Government vs. Residents In Sewer Battle

About a year ago, Chris Salisbury gave up on the county sewer system. He unhooked the connection and went back to using a septic tank. That move landed him in jail for two days after the State Health Department took him to court... because everyone is supposed to hooked up the county sewer.

Salisbury said, "No sense in spending all of that money, millions of dollars and put this junk in here that you have to constantly maintain and it's not working properly if floods sewer in our yards in our waterways it's depleting our quality of life."

The citizens group Voice of the People asked the DEQ to investigate. The DEQ found some simple maintenance problems, like broken, unbolted or unsealed tanks, which allow flood water to seap into the system. And the DEQ found a bigger problem, standing raw sewage around two of the County's lift stations.

Eddie Renz, Director of the Water & Sewer District, said, "We just recently made a pass through all of our grinder systems and installed new bolts and new gaskets on them so we know all the grinders out there were just recently done. We have had reports from some of our customers that there's a white truck in the area going around and vandalizing some of these things and fullying with them so the only theing I can suspect is some kind of vandalism or sabatoge to our system."

Voice of the People contend the grinder pump system will never work right, because of the heavy concentration of ground water just below the surface. The grinder system went in 13 years ago after the EPA ordered Hancock County to comply with the federal Clean Water Act.

Resident Roberta LaFontaine said, "The sewer system that we were forced on us since 1992 has backed up into my house 8 times."

Renz said they've tried to help, but blames LaFontaine's back ups on grease.

"You're not suppose to flush grease down your toilet or run it down your drain it can handle a minimum amount of grease but when you're pouring grease straight out your frying pan down you're drain no system is designed to handle that," Renz said.

"I'm afraid not because I don't even fry anything, I broil. But I wash my clothes with detergent, I take a bath with soap and all that's made of animal fat," said LaFontaine.

The citizens' group claims the trouble goes back to when the grinder sewer system was installed. They'd like the entire system out of the ground... and a different one installed. Renz says the DEQ recommended this system and replacing it would cost millions. But citizens like Chris Salisbury don't want their concerns tossed aside, so they'll keep fighting.