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Seeking sewer solutions

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Committee in the works to address home inspections; illicit discharges

By Marty Finley

 

By MARTY FINLEY

mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com

ELIZABETHTOWN— A proposal for a new ordinance concerning illicit discharges pushed the topic of sanitary sewer inspections back to the forefront last week.

Robert Bush, director of Stormwater Management, on Monday presented a draft of an illicit discharge ordinance to the City Council during its work session. The proposal shares similarities with a prior ordinance concerning sanitary sewer inspections, leading the Council to agree on forming a committee to deal with both issues.

The two issues have been intertwined since Scott Fiepke, director of Waste and Wastewater Utility, inspected homes that had sanitary lines connected to sump pumps, normally found in older properties.

Fiepke’s charge is to inspect homes for sewer overflows and stormwater runoff and advise homeowners to direct the stormwater flow out of the sewer and into their yards, he said. However, in certain homes, the discharge on the ground would result in an illicit discharge, Fiepke told the council last week.

An illicit discharge is a discharge on the ground containing non-stormwater material and is in violation of the plumbing code. The state of Kentucky has mandated cities to implement ideas to deal with both sewer overflows and illicit discharges, which led to the advent of the mandatory home inspections in Elizabethtown.

The illicit discharge ordinance proposed by Bush also would allow for inspections when evidence is presented that the home has an illicit discharge that could result in a problem for residents or wildlife near the home or business.

Executive Assistant Charlie Bryant expressed concern about the ordinance, referring to it as “stringent,” but Bush said his department would use tact and implement a mandatory inspection only when they felt like it was absolutely necessary.

The idea of inspecting homes also has led to some disagreement in recent weeks by members of City Council.

Councilman Kenny Lewis, who has been the most vocal opponent of the inspections, recommended the committee. Lewis said Monday that a committee could come up with the ideas and suggestions mandated by the state and likely produce a better alternative to the inspections. Lewis also volunteered to sit on the committee.

He said the decision to inspect homes was chosen by two city officials and the Council was only knowledgeable of one other city in the state that had mandatory inspections. Lewis argued the committee would produce more thorough ideas and suggestions.

He also urged the council to join him in the idea of addressing both ordinances within the committee, in an attempt to find the most effective way to handle both situations.

And suspending the inspections was considered again, but Councilman Ron Thomas said he was not comfortable with a suspension because it would be unfair to homeowners whose homes already had been inspected.

The topic has led to several complaints from homeowners who feel it’s a violation of their rights; Lewis has been in agreement with those homeowners.

“It’s borderline harassment,” he told the council in an earlier meeting, adding that it made the homeowner appear guilty, forcing them to prove their innocence.

While the committee has not been formed, city officials said they would discuss it in more detail in upcoming meetings.

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762.