Opposition grows to garbage disposal ban

March 16, 2008 9:00:00 PM PDT
If your garbage disposal breaks in Raleigh, replacing it could cost you thousands of dollars in fines.

Flip the switch and send it down the drain, but use your disposal sparingly because if it breaks in Raleigh, you can't replace it unless you want to break the law.

The controversial ban, effective Monday, March 17th, means no new garbage disposals are allowed. It's the only prohibition like it nationwide, city leaders say. Mayors in some of the other towns affected by it, including Wake Forest, Knightdale, Garner, Rolesville, Wendell and Zebulon, are not happy about the ban or the way the Raleigh City Council went about adopting it. The ban passed in a 7-0 vote with little discussion. One council member, Philip Isley, was not present for the vote.

"I've heard the the word dictatorship used, a lot of people in Garner are using it," said Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams. "They even refer to it as a 'big brother' mentality."

But Raleigh Public Utilities officials say the ban is needed to help the sewer system. They say too many people are putting the wrong things in their disposals.

There were 48 large sewer spill overflows in Raleigh last year, 21 of them caused by grease blockages. Utilities officials say at least 12 of those happened in areas where that are entirely residential, implying the blockages came purely from activity by homeowners.

Violators of the ban could face up to $25,000, but the mayor says that is extremely unlikely.

"The enforcement here is very soft," said Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker. "It really is warnings, or asking people to revise their plans, there aren't fines or anything like that being put out."

That makes some wonder why there's a need for the ban in the first place.

"If we're not gonna enforce our ordinances, why have it?" asked City Councilman Isley.

If anyone is caught, it will likely be before building new homes and businesses. Construction permits won't be approved if they include garbage disposals.

As for retailers -- they can still sell the devices, but they might advise against you buying them.

"They'll do their part to let the customers know when they come into buy these that they're banned if they're customers of Raleigh," said Public Utilities Director Dale Crisp.

Isley said he will bring up the issue at the City Council meeting on Tuesday. He said he hopes the ban will be put on hold and referred to a committee for more consideration. But he concedes the ban will likely stay in place.


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