For the past three years, the Camden Wastewater Department has been conducting sewer-line inspections in basements to locate illegal hookups to the town’s sewer lines that can cause an overflow of the wastewater system during major rain events.
But about 200 property owners have not responded to inspection request letters, according to wastewater department superintendent David Bolstridge, meaning town officials must decide when and how to impose a $100 per day fine for the violation, as mandated in the town’s sewer ordinance.
“At this point, we’re still trying to decide what to do,” Bolstridge said. “There is not going to be any fine letters going out in the next week.”
Of the 1,472 properties inspected, about 111 have been found to have drainage hookups that violate the town’s sewer ordinance, Bolstridge said. These violations could be sump pumps or floor drainage systems that are connected to the sewer line rather than the stormwater line or a backyard drainage ditch.
During a major rainstorm, these illegal hookups will pump storm water into the wastewater lines, which can overpower wastewater pumps in the system causing the mixture of raw sewage and stormwater to overflow into the harbor. Bolstridge said this happens about once or twice a year and is a violation of Maine Department of Environmental Protection standards.
The Maine DEP has been in contact with the department regarding the violations and has asked what is going to be done about the recurring problem, Bolstridge told the selectboard at the Sept. 4 meeting.
“The pressure that we have right now is that DEP is looking over our shoulder because we have had violations,” Bolstridge said at the meeting.
The town is trying to remedy the situation by inspecting the basements of every property connected to the wastewater system to detect — and advise on how to correct — illegal hookups. But after three years of mailing letters, the wastewater department has not heard back from 183 property owners.
Town officials sent a certified letter in January to property owners whose basements haven’t been inspected with a 150-day deadline for scheduling an inspection, with a 100-day deadline for remedying an illicit connection. This summer, the town granted a 60-day extension to property owners who haven’t scheduled an inspection, but that extension expires Sept. 12.
A violation of the town’s sewer ordinance results in a $100 per day fine that is tacked onto a property owner’s water bill, as stipulated in the ordinance. Not allowing the town to inspect a sewer line connection on the property constitutes a violation.
The selectboard moved Tuesday to publish names and addresses of property owners who have not responded to the inspection letter, in hopes to get their attention on the steep fines they could face.
Members of the selectboard expressed concern about the impact that imposing a $100 per day fine would have on those who did not comply with the request or were unaware of the letters. They asked that more information about the properties in question be brought to their Sept. 18 meeting before they decide how to move forward with imposing a fine.
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