Sewer Board’s policy questioned
The board of the Warm Spring Public Service District was told by both Town of Bath Mayor Susan Webster and Morgan County Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson that neither the town nor county has the authority to declare a structure or dwelling uninhabitable.
The statements were made in response to the District’s new policy passed at the September 12 meeting that stated the District may bill vacant structures and dwellings connected to, or near the sewer line, unless the structure or dwelling is declared uninhabitable by the health department or other appropriate agency.
Webster said she had spoken with Morgan County Health Department Sanitarian Bruce Ullom who told her the department’s only criteria for determining if a private property is uninhabitable is if there is no connection to the sewer or a septic system.
“I believe this is unintended on everybody’s part that this policy may not be as workable as you thought it was,” Webster said. She noted the policy states the board itself does not have the authority to declare a property uninhabitable.
Board member Joyce Altomare said she had personally gone out to the property of Marvin Keener to confirm he had removed a trailer that had been connected to the sewer. She said it wasn’t her job but, “I went because Mr. Keener was losing sleep over it.”
Board member Mike Jenkins said that since the wording of the policy was reviewed by the District’s legal counsel, he thinks the health department may have the ability and authority to declare properties uninhabitable.
The board decided to research the issue before next month’s meeting.
Stream and leaking manholes
Kate Lehman, President of the Warm Springs Watershed Association, gave the board a presentation on the health of the stream and talked briefly about the recent flooding.
She said many of the septic systems near the stream south of the sewage treatment plant were over 30 years old and have either failed or are failing, increasing the amount of fecal coliforms in the stream.
Lehman said grants may be available to help residents repair or replace septic systems.
She also mentioned that some of the sewer system’s manholes located in the stream cause sedimentation contributing to flooding and leak during periods of heavy rain and high water.
Plant Operator Terry Cross said he has seen the pictures of manholes leaking, “But in no case was it ever reported to the plant. The first thing, if someone sees a manhole leaking, is to call us. We can’t do anything about something we don’t know about,” he said.
Cross pointed out they have worked with the schools to repair leaking manholes in the past when reported by school maintenance personnel.
But he warned that under certain conditions, such as the recent flood when sewer line capacities are exceeded, there is no way to prevent manholes from overflowing.
Cross said there is an operator on duty or standby 24 hours a day, seven days a week. After hours the operator may be reached by calling the non-emergency 911 number.
The board approved reimbursing $558 to the First United Methodist Church for the cost of a plumber to clear a sewage backup in the church caused by a suspected problem in the main line.
Jenkins said the board needs to adopt a policy that customers have to call the Public Service District first before calling a plumber to determine the source of a problem in the lines.
The board approved the expenditure of up to $2,000 to replace the indoor unit of the plant’s heating and air conditioning system.
In conjunction with the replacement of the indoor heat pump unit, the board approved the expenditure of up to $4,000 to replace five windows and two doors at the plant to help make the building more energy efficient.
The board approved the installation of a Comcast internet connection at the plant.
The board decided to drop the uniform service for employees and look into the cost of buying, or giving employees an allotment to buy, tee shirts, jackets, jeans and hard toed safety shoes. Jenkins said he would research the cost of the items before the next meeting.
As part of a vehicle safety policy being developed by the safety committee for employees, the board gave Cross approval to include a safety checklist and accident report form in the policy.