Sewage dispute continues in Stafford
Raw sewage has been flowing for months from a broken pipe that serves Aquia Pines Camp Resort, as a dispute drags on between the owners of the campground and an adjacent parcel.
On June 25, Stafford County issued both property owners notices of violation of sections of the county code. The county gave both owners until July 8 to remedy the situation or they could face a Class 1 misdemeanor.
(Video submitted by Ryan Sullivan)
The owner of the property next to the campground, Anil Patel with Stafford Hospitality LLC, has made a temporary fix because he and Everett Lovell, the owner of Aquia Pines Camp Resort, can’t come to an agreement on a permanent solution.
Stafford Hospitality LLC is building a four-story, 60,500-square-foot Homes2Suites by Hilton next to the camp resort.
Patel had workers install a lined pit on the hotel’s construction site to capture the sewage, which will be pumped from the pit and sent to a wastewater treatment plant.
Stafford Public Works Director Mike Smith said Patel won’t face the class 1 misdemeanor because he took those actions.
Smith said on Thursday that the county still hasn’t heard from Lovell, who was also issued a notice of violation last week. The notice directs Lovell to repair his broken sewage pipe himself or make arrangements with the adjacent property owner to repair the pipe.
Lovell declined to talk about the notice of violation because he said it was a legal matter.
On Thursday, the broken pipe was still leaking raw sewage, which seeps through a retaining wall, flows partway down a slope and into the pit. About a third of the lined pit had filled with sewage in about a week’s time.
“I wouldn’t call this contained,” Ryan Sullivan with SKS Construction Inc. said of the lined pit. Sullivan is the site superintendent for the construction site.
“I think a lot of this stuff is going into the ground,” Sullivan said of the sewage. “Nothing has been done and it is really frustrating. I think there has been a failure long term on the response on this.”
Sullivan said he has found dead frogs along the site and wondered whether a kitten that died last week was stricken after drinking the flow.
According to Sullivan, the sewage had been flowing from the pipe without being contained since the pipe broke late last year. He added that he has notified the county several times.
But Smith said that as far as the county knew, the sewage was being contained properly until a recent inspection about two weeks ago revealed otherwise, prompting the county to issue the notices.
There is no evidence of the sewage going into state waters, Smith said. He added that when sewage seeps into the ground in the small volume that it has, it has little to no effect because the bacteria would decompose in the ground.
“We still don’t want any sewage on the ground,” Smith said.
The Virginia Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Quality have been notified.
The sewer pipe fractured after a slope along the camp resort’s property fell off late last year, leaving the broken pipe exposed and leaking.
Lovell, Sullivan and county staff all disagree over the cause of the slope’s failure. Lovell blames the construction next to his property, while the county says that it was a combination of rain with the construction crews digging to create a retaining wall.
“If you followed construction standards, that should not have happened under any circumstance,” Lovell said.
Sullivan questions whether the slope, which contained the private sewer line, was built properly.
Regardless of the cause for the slope’s failure, the county tasked the two property owners late last year with coming to an agreement to rebuild the slope and repair the pipe.
That directive came from a notice of violation related to the erosion and sediment control code that the county issued Patel after a December 31 inspection.
That agreement has yet to come.
Lovell said he doesn’t trust Patel enough to allow his crews to come onto camp resort property to repair the pipe or rebuild the slope.
Lovell also said that the other property owner has offered to pay him for any out-of-pocket expenses for the pipe, but the two haven’t cemented the agreement. Lovell has been offered $15,000, but says that the repair and labor are worth $36,000.
“Mr. Patel has made every effort to get it taken care of,” Sullivan said.
Patel didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.
“Until Mr. Lovell lets Mr. Patel onto his property, Mr. Patel has to keep the sewage contained and properly dispose of it,” Smith said.
Lovell said he has discouraged campers from using the part of the campground served by the sewage pipe in an effort to reduce the amount of sewage leaking.
“I am losing revenue because of this. I am putting customers where I don’t want to,” Lovell said.
Lovell said he wants to see construction crews put up shoring on their property, so that Lovell could pack dirt against that shoring and rebuild the slope himself.
But Sullivan says that the shoring and dirt packing would need to happen at exactly the same time in order to stabilize the shoring. And before that could even happen, the sewer pipe must be repaired.
“The cooperation is just not there,” Sullivan said.
Vanessa Remmers: 540/735-1975