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Call for action after grease trap incident

Lawmakers introduce new bill to ensure safety
Posted at 6:04 PM, Jul 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-18 18:13:11-04

BUFFALO N.Y. (WKBW) — You may think you've never seen a grease trap before, but traps like the one involved in Monday's tragic incident in Rochester are things we pass every day.

"If you're not familiar with plumbing and how plumbing works you would just think it's a panel or a cover, you wouldn't actually know that there's a grease trap below it," said project manager Veikko Mielonen, project manager at Mollenberg-betz, Inc.

A three-year-old boy fell into a grease trap at a Tim Horton's restaurant and died.

Mielonen works with grease traps and says they're typically made of metal, but in this case it was plastic. Even so, the plastic models are build to hold a lot of weight, according to Mielonen.

"Usually the minimum requirement is to have foot traffic, which means they usually hold like 500 pounds," explained Mielonen.

These lids are usually quite heavy and look like manhole covers. Mielonen says he's never experienced anyone falling in before.

"If that lid was just easy for that boy to breach, something was wrong with the installation or the lid, it wasn't the proper lid," said Mielonen.

Nearly two years ago, in Alabama, a three-year-old named Sadie Grace Andrews lost her life the same way.

Her mother Corrie was shocked to hear that this happened again.

"It's absolutely ridiculous and insane to me that with all of the national and international media coverage that our daughter Sadie, that her passing received, that there are still plastic lids for grease and septic," said Andrews.

Following her child's death, she was able to help legislation get passed in Alabama to ensure safety measures. Legislators in New York are doing the same, in light of the incident at Tim Horton's.

The legislation, introduced by Assemblymembers Harry Bronson and Jamie Romeo, includes four safety measures:

  • Grease trap lids must be metal, not plastic
  • Grease trap lids must be locked and secured, if left unattended
  • Signage/a safety notice must be on top of the grease trap that indicate risk and danger
  • Annual inspection must be conducted by the Department of Health

The bill will now go to committee and be introduced in the Senate.