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Planning Commission discusses improper sewage disposal fines

The Lafayette County Planning Commission began discussions to amend sewage disposal fines during its meeting on Tuesday night.

The issue up for discussion was an amendment to the 2012 International Private Sewage Disposal Code fine structure. According to county building inspector Joel Hollowell, the need to amend the fine structure comes from a recent increase in the county’s involvement with enforcement of the code, as opposed to the health department taking on that responsibility.

“When we adopted the IPSDC, our intention was to aid the health department in following up on wastewater approvals by using our ordinance to require final approval from the health department before utilities could be connected. That part of our ordinance has worked great for new connections,” Hollowell said. “The difficulty is with existing systems that are failing or for those who never installed a [wastewater] system.”

Hollowell said the health department environmentalists have little to no time to follow up on or prosecute an increasing number of complaints about failing systems, especially in an area that’s growing as rapidly as Lafayette County. By creating a better way for the county to prosecute and assess fines, he said, it will be easier to get noncompliant individuals to stay in contact with the health department until failing systems have been corrected.  

Hollowell and county attorney David O’Donnell have discussed the appropriate fine structure over the past few weeks, and have determined what he said are appropriate penalties.

The amended ordinance will read as follows:

“Any person who shall violate a provision of this code or fail to comply with any of the requirements thereof or who shall erect, install, alter or repair private sewage disposal work in violation of the approved construction documents or directive of the code official, or of a permit or certificate issued under the provisions of this code, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 or by imprisonment not exceeding 30 days, or both such fine and imprisonment. Each day that a violation continues after due notice has been served shall be deemed a separate offense.”

Hollowell said the fines were structured in such a way that they would be taken seriously by potential violators. However, he added that he hopes no such fines will have to be imposed.

Should a resident be in violation of the ordinance, Hollowell said the county will issue a notice and give the resident a time frame in which to correct their error. The nature and severity of the violation will determine the amount of time given to make corrections. In extreme cases that threaten the safety and welfare of Lafayette County citizens, that may result in an order to immediately stop the use of a failing system. Anyone failing to comply with the order would be subject to prosecution.

In the end, Hollowell said he would be happy to speak with anyone who has questions or concerns.

“Every Lafayette County citizen has the right to live, work or play in a safe environment,” he said. “The proper disposal of waste is essential to providing that safe environment.”