Failing sewage system to fill supervisors’ agenda |

Failing sewage system to fill supervisors’ agenda

Susan Wood

A former resident’s long crusade against an Alpine County trailer park owner over his failing septic system may come to a head next week.

The Alpine County Board of Supervisors may decide Tuesday during its monthly meeting whether to recommend Sierra Pines Trailer Park owner Robert Dykes for state funds from a Community Development Block Grant to replace his ailing system, which overflows on the grounds outside Woodfords.

Dykes may receive an allocation from the $500,000 the county may compete for.

“As far as the Dykes situation is concerned, we’d like to be able to help him if we can,” Alpine County Supervisor Herman Zellmer said, adding the county has looked into the matter for a long time. “We really need to redo the thing there.”

The prospect of a taxpayer handout to her former landlord has angered Judy Jenson, who has spent more than five years writing letters, sending videotapes, making calls and filing complaints to local, state and national agencies about the septic system.

“I have a serious problem with my tax dollars going to this cause,” she said in a letter addressed to the board. “The idea of allowing the 30-year owner of a property to have no responsibility for what he allowed to happen appalls me.”

Rather, Jenson believes Dykes should be responsible for repairing or replacing his own septic system, which overflowed on occasion next to the trailer she lived in from 1997 to 2000.

Since she’s moved away, Jenson said her stomach problems have disappeared and her children, ages 5 and 10, don’t get sick as often.

“I’m concerned about the health risks for everybody there,” she said, citing several trailers which have children living in them.

Jenson has appealed to several agencies to do something about the sludge coming out of the tanks, among other complaints she’s lodged against the low-income housing.

“I can’t prove it, but if I find giardia (in the water), I’m going to go for it,” she said, referring to increasing the intensity of her crusade.

It may take more intervention and cooperation from agencies though.

Bud Emerson from the Lahontan region of the California Water Quality Control Board denied her request last month for additional water testing beyond those the South Tahoe Public Utility District conducts every month. Their results are not public record.

“Right now, the tests are not going to show anything. There are microbes in the soil already,” Emerson said, after the private meeting with Jenson and Dykes to find some common ground.

When there is a spill on the trailer park grounds, Lahontan ordered Dykes to resolve the problem by pouring a chlorinated solution over the spill. He is also supposed to have an action plan available to residents, so they know what to expect in the event of a spill, Alpine County Health Inspector Jim Goodlow added.

“It’s an issue for us that he replace his system. But it’s not an overnight fix. He needs to have an engineer evaluate the site,” Emerson said.

Replacing the 35-year-old system is precisely what Dykes would like to do, but he can’t afford it, he said, while surveying his Section 8 property.

In the meantime, Dykes attaches a hose to the sewage line to divert the overflow wastewater to a spot away from the trailers.

“I was getting it away from the trailers,” he said. “Every time the toilet backed up, (Jenson) called the health department.”

But Jenson contends where he places the end of the hose is where children play.

“I have kids of my own,” he countered. “I have tenants who have been here for 20 years. I wouldn’t jeopardize their health.”

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development representatives are looking into the matter.

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