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Is Robinson Hillside property a cesspool?



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September 18, 2012 | 04:42 PM
LINN — Earlier this year, it was reported that a septic system in Robinson Hillside subdivision could be leaking contaminated water into a creek that runs into Geneva Lake.

Recently, a Walworth County official investigated the complaint. Last week, the official left a message for Ted Peters, president of the Linn Sanitary District Board and executive director of the Geneva Lake Environmental Agency.

Apparently, the county found no code violations on the property.

However, Peters said he's not convinced that the property isn't impacting the environment negatively.

"I still think that there's a failing system out there," he said on the phone Monday. "And if it's a cesspool, that's illegal. (A cesspool) whether it's failing or not, if it's discharging into the groundwater, it's a failure to meet the codes."

A cesspool is little more than a hole in the ground in which to store urine and feces.

Peters said one of the neighbors called the allegedly failing system on this property a cesspool.

The property in question contains three residential structures at the corner of Poplar and Elm streets. Peters said he will not identify the property owner yet because he plans to contact him soon to address the matter through the Linn Sanitary District.

"Something is happening there that's not right," he said.

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Peters said he saw what he called "ponding" — a pool of water — near one of these systems earlier this summer. Peters said since the county investigation began, a "kiddie pool" has been placed over the system where he noticed the ponding.

The system is located near a ditch which Peters described as being at the "head waters" of the creek which runs into the lake.

The property is about a quarter-mile away from the lake, and earlier this year, Peters received a call from a neighbor who reported that he could smell the leak.

Peters said Rick Dorgay, code enforcement officer for the county sanitation division, left him a voice mail message last week to say he saw no ponding. Dorgay could not be reached for comment by press time.

"He did state that the system that serves the two houses had a (plugged) line, that it backed up and did have some wet areas in the lawn," Peters stated in an e-mail Friday. "They have since cleaned it out and the line is now open."

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He said he believes the county will not further pursue the matter, but it appears it's not over yet.

"They may have resolved the line problem, but the other one — being a cesspool — still needs to be addressed," Peters said.

Through the cracks

To date, Peters has not yet contacted the property owner. That may seem odd, considering he heads the sanitary district and the environmental agency.

"I guess it's probably a shortcoming on my part," he said. "Actually, this is a county enforcement issue, and the (owner) could very well tell me to get off his property if I were to go and investigate."

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But Peters has done some research of his own, it appears.

Several years ago, the sanitary district conducted inspections. Peters said the district inspected about 1,300 systems in Linn.

"I'd like to believe a lot of people, through our educational effort, now understand that it's not just a hole in the ground," he said about septic systems.

Between 150 and 160 of them were deemed as having some sort of operational problems, Peters said.

"Through that program, about half of these people fixed their systems by themselves," he said.

The remaining 80 or so property owners have not, Peters said, and the district will be contacting them soon through a mailing.

How does the property at Elm and Poplar fit in?

Peters said it was never inspected.

"I guess when you inspect 1,300 systems, you're bound to overlook one or two of them," he said.

The property itself contains two septic systems, according to Peters. One of them serves two houses, which itself a concern.

That may have been the one which fell through the cracks. The other system on the property is in the county's three-year maintenance program, Peters said.

"I think we could have been a lot more forceful about this if we had done that inspection, but we did not," he said.

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