SIDNEY – After nearly a year of futile negotiations and non-compliance, the Sidney-Shelby County Board of Health has filed a civil lawsuit against four Amish families near Maplewood. The board is seeking the land owners bring the properties into compliance with state health guidelines or have the buildings condemned and vacated.
The ongoing dispute centers on the lack of action by the property owners to remedy their sewage handling system to prevent potential health problems for themselves and adjacent properties.
On Tuesday, the suit was filed in Shelby County Common Pleas Court by Prosecutor Tim Sell as legal counsel for the health board. Assistant County Prosecutor Eric Ambos was listed as co-counsel.
According to online court records, named as defendants are Joseph A. and Mattie E. Schwartz, 21720 State Route 47, Daniel J. and Mary D. Schwartz, 21450 State Route 47, Henry A. and Sarah E. Schwartz, 21690 State Route 47, and, Jacob R. Schwartz, 21500 State Route 47, all of Maplewood.
Sell is asking the court to declare the properties as a nuisance; to bar the families from occupying the properties, comply with the condemnation order, and order the razing of all privies on the properties; award civil penalties; and, having the defendants pay all court costs.
Despite variances granted by the board for some items, the gray water system installation has resulted in legal action, according to authorities.
Complaints filed late 2017
Documents indicate that in late 2017, the health board received a complaint through the Salem Township Board of Trustees regarding “the disposal of human waste and improper plumbing in the dwelling on the property.” It included new structures and existing building converted into living quarters, all without approval of the health department, township trustees and the Shelby County Building Department.
In December 2017, health inspectors found failures for not having a proper residential sewage system installed, for having no gray water recycling system, and, improperly installed or altered plumbing due to no permits.
According to the Ohio Department of Health through Administrative Code: Chapter 3701-29, it states, “Gray water discharged to all gray water systems shall only consist of domestic type flows having the consistency and strength typical of gray water from domestic households.
It continues, “The source of gray water may include water from bathing, showering, washing clothes or laundry sinks. Gray water shall not contain water used to wash diapers, or other materials soiled with human excreta or infectious materials, or wastewater that has been in contact with toilet waste, toxic substances, cleaning chemicals other than soap, water softener backwash or any other hazardous household products”.
The administrative code can be found online at www.codes.ohio.gov.
On Feb. 15, Joseph Schwartz met with health officials and was informed of the violations. Discussion of permits, variances, and other remedies was held. No action was taken by the Schwartz family, according to court records.
In a letter dated April 5 of this year, Ambos wrote a letter to the family giving them formal notice to correct the problems. On May 11, Joseph Schwartz requested a variance for the properties.
On June 20, the health board granted variances regarding the lack of electricity and plumbing but ordered the gray water system tank and privy vault must have a concrete constructed top. The families installed a gray water system with a wooden top.
In a June 22 letter, Registered Sanitarian Michael McClain reviewed the ongoing violations and issued a 90-day order to vacate the buildings or obtain full compliance. The families had 45 days to obtain permits with construction being done during the following 45 days.
On Aug. 7, claiming the lack of action by the defendants, the health department declared the properties condemned and placed public placards indicating that decision.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.