Untreated Sewage Liner at Delaware Mobile Home Park | Delaware News
By SHANNON MARVEL MCNAUGHT, Delaware News Journal
LEWES, Del. (AP) – The smell is the least of their worries.
Residents of Donovan Smith Mobile Home Park in Lewes say untreated sewage flushing over an old septic tank in the center of the park is affecting the environment, their safety and their quality of life.
“This place started out as caravans and weekends. They didn’t need a large septic tank, ”said resident Samuel Saunders. “Now people are living here full time and these tanks won’t take it. It’s bubbling and it’s bad.
Park owner Donovan-Smith MHP LLC received a notice of violation from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control on July 8 for unauthorized discharge to groundwater. According to the notice, the park never renewed its septic installation permit after it expired in 2008 and has been operating without one since.
The department continued to inspect the system every year despite being unlicensed, the advisory said. The DNREC refused to provide the inspection records, citing an “ongoing investigation”.
Kenneth Burnham is listed in New York State records as the CEO of KDM Development, also known as KDM Acquisitions, the company that manages the park. Burnham, who is also listed as a contact for Donovan-Smith MHP in DNREC documents, did not respond to calls or emails. Neither did his lawyer, John Paradee of Baird Mandalas Brockstedt.
Park manager Clara McNichols, when reached by phone, declined to comment.
EXPOSURE POSES A “SIGNIFICANT” RISK TO HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT
DNREC inspectors have noted “compliance issues” on several occasions in recent years at Donovan Smith, according to the advisory.
“More recently, on January 15, 2021, the ministry’s senior environmental compliance specialist inspected the park (septic tank). The inspector observed flashing warning lights and untreated sewage surfacing above the metered dose bed under pressure, ”the advisory said.
The site was inspected monthly thereafter, until at least April, each time documenting the coating of untreated sewage.
The DNREC also noted complaints from several residents about “sewage liner and other issues” with separate community septic systems that serve other areas of the mobile home park.
“Public exposure to untreated sewage is a significant danger to public health and a risk to the environment,” states the notice of violation.
Darrin Gordon, general manager of the Lewes Public Works Council, said funds to connect Donovan Smith to the Lewes sewer system have been available for about a year now.
“Lewes State, County and Public Works Council and Town have worked very hard to try to make this happen.” Gordon said. “The real problem was the owner of the trailer park. “
HOW THE WASTEWATER PROBLEM AFFECTS RESIDENTS
Ebenezer Branch, a creek that flows from Roosevelt Inlet and Delaware Bay, is near Donovan Smith Mobile Home Park. The creek is a few meters from several houses of Donovan Smith, including that of Samuel Saunders.
He pointed to the site of what he identified as the surface of untreated sewage.
“When it rains,” he said, moving his arm to point towards the stream, “everything flows here.”
Lillianna Berkey, 16, lives in the park and babysits a child who lives in one of the houses closest to surface sewage.
“She doesn’t listen well and she gets too close,” Berkey said of the child. “And it’s only getting bigger. “
Rem Miller has lived in the park for over 30 years and managed it. He has a sinkhole about 3 feet in diameter in his yard, above what he said is a septic tank. He covers it with a piece of wood.
Miller said he was working for the park when the now leaking septic system was installed.
“It worked perfectly until they cut a few trees and put a Bobcat on it and kicked it in,” he said. “Then they pulled a truck along the edge of it on the other side, which caused another leak. And that was a few years ago – it’s been leaking for a year or more.
Several park residents, like Joyce Horney, have said they don’t drink water from their taps. It comes from wells and they fear it may have been contaminated with sewage, although the DNREC has said the water meets state standards.
Horney moved to the park earlier this year and said she was never told about the septic issues.
Her septic tank, she said, is in her backyard and is shared with at least one other home. It’s pumped once or twice a week, according to Horney, and she waits until then to shower or do the laundry for fear of being turned back into her house.
The notice of violation does not levy any fines and allows Donovan Smith to come up with his own schedule for the septic tank repair.
It obliges park owners to:
– Install a temporary fence designed to keep children and pets away from all areas where sewage is covered and post no-sign signs.
– Pump the septic tanks within five days of the notification and continue pumping at least every three days thereafter until the problem is resolved.
– Within 30 days, submit a plan to DNREC detailing the shutdown and proper disposal of the current septic systems in the park and for the connection of the park to the Lewes sewer system.
Donovan Smith is listed as one of more than 30 KDM Development properties in nine states on the company’s website, including seven other manufactured home communities on Delmarva.
In Delaware, this includes Briarwood and Scottsdale in Laurel, Mobile Gardens and Hollyview in Seaford and Homestead in Georgetown. In Maryland, KDM owns Lake Haven in Berlin and Stoney Chase and Rock Creek in Elkton.
Gordon said the Lewes Public Works Council has been working with Donovan Smith Park for several years.
“The current block is that the owner will not provide us with easements inside the park,” he said. “We have a $ 5 million loan that we’re ready to go with and the state has a $ 5 million grant to go with it. He says it’s a problem with his lenders.
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