October 25, 2014
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Plan for sewers may have already saved homeowners fines

While it won’t come without costing homeowners, City Council approval of $56 million in bonds to extend sewers and upgrade the wastewater treatment plant appears to have averted fines for some residents with cesspools. Notices carry a $200 penalty and fines of up to $2,500.

Last week, the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) issued citations to 29 property owners of violations of the Cesspool Act of 2007. They were the first of the “worst of the worst” – 229 cesspools identified within 200 feet of the coast or 200 feet of public wells and drinking water reservoirs.

The department will cite about 20 property owners every month, said David Chopy, chief of DEM’s Office of Compliance and Inspection, until the list is completed.

“We’ve just protected a significant number of our people from $2,500,” said Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur.

Ladouceur chairs the council sewer review commission that spearheaded extending sewers to six neighborhoods, including Riverview and Highland Beach, where a number of shoreline, small-lot properties continue to use cesspools.

Since there is a commitment to bring sewers to these neighborhoods, even though it could be another six years before they are operational, they are exempt from citation. It doesn’t mean, Ladouceur pointed out, that DEM won’t take action if cesspools are posing a public health hazard.

“Had we not done that [identified areas for sewer extensions and approved bonding for their construction], a lot of people would have been faced with fines. I’m so happy we got this done for the people,” he said.

“To any community committed to installing sewers, there’s an extension,” said Angelo Liberti, DEM chief of surface water protection and a member of the sewer review commission. He said homeowners awaiting the construction of sewers will be asked to certify they will connect when sewers become available.

The intent of enforcing the legislation, stressed Chopy, is not to levy and collect fines but to put an end to cesspools in these environmentally sensitive areas. Yet the fines will increase the longer the violation continues to exist. The objective is to get those with violations to take corrective action sooner rather than later.

When available, sewers, rather than septic systems, are viewed as the best means of treating wastewater.

“Sewers are the best wastewater technology possible,” said DEM Director Janet Coit.

In a statement issued by the department, Coit said, “Initially, we identified 3,100 properties that may be subject to the Cesspool Act. While the Department has a responsibility to enforce the Cesspool Act, we also recognize the financial burden this has on property owners. Issuing these Notices is a way that we hope will get property owners into compliance without imposing onerous penalties.”

Of the 29 initial citations, three went to Warwick homeowners in neighborhoods where there are presently sewers and they haven’t connected, or in areas not slated to get sewers. Chopy said the first 29 were selected on the basis that they failed to respond to prior notices.

“These are the worst of the worst,” he said.

Homeowners believed in violation of the act are notified by certified mail and informed that a notice of violation will be recorded with the city’s land evidence records, encumbering the title to the property and the assessment of an additional monetary penalty that could be as much as $1,000 a day.

Property owners with questions are urged to contact Jonathan Zwarg at 222-4700 ext. 7205, or by email at jonathan.zwarg@dem.ri.gov.


Comments
5 comments on this item

Here is my plan: when DEM comes to my door, I'm going to show them one of the yellow fliers I received that reads "Why hasn't Councilman Ed Ladouceur notified all the Bayside Residents of the projected cost for their sewers?" That will surely stop DEM from handing me a citation, right sewer naysayers?

Thank you Councilman Ladouceur for looking out for your constituents, we finally have a LEADER in the council. THE TIME FOR SEWERS IS NOW!

Completely agreed. Thanks, Ed! This is a real benefit for the citizens of Ward 5 -- and it took significant effort and leadership following decades of nothing happening.

Good Job by Ed Ladouceur.....he now writes his own blogs like the previous two.....he still can t answer the cost of the sewers. Keep blogging Eddie because everyone knows nobody supports you.

I have done extensive research concerning sewers in the past several months. I tied in to sewers 11 years ago,(the best investment I have made) for so many reasons. However, I am really concerned about the the future of the sewer system. If the small group that is spreading the false information around the city have their way which is not to install any more sewer pipes in Warwick. How will that effect us thousands of homeowners who have already tied in. We will have to carry the burden of maintaining the system by paying much higher rates than we do now. I agree with the previous writer Councilman Ladouceur has been leading this cause, looking out for the majority of the taxpayers, his proposed legislation has been long overdue. Many of our past elected officials simply looked the other way, they knew of the problems the system had. It took a lot of courage for Councilman Ladouceur to tackle this long overdue problem. It would have been a lot easier to look the other way. Thank You so much Councilman

INFO ALERT++++BILLBPAINT is the chairperson on the ward 5 dem party. Nice job billy doing your job as chair person.

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