Sunset Park residents file suit over septic woes

Saturday February 2, 2013

BENNINGTON -- Two residents of the Sunset Mobile Home Park are seeking a court order to require their landlord to pump their septic tanks, which they say have not been emptied in years and are backing up into their homes.

However, an attorney for the park owner claims the septic issues are the fault of the tenants.

Park residents Billie Jo Campney and Colin McKeighan filed complaints against their landlord, John Bushee Jr., of Pownal, on Jan. 22 and Jan. 21 respectively in Bennington Superior Court, Civil Division.

In early January, McKeighan told the Banner in an interview that about 10 days prior, his septic tank started to back up, causing raw sewage to appear in his bathtub. He repeats these claims in the court complaint and wrote that Bushee looked at the problem but did not solve it.

According to the filing by Campney, when her toilet began backing up she ran a "snake" through the line. While doing so, Bushee showed up and the septic tank was uncovered. Campney said the tank was full and later began backing up into her bathtub. Campney's filing also included an order from Bennington Deputy Health Officer Kevin Goodhue ordering Bushee to pump her septic tank no later than Nov. 5, 2012. Campney's complaint included a motion for injunctive relief, for which a court hearing is scheduled for March 8.

In interviews Friday, Campney said her issues persist while McKeighan said Bushee seems to have corrected them, however his septic tank is still full and he is not confident there will not be future problems. McKeighan said at one point he contacted a septic pumping company to have the tank emptied.

Bennington Attorney Brian Marthage, who represents Bushee, said his client did look at the septic tanks and in Campney's found cloth rags, and in McKeighan's found plastic bags -- things that should not be in a septic tank.

"In essence, these people caused their own problems and are suing Mr. Bushee to remedy them," he said.

Campney said in an interview she has never flushed anything down the toilet that should not be there, and said when the tank was opened a number of items floated to the top that were not organic. She said she does not believe the tank was emptied when she moved in to the mobile home a number of years ago.

Marthage said the septic problems reported by the two residents are not connected to the park's drinking water situation. Currently there are warnings from the town and state in effect urging people not to drink the park's water, however it is it suitable for bathing.

The no drinking order was issued in November along with a no bathing order, because of high chlorine levels in the water. The water troubles date back to last year, and also in November the town sought court action to force Bushee to comply with an April 2012 agreement to repair and upgrade the water supply system. Goodhue said earlier in January that the town and Bushee reached an agreement and Bushee sent a plan to the Department of Environmental Conservation Drinking Water and Groundwater Protection Division (DEC), however the state sent a letter back with concerns over some of its technical aspects.

Bennington Building Inspector and Facilities Manager Larry McLeod said according to an email exchanged between Bushee, town officials, and the state, the water system underwent a pressure test recently, showing there no problems, and a formal response to the DEC's questions is being drafted.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at Follow him on Twitter @kwhitcombjr


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