Sewer problems serious#8217; By Jennipher Dickens 07/26/2008 WINTON – Two months ago, Hertford County officials learned something environmentally disturbing. Health workers helped implement a temporar

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 26, 2008

WINTON – Two months ago, Hertford County officials learned something environmentally disturbing.

Health workers helped implement a temporary solution, but now the Hertford County Commissioners are working to remedy the problem permanently.

Apparently, several homeowners in the Tunis community on the Chowan River had been illegally disposing of sewage for years, which is a biohazard.

The discovery came about when a worker from the Health Department was sent to the area on a routine capacity check after a homeowner applied for a septic system expansion.

In a telephone interview, County Manager Loria Williams told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, &uot;In May, the Hertford County Health Department learned of some very serious violations of environmental law.&uot;

She continued, &uot;We learned at that time that there were approximately 10 residents in Tunis who were straight piping sewage, which meant they didn’t have a septic system whatsoever but were straight piping it into some inappropriate container and hauling it offsite.&uot;

Upon further investigation, it turned out to be four – not 10 – residents who were illegally dumping the waste.

Environmental health personnel also learned that there are existing septic systems which are too close to the water itself, that don’t meet setback requirements for sewer systems.

&uot;This community was developed long before the sewer system regulations came about, so they were grandfathered in… but the too-close systems would lead to contaminating the water out there, so we had to develop a plan to fix it and get them a sewer system,&uot; Williams explained.

When the problem was discovered, the county immediately sent notices of violation to the four homeowners in question, and those people were given 30 days to bring their method of sewage disposal up to compliance with North Carolina law.

&uot;Those four residents have all applied for and have received permits to go on a state-approved ‘pump and haul’ system for short-term use only.

That means they are putting certain types of holding containers into the ground, and then certified pumping technicians go in and remove the waste,&uot; Williams noted.

That solution is only temporary, though, until the county can come up with enough funds to install a sewer system for the entire community.

During Monday night’s meeting of the county commissioners, Slade Hervin of the Wooten Company came before the board to give them his preliminary evaluation of the problem.

&uot;There are several different options, but our recommended alternate is to use a combination sewer system with an estimated cost of $1.8 million,&uot; Hervin stated.

To assist in funding, Wooten is working on what grants might be available.

Monday, the board voted to approve applying for a $500,000 Rural Center grant.

Commissioner John Pierce introduced a motion to pursue the grant application, Dupont Davis offered a second and the measure passed without objection.

Williams later told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald that the county would also be looking into seeking grant money from the Clean Water Trust Fund.