City department working to improve wastewater

Some business owners are only concerned with what’s going down the drain if it’s their profits.
The City of Tulsa Public Works Department, however, is keeping a closer eye and creating incentives for business owners to do the same with its Partners for a Clean Environment program, a voluntary recognition program designed to reward businesses that work beyond meeting environmental standards for the disposal of wastewater.
Kristi Shreve, an environmental compliance specialist in the City of Tulsa’s Quality Assurance Department, said the program revolves around Best Management Practices programs designed to help businesses keep from putting strain on Tulsa’s wastewater treatment systems and consequently its environment.
PACE revolves around four main industries — food services, X-ray and photo development, printing and radiator repair — each with a BMP program in place.
According to the program’s Web site,, “BMP programs are designed to be less burdensome for both the industry and local government than industrial wastewater discharge permits.”
The site points out that permitting requires annual fees, costly self-monitoring and increased record keeping and reporting from industries. Additionally, it takes more government resources in staff time, equipment and supplies to enforce permits than it does to oversee BMP programs.
“The point is to make it easier and cheaper for everybody,” Shreve said.
Shreve said the department’s FOG (fats, oils and grease) BMP program, which covers the food services industry, is its most extensive.
“When it is flushed down into the wastewater system, fat, oils and grease build up just like they do in your arteries, causing raw sewage to back up to the surface or into people’s homes,” Shreve said. “Not only is it disgusting and a health hazard, but every time we have a backup that discharges wastewater, we violate the Clean Water Act.”
According to Shreve, businesses participating in the PACE program, and those that aren’t, are monitored by department staff. Quality Assurance employs two full-time inspectors for the FOG program and one full-time inspector for the remaining programs. The three inspectors perform random site visits at participating companies.
Shreve said while the department does not currently require a preliminary inspection to participate in the PACE program, she hopes to change that in the next year.
Shreve also said she would like to re-expand the program to include households again.
“I also want to expand to covering the storm water system,” Shreve said.
She said businesses that power wash their parking lots were of particular interest.
Shreve said the key to expanding the PACE program will be the dissemination of information.
“Right now, a lot of people don’t know what PACE is,” she said. “So I would like to get the word out.”

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