LEWISTON – Police are investigating the theft of hundreds of gallons of used cooking oil from specialized containers at a pair of local restaurants.

Police say the oil was removed from storage vats at Cathay Hut and Chick-a-Dee, both on Lisbon Street, in the past week.

Investigators believe the oil was stolen for use as heating fuel to offset the price of home heating oil that has risen to more than $3 a gallon.

Police said the thefts thwart attempts by the restaurants to recycle the cooking oil with the help of a bio-diesel company that provides the special containers.

The culprit or culprits, said Lewiston police Sgt. David Chick, “are the same type of people who siphon gas from the tank of your car. Somebody worked for that and someone else is taking it.”

By Monday night, no arrests had been made.

Police said the bio-fuel companies reported the containment tanks empty when they came to retrieve the cooking oil.

Similar thefts have been reported in Auburn and other parts of the state, and investigators believe it’s related to the price of home heating oil.

“That cooking oil gets recycled and reused as heating oil or bio-fuel, depending on what the market calls for,” Chick said. “It will burn and heat your house.”

However, police and others stress that only those with knowledge of fuel technologies should attempt to use cooking oil to heat a home.

“If you don’t get the impurities out,” Chick said, “you’ll have clogged jets on your furnace and other problems.”

Anyone with information about the thefts in Lewiston is asked to call police at 513-3139.

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