Sewer lines that became clogged with grease from the kitchens of a Carroll County retirement home have been replaced. Kitchen equipment inside the home, Copper Ridge, has been modified to stop the flow of grease into the county's pipeline. That should stop any recurrence of clogs that twice backed sewage into the basements of homes at Bunker Hill Court, a small Sykesville subdivision.
The county traced the Bunker Hill Court clogs to Copper Ridge, where an industrial dishwasher apparently fed excessive grease into the 8-inch sewer line that runs through the subdivision. Wayne Lewns, county utilities bureau chief, said the amount of grease was inordinate and caused a buildup in the pipeline.
The county will monitor the sewer lines diligently to ensure that no grease accumulations recur, he said.
The county has relaid several hundred feet of pipe along Obrecht Road, from Copper Ridge, a 126-bed home for seniors operated by Episcopal Ministries to the Aging, to Bunker Hill Court. Every 90 days, crews using specially designed television cameras will inspect the line.
"We relaid the whole line as a fail-safe measure, and we will continue to monitor," Lewns said. "It is a lot of backup, but we certainly don't want this to happen to those people again."
In April and in February 1999, residents of Bunker Hill Court, a cul-de-sac downhill from Copper Ridge, had as much as 3 feet of sewage in their basements. In all, repairs have cost more than $35,000. The county has settled claims with four homeowners and is negotiating with a fifth.
That fifth owner, Lisa Chapman, who said her home sustained more than $17,000 in damage, said she is reassured that no backup will recur, but is not satisfied with the county's insurer. The family has not been able to use the basement since the April incident. She and her husband have had to use their money to begin repairs.
"We wanted our basement back. The insurer is dragging his feet. We have sent a letter to the commissioners," Chapman said.
The incidents led the county to notify its 7,000 sewer customers that it would not be responsible for backups in its system. Officials urged residents to beef up their homeowner's insurance policies against such damage and warned them that grease and disposable diapers, for instance, can clog pipes.
Copper Ridge could be fined or held liable for damage paid for by the county's insurer. But, so far, "nobody has contacted us" about liability, said Mindy Stewart, Copper Ridge's marketing director.
Within the past few months, Copper Ridge, which has four kitchens, has installed high-tech grease traps and a system to inject grease-eating bacteria into the line. "We want to minimize any grease getting into the lines," Stewart said.
Copper Ridge also has replaced blades in the dishwasher and rerouted its lines, she said. The original system was built to county specifications and inspected before Copper Ridge opened in 1994.
Since the April incident, Gary Horst, county director of enterprise and recreation services, has met with the executive director and the maintenance manager at Copper Ridge.
"Copper Ridge could not have been more cooperative or more concerned with this problem," Horst said. "They were most interested in getting this resolved. After all, they are customers for this service too."