Rogers, his neighbors and former residents have contacted the Environmental Protection Agency, lawyers and the health department, but after battling streams of sewage for years, many give up or move away.
Beverly Hollins said she and her three children were evicted when she withheld one month's rent after sewage swamped her back yard for six months. She said a warning light that signaled the tank was full was not operational. Complaints to the health department were brushed aside, said Hollins.
They "told me point blank, if I didn't like where I was living I could move," she said.
Miller defends health department
Public health administrator Diane Miller defended her department. A non-compliance complaint against landowner Bill Blankenship has been filed with the county attorney's office, she said, though Miller declined to comment on why sewage permits were continually issued after years of non-compliance at the site. She also declined to comment as to why it took more than four years for the complaint to be filed.
She said that Jack Metcalf, who issued the permits, has been working with Blankenship to improve the situation. The sewage system has been "a work in progress," Miller said.
Metcalf couldn't comment on details of a specific site, but said his department followed protocol.
"In general, if we get a complaint we send them a letter," said Metcalf. But if the problems are not corrected, "then we turn it over to the county attorney's office." That was done in the River Crest case, he confirmed.
County Attorney John Hackley said the complaint "would have been filed in district court," as a misdemeanor. After which, a summons would likely be issued.
This is not a rare occurrence, said Hackley. Metcalf files "perhaps a half dozen a month for non-compliance with an order from their office."
Residents wonder why it took so long
Residents still living with a sewage dump in their back yards wonder why it took so long.
Ken Portwood took his complaints to the Lincoln County/Cedar Creek Planning Commission, but commissioners said there was nothing they could do in the matter. Blankenship poured footers for the mobile homes before planning and zoning laws were passed; therefore, the sites and their future systems, including sewage, were grandfathered in and are legal.
Portwood's complaints to the health department have also gone unanswered, and he has since contacted the attorney general's office in hopes of bringing suit against Metcalf or the health department.
"I can't imagine why it is so important to Mr. Metcalf and why he has so much time to consult with Mr. Blankenship on what he can do to help Mr. Blankenship with all these issues, but doesn't have time to discuss with any of the residents that did put in appropriate systems why these new units were going in when the units with expired permits were not being addressed," Portwood wrote to commissioners.
When Ralph Gaffney first noticed sewage running behind his neighbor's home, "we got no help from the health department ... She said it all checked out OK, the ground perks good ... And it was nothing by clay. It won't absorb water."
He quit complaining after three years and eventually moved.