Hickory House BBQ

Hickory House BBQ on East State Street. Photo by Ben Peters

The City of Athens revoked the license of a food trailer and fined the owner in February after inspectors discovered workers dumped grease into a water catch basin.

The city in January dispatched Solid Waste Control Officer Michele Fish and Sewer Maintenance Supervisor Eric Barnhouse in response to a complaint that a hose attached to the Hickory House BBQ food trailer, located 596 E. State St., was draining into a catch basin. The inspectors returned a day later and directed the business to remove the hose, according to a notice of violation written by Assistant City Engineer Jessica Adine and sent to food trailer owner Ryan Peters.

The next day the city obtained a video reportedly filmed in June 2020 showing what appeared to be food trailer employees dumping “a gray tub of liquid” into a catch basin, according to the document.

A week later, Barnhouse and Athens Soil and Water Conservation Stormwater Technician Joseph Jarvis investigated the area and found the storm line was ‘“lined with grease’” and “‘contained chunks of grease,’” amounting to what Adine described as illegal dumping of pollutants into the city’s drain system.

Peters was required to reimburse the city more than $1,100 for costs associated with cleaning and inspecting the sewer. Chief of Police and Interim Service Safety Director Tom Pyle confirmed on Wednesday that Peters had paid the amount in full.

The food trailer owner was also reimbursed fees for March, April and May since the business’ operations were halted.

In an interview with The NEWS, Peters denied dumping grease into the sewer, saying he disposes of fat waste at home.

“I feel as a small business owner I’m being picked on,” he said.

To restore his license, the city asked Peters to submit an action plan detailing how the business would prevent future violations.

Adine said the plan Peters turned in was rejected by the city in consultation with The Athens City-County Health Department. Both entities modified Peters' proposal to their liking and are awaiting his response, she said. Peters, who's out of town, said Wednesday he plans to respond upon return.

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