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November 7, 2012

Charlestown septic users to face fines

City adopts ordinance to get households in sewer compliance

CHARLESTOWN — The Charlestown City Council adopted an ordinance Monday night designed to penalize residents of the Lakeview and Highview subdivisions who do not connect to the district’s sewer lines.

The adoption of Ordinance 2012-OR-12 gives those in the area who remain on septic systems 30 days until facing fines that range from $50 to $1,500 each day until connecting to the sewer system.

The ordinance was passed 3-2.

Charlestown Mayor Bob Hall said there are about 150 households in the Lakeview/Highview area and that about 15 to 20 of the homes have not connected to the sewer lines. Hall said those in the area must pay the city a $1,600 tap-in fee to connect to the sewer lines. He said the city is offering a two-year financing option — which includes a one time $50 interest fee — to ease the transition.

After the tap-in fee, homeowners must pay out-of-pocket to have their homes connected to the sewer lines. Hall said the costs associated with connecting to the sewer have averaged about $2,300.

The septic systems in the area have been a problem, including presenting a health hazard for nearly 20 years, Hall said.

“The health department was involved, at one point, to condemn all the septic tanks because they have raw sewage on the ground,” he said.

Hall said the area is not conducive to septic systems because of a high rock base and shallow layer of ground cover. He said the age of many of the septic systems is another significant problematic factor.

“This area has had chronic problems with septics,” Hall said. “That is why the whole project was done and was addressed.”

Some of the homeowners who have already connected to the sewer lines have expressed frustration that their neighbors have not complied, Hall said. Since the sewer system was added to the Lakeview/Highview area, Hall said at least six letters have been mailed out to notify homeowners they must connect to the sewer lines. He said homeowners began connecting to the sewer lines in 2008 upon the completion of initial phases of the sewer installation.

Hall said the two council members — Dan James and Ruth Ann Rawlings — who entered dissenting votes have been vocal about their desires to see the ordinance instated citywide. Hall said the purpose of the ordinance is specific to Lakeview/Highview areas, and that a citywide mandate to connect to the sewer would present a new set of problems.

“We just are not going to put the city in a position where we have to start forcing everybody and their brother on sewer,” he said.

Hall said some of the remaining households that have not tapped into the sewer lines have been identified as hardship cases.

“Some of them have lost income,” he said. “These people are not trying to fight us. They don’t have [the money] to write the check.”

Hall added that some of the other households are facing foreclosures.

He said he is empathetic to those who are facing tough times, but added that the city is facing a public health concern by having the septic systems in the Lakeview/Highview area. He suggests those who can’t afford to connect to the sewer contact city officials.

“We will take everything case-by-case and try to resolve the problem,” Hall said.

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