Two Bend women have appealed a fine of more than $105,000 levied by the state Department of Environmental Quality over a failing septic system at the RV park and marine they own on the Oregon coast that has spilled sewage onto the ground, the agency said Thursday.
The DEQ said it issued a $105,476 penalty to Kathy Louise Trudel and Karin Marie Denman of Bend for improperly discharging sewage on the property they own along the Alsea Highway in Waldport.
State officials say sewage from the resort's old septic system had been seeping onto the surface of the ground and possibly into the Alsea River.
Lincoln County septic inspectors visited the property on several occasions since December and observed sewage surfacing from a portion of the existing sewage disposal system at the Drift Creek Landing RV Park and Marina, the agency said.
According to an Associated Press story, DEQ septic specialist Gary Artman says sewage at the RV park and marina flows into an old network of septic tanks and drainfields. Artman tells the Register-Guard (http://is.gd/U63v8h ) that in at least one drainfield, sewage been rising to ground level and might have washed into the river.
Inspectors informed Trudel and Denman that they needed to address the problem immediately by applying lime to the area contaminated with sewage and posting warnings. But the DEQ officials said the pair did not take action until February.
Also, they said, despite being informed by county inspectors of the need to obtain a permit to perform repairs to the septic system, Trudel and Denman initiated repairs without doing so.
Artman says the owners have temporarily stopped the seepage by pumping the tanks several times a week.
The improper disposal of untreated or partially treated sewage is a public health hazard, the DEQ said. Humans and wildlife are at risk of exposure to harmful pathogens, either through direct contact or through contact with other wildlife, pets or insects that have come into contact with the sewage. Sewage is a significant pollutant that can harm aquatic life, contaminate drinking water and impair the recreational and commercial uses of water.
Trudel and Denman, jointly and separately fined in the matter, had until June 24 to appeal the penalty, but already have done so, said Susan Elworth, an environmental law specialist with the DEQ in Portland.
Kenneth Dobson represents the park owners. He says they bought the park last fall from sellers who said the septic system was fine. He says the new owners are working to fix the problems.
The next step, Elworth said, is to "sit down and have a discussion, find out a little bit more about what they have done to alleviate the problem."
An appeal hearing would happen only if that cannot resolve the issue to the DEQ's satisfaction, Elworth said. Few cases go the hearing stage without resolution, she added.
Elworth said the fine is based on a formula that is largely factoring the "economic benefit" of not replacing the system, based on what a replacement would likely cost.