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Death of 3-year-old reveals that no one inspects grease traps

Jul 16, 2019

Credit Spectrum News

The questions surrounding the death of a 3-year-old boy behind a Tim Hortons on Monday mount.

The Rochester Police Department said the boy fell through a lid on a grease trap while his mother was working at the restaurant. Grease traps collect oil and other wastes to prevent them from leaking into sewers. 

Monroe County spokesman Jesse Sleezer said that the county has confirmed they it is not responsible for inspecting these traps. Sleezer said, however, that the county is ready to take on that responsibility if necessary.

“We’re going to pursue a local law that says if there is an absence of clarity under the law right now that we solve that absence of clarity, so that at least in Monroe County, there is a specific protection that says there will be ongoing inspections,” said Sleezer. “The last thing we want, the county executive most so, is to see this happen again. And so even if the county does not have a direct role right now, we will avail ourselves of the option to step up and do our part.”

Sleezer said that grease traps are a blind spot in local law, with no municipality having oversight of them. He said there was a law that was passed in the 1960s that addressed the traps' structural requirements, but it was repealed in 1988. 

“The county had no role here beyond ensuring the functionality of the sewer connection. Ensuring that the water flowed as it should through that apparatus,” said Sleezer.

OSHA opened an investigation to determine if any employees were exposed to hazards. That could take up to six months. 

Rochester Police Investigator Frank Camp said the boy’s mother was working at the Tim Hortons and had no one else to watch the child. Camp said he does not expect criminal charges to be filed. 

The lid was made of plastic and did not support the child’s weight.

“The trap lid was replaced with one made of metal that would support and carry an expected weight,” said Camp via email.