Lawrence to fine residents who violate sewer ordinance|
Wednesday, August 08, 2012
By Jeff Corcino Staff Writer
The Lawrence Township Board of Supervisors is looking to impose stiff fines on residents who fail to remove storm water from the sanitary sewer system.
At its meeting yesterday, the township supervisors voted to authorize Solicitor James Naddeo to draft an amendment to the township's ordinances that would impose up to $3,000 in fines plus the cost to correct the problem on those who fail to remove downspouts, French drains, sump pumps, etc., from the sanitary sewer system.
Last month, the supervisors asked Naddeo to look into drafting an entire new ordinance. However, Naddeo said this is not needed for the township already has one on the books, but said it lacks an effective enforcement mechanism.
He recommended the township amend the ordinance so to levy fines on violators who fail to correct the problem after a certain period of time, and allows the township to correct the problem itself at the property owner's expense if the problem persists.
The supervisors approved Ed Brown's motion to set the fine at $1,000 if the resident does not correct the problem after 60 days; after another 60 days if the problem still persists the resident is fined another $2,000, and if it continues for another 60 days the township has the authority to go onto the property and correct the problem at the property owner's expense. This way, Brown said, those who fail to address the problem would be facing $3,000 in fines plus the cost to correct the problem.
Chairman Glenn Johnston said the township has no choice in the matter because if it doe not remove the storm water from the sanitary sewer system the township is looking at stiff penalties from the state Department of Environmental Protection, which could include, millions of dollars in fines, a consent order that would give the township no wiggle room on how the storm water problem is addressed and a moratorium on all building permits in the township until it is addressed.
And he said for most residents, the cost of addressing the problem would be minimal and would involve nothing more than removing the downspout, pipe or sump pump and have it discharge out into the yard.
The township along with Clearfield Borough and the Clearfield Municipal Authority are under a mandate from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection to remove storm water from its sanitary sewer system because the excess storm water is overloading the sanitary sewer system forcing the Clearfield Municipal Authority to discharge raw sewage to be discharged into the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.
Because of the large volume of storm water still entering the system, if it is not removed CMA engineers estimated it would cost approximately $30 million to upgrade the interceptor lines to allow them to carry the excess flows to the sewer plant for treatment, according to a previous article in The Progress.
In other business, Ben Timko said he and several neighbors of Novey Recycling located on Martin Street Ext. are issuing a formal complaint against the company alleging numerous violations of the township's ordinances governing recycling centers.
Timko said they are submitting a packet listing the many violations he said are adversely affecting the health and welfare of area residents along with pictures supporting their allegations.
Timko said he doesn't have time to list all the violations verbally at the meeting but said they include improper spacing of junked cars, improper storage of junked cars, having refuse piles exceeding eight feet, encroachment into the setbacks, having steep sloping banks right up to the property lines.
Timko said there are now thousands of junked cars on the Novey property. He and several other neighbors are that downwind from the recycling center receive excessive dust and gasoline odors.
"We are asking the township to protect our property and protect our investment," Timko said.
He said the township has the authority to require the recycling center to erect an eight-foot fence around the property and is asking the supervisors to do this
Mike Boal of Novey Recycling said the company has been in business for 106 years and has always tried to be a good neighbor and is strictly regulated by the state Department of Environmental Protection and has never been penalized for violations.
"I doubt you could find a cleaner scrap yard in the state," Boal said.
He said the company has been taking steps such as placing stone on the property to cut down on the dust and limiting its hours of operation on weekends to not disturb their neighbors.
Before houses were built in the area they used to work Saturday afternoons and on Sunday but said they are now closed during those times.
Boal said erecting an eight-foot fence would be pointless because in many areas the interior topography of the property is much higher than the perimeter, which would make the fence useless.
He said the company is planning to plant fast growing trees along the perimeter of the property, which would be much more effective than a fence because the trees would grow higher than the fence and would create a more effective buffer for neighbors.
As for the steep banks, Boal said the company paid an engineering firm to conduct a study on the property to address many of these problems and said originally, they were looking at having it completed by the end of 2013 but said much of it should be completed by the end of this year.
Township Code Enforcement Officer Agatha Lauder-English said she would look into the resident's complaints and would be able to give an update on the progress of her investigation in a month but said she can't give a prediction on how far along it will be in a month.
There was some confusion on whether the recycling company was "grandfathered" in because it was in place prior to the township's zoning and other ordinances.
Naddeo said a property is only "grandfathered" in that a pre-existing use cannot be "zoned out." If the zoning on the property is changed so that the current use no longer conforms, it becomes a pre-existing non-conforming use and as long as that use doesn't change, a business would be within its rights to grow on the property.
However, he said even if the business were in place prior to the township's ordinances being enacted, it would still have to follow township's ordinances regulating recycling centers.
However, Naddeo said he believes solutions can be found that would be amicable for all parties.
He said he believes the residents' concerns could be addressed without the company having to spend an unreasonable amount of money to do so.