Three of the six homes not tied to the sewer line are vacant.
By STEPHEN SIFF
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- In government, as in sanitation, the sludge flows downhill.
In a complaint filed Friday, lawyers from the Ohio EPA are asking a Trumbull Common Pleas Court judge to order the county commissioners to build several million dollars worth of new sewer lines in McKinley Heights.
The lawyer for the commissioners, however, says a sewer line built under EPA order in 1998 would fix the problem just fine if the health department would only do its job and make property owners use it.
The problem, according to the court filing, is that raw sewage from failing septic systems is getting into roadside ditches, even after the county built a $1.2 million sewer line on Robbins Road and U.S. Route 422.
The sewage drains into a culvert behind the McDonald's restaurant, then down into the Mahoning River, the complaint says.
Just one failing septic system could cause the elevated level of bacteria that forms the basis for the EPA's complaint, said Jim Brutz, an assistant county prosecutor.
Not complying: The law in most cases requires property owners to abandon their septic systems and make use of sewer lines when they become available.
However, of the 70 or so businesses and homes located off the new sewer line, six have not paid the roughly $1,000 fee and tapped into the new line, Brutz said.
"Once a sewer is done it is the responsibility of the health department to make sure that people tap into it," Brutz said. "We are going to suggest the EPA get on the health department's back to get them to do their job."
The board of health is appointed by a council made up primarily of township trustees and is not funded by the county commissioners.
Response: George Buccella, health department administrator, said he thinks all the property owners were notified that they were supposed to tap into the sewer line. If any fell through the cracks, it was because of recent turnover in the position of director of environmental services, he said.
"If the letters haven't gone out, we will follow up again," he said.
Three of the six properties that have not tapped in are vacant, and are not required to tap in until they are reoccupied, Buccella said.
He said none of those cases have been turned over for legal action.