A Vineyard Haven septic hauler was fined $500 and hit with a 15-day permit suspension after evidence was presented to the Edgartown board of health that the company pumped waste back into a residential septic tank following a bill dispute.
Troy and Trevor Maciel of Maciel and Sons were called before the board late Wednesday afternoon. Health agent Matt Poole told board members he felt it was uncontested that the pump-back act occurred, and it would be up to the board as to what the consequences would be. Poole said the act was a violation of state law. “This is something that cannot happen again in Edgartown,” he said.
As The Times previously reported on April 6, Edgartown Police Officer Zachary Townes responded to a report of suspicious activity on Mill Hill Road. According to the police report, Townes encountered a Maciel and Sons septic truck with a hose extended into an open septic tank at 18 Mill Hill Road.
Officer Townes called the owners of the property, Karen L. Bruno and Dr. Nicholas Bruno, and Karen allegedly said she and her husband were having “issues” with Maciel and Sons, and didn’t want them on their property. When the officer spoke to Trevor Maciel, he allegedly told Townes about the disagreement.
“Maciel stated that he had returned to [the property] to pump sewage back into the Brunos’ septic tanks,” a report states. “I ordered Maciel to stop pumping, and explained that if he felt he was owed money, he could pursue that in civil court. Maciel stopped pumping and stated that he understood.”
Poole told the board his office became aware of septic matters when the Brunos reached out for the septic records of their property, and for help in understanding aspects of the invoice they received from Maciel and Sons for pump-out and other septic work.
Poole said on April 6, a call came in that “that Maciel and Sons had returned to the property and [were] about to empty the contents of their septage truck back into the onsite septic system.”
Poole said he “promptly” called Troy Maciel and left a voicemail “informing him I knew of his intent to empty septage back into the system.”
Maciel “very promptly” called Poole back, and Poole said during their conversation he told Maciel several times not to pump septage back into the Brunos’ system. Poole informed him such an act would put his town-issued hauler’s permit “in jeopardy.”
Poole said both he and Maciel were “pretty animated” during their conversation. Ultimately, Poole said, Maciel informed him the deed “was done.”
Troy and Trevor Maciel told the board at various points in the meeting their company did a lot of work for the Brunos on short notice, including clearing a soil pipe blockage that could have backed up into their cellar. In addition to pump work, their company cleaned and treated parts of the system. They said the system was brimming — above its pipes, and in dire need of a pump-out.
Karen Bruno said the mysteriousness of the bill was a problem from the get-go. “We really weren’t able to get an explanation of the work that was done, why it was done, what Trevor found,” she told the board. “Literally until this meeting now, we have had zero communication with Trevor or Troy.”
Dr. Nicholas Bruno told the board that to his understanding, a “paper clog” doesn’t necessarily translate into all the other work Maciel and Sons did. He characterized depositing waste back into the system as vandalism. And because it had been established that Maciel and Sons had disposed of the waste they originally pumped out, where, he asked, did the waste they pumped back into the system come from?
The Times posed the same question during the meeting.
Poole described what was put back into the Brunos’ system as “Martha’s Vineyard–originated septage.” He went on to say he felt it was “highly, highly, highly” unlikely septage was trucked onto the Vineyard, and that there was no evidence it was restaurant waste, “the highest-strength waste we have here,” but rather, residential waste.
Edgartown Police Chief Bruce Macnamee told the board his department forwarded the police report to the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office, and it was determined that whatever the violations were, they weren’t criminal.
Troy Maciel criticized board of health assistant Janet Hathaway for what he alleged was behavior that fomented dissension over the invoice.
“It’s inappropriate and it’s wrong to put septage back into a septic system,” health board member Dr. Garret Orazem said. “We have to try to make it clear that was the wrong thing to do, and that no one else should ever consider doing that in the town of Edgartown again.”
The board ultimately took a unanimous vote to order a 15-day suspension of Maciel and Sons’ septic permit in Edgartown, and fine the company $500. The suspension excluded the company’s porta-potty business, which was deemed essential for job sites.
Poole said Maciel and Sons would be given notice of the board’s decision, and the company can request a formal hearing with the board, if it wishes, to contest the decision.