A man faces felony charges after police say he dumped grease down a manhole and created back-ups in Durham’s sewer system.
Jason Martin Rodriguez, 36, of Wendell was arrested July 2. The Durham County Sheriff’s Office charged him with four counts of felony commercial littering.
The county Department of Engineering and Environmental Services began noticing “sporadic back-ups of grease” in February, AnnMarie Breen, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office, said in a news release Thursday.
In addition, Breen said, staffers noticed “multiple ‘high water’ alarms caused by the backup.”
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The problem was traced to a buildup of oil and grease in a manhole on Page Point Circle, at the site of the former Kemp’s Seafood House restaurant.
Authorities installed a camera at the site, Breen said, as “commercial littering of this type has become a problem in Durham County.”
The camera recorded a truck belonging to the business All American Septic driving up to the manhole and pumping contents into the sewer system. The All American Septic website lists “grease trap cleaning” as one of its services.
The sheriff’s office launched an investigation and arrested Rodriguez, who owns All American Septic.
Cooking grease can damage infrastructure, and a sewage spill could cost Durham County upwards of $100,000 in containment and repairs, the sheriff’s office said.
“The costs to negate the results of this sort of crime ends up hurting users of Durham County Services through higher rates,” according to the news release.
“Thankfully, this time, it did not result in a spill impacting the environment,” the release said.
Food-service businesses “must follow strict guidelines” when disposing of fats, oils and grease.
Residents or business employees should not pour highly concentrated grease down their drains. County ordinances prohibit the disposal of fats, oils or greases greater than 200 milligrams per liter into the sewer system.
Durham County recommends recycling used cooking oil or pouring it into a container to be sealed and thrown away. Or there’s the “dry cleanup method” of wiping or scraping grease out of cookware with paper towels.
Rodriguez is scheduled to appear in Durham County court on Aug. 2.