In Your Corner: New Haven Pollution Leads To Vacate Orders

By Ryan Elijah

December 24, 2010 Updated Dec 24, 2010 at 9:05 AM EDT

In August, the Allen County Department of Health received a number of complaints about raw sewage in the Maumee River. The problem was traced to about a dozen homes on US 24 in New Haven.

After conducting dye tests on each home, it was determined that several of them had failing septic systems that were contributing to polluting the river with waste. Following letters to correct in November, a few residents received letters last week telling them they had 10 days to fix or vacate the property, in one case, two days after Christmas.
"it was a shock to all of us, none of us had any idea that anything like this would happen", said Shelly Brooks.

Shelly Brooks is a single mom and says the expense of several hundred dollars to cap and seal her system and the additional cost of pumping it each month is something she can't afford.
She contacted John Crawford, Mayor Terry McDonald and us looking for help. Allen County's Department of health says a few homes have already fixed the problem. Wednesday, we got word that they have decided not to enforce the Dec. 27th vacate date for the Brooks property, but they say the pollution problem is a threat to the overall community and must be fixed.

"our concern is always that we're protecting the community. We don't want disease transmissions, that's what occurs here and that's what the potential is", said Mindy Waldron, Deputy Administrator for the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health.

Since there's no future plans to add these homes onto the New Haven sewer system, the Health department has looked into grants and other possible ways to help the homeowners bring their septic systems into compliance.

They also would like to see changes to the way home inspections are done concerning septic systems. Currently a homeowner only has to check that they have a septic system. Two years ago when Shelly Brooks bought the property she had no idea this would even be an issue.
For now, she's grateful the county has given them more time to find a workable solution.

"we're not out here saying that we don't want to fix the problem, we're saying that you're making this unreasonable for us", said Brooks.

Mindy Waldron said, "our goal is to protect the community, but we also understand the financial difficulties for some residents"

The Board of Health is hoping in early January they'll have a plan in place that protects both the environment and the homeowners. While the Health Department has never had to go through the Allen County court system to vacate a property, they do have the authority to do so, if needed.

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