The state of Oregon has levied a $105,000 fine against a popular RV and fishing resort on the Alsea River, saying sewage from the resort’s decrepit septic system had been seeping onto the surface of the ground and possibly into the river, The Register-Guard, Eugene, reported.
With its moorage, launch and other boat facilities, the 50-spot Drift Creek Landing RV Park & Marina four miles east of Waldport on Highway 34 is a destination for fishermen in the fall.
The park is occupied by a mix of permanent residents living in manufactured homes and visitors in recreational vehicles, said Gary Artman, a septic specialist with the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
The park’s sewage goes into an old network of septic tanks and drainfields, Artman said. Environmental officials have documented that in at least one of the drainfields, effluent had been rising to the ground surface and might have been washed into the river, Artman said Thursday (June 28).
“If it rains, there is potential for sewage water moving into the river,” Artman said.
Officials were also worried about park residents coming in contact with septic waste on the ground. The state in its May 23 fine notification letter said officials on Dec. 19, 2011, and on Jan. 6 told the park to block off the contaminated area to protect park residents.
But the park owners didn’t do that until March, the state said. That “constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care a reasonable person would do in the same situtation,” the state asserted.
The owners have now temporarily stopped the seepage onto the ground by having the septic tanks pumped out several times a week and the waste hauled away, Artman said.
Kenneth Dobson, a Portland attorney representing the owners, acknowledged that the septic system is deficient, but he said the owners are resolved to replace it.
“Yes, the system in in poor shape,” Dobson said. “My clients got stuck with a park with a bad septic system. They were duped into purchasing it.”
Kathy Trudel and Karin Denman, both of Bend, bought the park in October for $1.2 million, Dobson said.
Prior to the sale, the sellers, who had owned the park for about 10 years, had asserted that the septic system was in good working order, Dobson said.
But it quickly became clear that’s not the case, and the new owners recently won $250,000 from the sellers in an arbitration proceeding, Dobson said.
Trudel and Denman purchased the park from the sellers on a contract, with the buyers scheduled to make a series of payments to the sellers over time, he said. The arbitration award will reduce the amount the buyers owe the sellers, he said.
In the meantime, “we’re working with the (DEQ) to correct the problems,” he said.
In announcing the fine on Thursday, the DEQ said the owners had dragged their feet.
Lincoln County staff visited the property 12 times between Dec. 19 and April 5, finding sewage being discharged from the septic system onto the surface of the ground, the state said. Also, on Dec. 30, county employees found RV park workers replacing portions of existing drainfield pipes, the state said. The county told the park owners to apply for a permit for that work, but they failed to do so, the state said.
The state based the fine amount on how much the owners saved by breaking the law, including failing to pump out the septic tanks three times a week for a period of months, and failing to install a new onsite sewage disposal system. The state figures that a new system would cost $120,000 to design and install.
The owners are contesting the fine.
“It’s a heavy penalty, for sure,” Dobson said. He said he’s hoping the state will reduce it because the owners are showing a “good-faith effort.”