Repeated blackwater discharge onto the lawn of a house on 13th Street North in Edgartown has forced the board of health to hire a contractor on the taxpayer’s dime to pump out the septic tank of the property, town officials say.
Edgartown reportedly spent about $14,000 pumping out the tank in question, and decided enough was enough and brought the property owner to Dukes County Superior Court. On Dec. 11, Gabriel Grasing came before Superior Court Judge Robert Rufo to face complaints that he had a chronically dysfunctional septic system, in violation of state Title V regulations. The town alleged the failed system was burdening town finances, and due to alleged periodic surface discharge of septage, that it presented a sanitary code violation.
Town counsel Michael Goldsmith told Judge Rufo the situation dated back to 2012, when Edgartown Police allegedly discovered Grasing pumping out his septic tank into the woods with a pair of shop vacs.
“[Y]ou can’t really make this stuff up,” Goldsmith said.
Goldsmith went on to say the board of health told Grasing to desist, and ordered him to pump out his septic tank at that time, and then the case “fell off the radar for a number of years, but then resurfaced, no pun intended, last summer when there were complaints about an overflowing septic system in the yard.”
When health agent Matt Poole investigated the property, he found “ponding and pooling in the yard,” Goldsmith said. Poole later told The Times the town was pumping out the tank at a rate of about once every three weeks, and each time it filled up, the septic tank would discharge onto the yard. Goldsmith told Judge Rufo that Poole had ordered Grasing to execute a septic system upgrade in July.
“That didn’t happen,” Goldsmith added.
Goldsmith said a number of people are living at the house, but the town hasn’t been able to ascertain how many.
Judge Rufo asked Grasing, who represented himself in the proceeding, how many occupants he had. Grasing said eight people, including a minor, lived there.
Goldsmith said the town wants the owner to “start taking steps to get the place vacated” if the owner cannot come into compliance by fixing or upgrading the system. He also said he wants the owner to take responsibility for securing any pump-outs going forward.
Judge Rufo urged Grasing to confer with Goldsmith and find a solution “before I issue an order that you may not appreciate.”
After a recess, Goldsmith said they’d arrived at “progress and a complication” on the matter. Goldsmith said Grasing appeared to be a strong candidate for a grant to upgrade the septic system, however, he disclosed to the town, he filed for bankruptcy. Goldsmith said it was unclear what the bankruptcy implications might be. Nevertheless, he asked for an order that stipulated, among other things, 30 days to comply with board of health orders before action is taken. Judge Rufo said if the request was sent to him in a memorandum, he’d generate such an order.
Poole said Thursday that the town has not had to pump out the system since before Dec. 11. He also said it’s unclear whether the town will recoup the money it spent on previous pump-outs, given the bankruptcy status of the owner. However, Edgartown has recorded a lien against the property. Grasing told The Times he had the tank pumped out on Jan. 2, and expects to upgrade the system.