SIDNEY – Just days before a courtroom showdown in a case involving health department violations by members of the local Amish community was settled. The families have 60 days to make the improvements stated in the settlement.
Four Amish families living near Maplewood have agreed to comply with health department orders to pretreat human waste before applying it to their fields within two months; and, will also modify their gray water recycling systems and use the services of waste treatment specialist to remain compliant within 30 days. Other concessions were given regarding installation of battery-powered smoke detectors, securing the drainage of their privies, and applying for a recycling system license annually.
The pact also calls for lime to be added to the privy waste in order to attain the proper pH balance level. They were ordered to make improvements to wood stove heating systems, install other home safety items such as handrails along stairways, and maintain service records for five years.
In return, the case filed by the Sidney-Shelby County Health Department, was withdrawn giving families permission to reopen their sawmill.
The agreement was reached informally during the county health board meeting on March 20; however, the court schedule showed authorities had cleared the docket anticipating a two-day legal battle. The agreement was filed in Shelby County Common Pleas Court just minutes after the trial was to begin on March 26.
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, named as defendants.
On Oct. 23, the Sidney-Shelby County Board of Health filed a civil lawsuit seeking the land owners bring the properties into compliance with state health guidelines or have the buildings condemned and vacated.
The ongoing dispute centered 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. The dispute had gone on for more than a year rooted in the struggle to maintain Amish lifestyle.
Authorities were asking the court to declare the properties a nuisance; to bar the families from occupying the properties, comply with the condemnation order, order the razing of all privies on the properties, award civil penalties, and, order the defendants to pay all court costs.
In countersuits filed by the Schwartz family, they were not seeking any financial awards, but are asking to be allowed to live as their religion calls for, a system as they wish to build.
Gray water system
Despite variances granted by the health board for some items, the gray water system installation resulted in the legal action, according to authorities.
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.
In his ruling, Judge James Stevenson ordered all litigants pay their own legal costs.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.