come up is we have a specific vendor that is having some issues with the containers that were in poor condition,” he said. “They’re not getting emptied, and they are overflowing in some cases. The town is not directly involved with the disposal of kitchen grease, but we have become involved with a lot of the cleanup effort.”
McGean said the town has reached out to the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to assist with correcting the problem.
“I will say that through some efforts, we were able to find somebody from MDE,” he said. “They contacted Valley Protein and magically, after MDE contacted Valley Protein, we started making some progress.”
Paddack said he has been getting an increasing number of complaints from his constituents about some of the problems with the grease containers.
“I’ve gotten calls about it,” he said. “It’s not a taxpayer issue but it’s impacting them. It’s concerning that a private sector company would allow this stuff to potentially contaminate our waterways, damage our residents’ private property and, based on what you’ve said, some efforts are being made.”
McGean said he believed the problem was now being addressed.
“It’s been a challenge for us,” he said. “Hopefully, we’re making some progress now.”
Following discussion at the council level, members of the Coastal Resources Legislative Committee (Green Team) revisited the issue last week.
Gail Blazer, environmental engineer for the town, said Ocean City had two laws that addressed littering on public property and discharging liquids onto public property. She questioned if amendments were needed to address the litter and contamination that resulted from overflowing grease containers.
“Is there anything in this code we should put to give it a little more teeth?” she said.
Ultimately, the committee agreed to work on a code amendment that would better address the ongoing grease container issues and provide a better enforcement mechanism.
“For the next meeting, we can work on a code amendment and have it ready to recommend from this committee,” said Planning and Community Development Director Bill Neville.