DOBSON — After several years, a Surry County resident can see the end of an ordeal which threatens the health of his family.
Van Combs, a resident on Toast Road says he alerted Surry County authorities as early as 2009 to the fact wastewater from a neighboring property was affecting his property.
Combs indicated the septic situation at the residence at 158 Toast Road, which is owned by Cynthia McMillian, is a health hazard which had a direct impact on his property.
“Their septic system is straight-piped into a natural drainage ditch,” explained Combs. When the neighbors flushed, raw sewage dumped into the ditch and travelled through his yard.
In 2010, a Surry County inspector found the system to be inadequate. Correspondence provided by Combs indicates his neighbors were sent two notices of violation. The problem went unfixed.
A phone log, kept internally by a Surry County official, states McMillian did not have the money to fix the system.
In 2012, McMillian was ordered by a district court judge to fix the property, according to the same log.
However, Combs said that didn’t happen, and he continued to contact county officials. When he contacted officials in Raleigh, they indicated the system did not meet environmental standards and told him the county would have to be the agency to take action.
Via email, Combs continued to push for an end to the septic issue affecting his property, asking the county to take the lead in getting it fixed.
“The septic has not worked as of 2009, per the paperwork I have regarding this problem from your office. Would you not agree that the rules have been disregarded long enough, and that your office needs to go ahead with the plan that the county would fix the septic?” wrote Combs in an email to Steve Simandle, on-site water protection supervisor, on May 27, 2016.
Combs said the plan is for the county to pay for and complete the work to bring the septic system within code. However, the county had to first place a lien on the property for the cost of the upgrades, a process involving multiple county departments.
On Monday evening, following a closed session, the Surry County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to place a lien on the property.
Maggie Simmons, administrative director for the Surry County Health and Nutrition Center, said she couldn’t be sure what the cost of the septic upgrade at the residence will be.
“There could be unforeseen circumstances, so I really can’t say right now,” Simmons noted the day after the county board voted to place the lien on the property.
Inspectors could not be sure of the impact on the property Combs owns since inspectors had no reason to access the property, according to Simmons. What they are sure of is the septic system at 158 Toast Road is “a public health hazard,” and the “homeowner cannot take care of the situation.”
Simmons noted she understands Combs’ “issue” with the timetable for getting the system to par, but emphasized county officials have worked to remedy the situation.
“Our environmental health department tries to do what they can to help,” remarked Simmons.
Combs is happy to see the county is moving forward with the fix to the septic system, but he’s also disgruntled at the length of time it took the county to see the project through.
“It’s not fair somebody else is not subject to the same rules the rest of us are,” remarked Combs, adding county inspectors are quick to cite a resident for building a storage building or a carport without a permit.
He said he and his family were forced to live in an environment which is hazardous to their health for far too long before action occurred.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.