- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Neither side is receding in the battle among the Calvert County Health Department and Hallowing Point LLC, the owner of the Hallowing Point Mobile Home Park, and its manager, Michael Mona.
The corrective action plan the health department requested as part of an abatement order, originally issued Feb. 24 with a deadline of April 25, was denied by the Maryland Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, acting on behalf of the county health department.
About 12 families were moved from the mobile home park in late January after Calvert County commissioners and state officials became aware of, and saw, the residents’ poor living conditions, including frozen and broken water pipes, no heat and hazardous sewer conditions. The health department issued the abatement order the next month regarding the sewage disposal system at the park, claiming continued operation of the current system threatens to create public health and environmental dangers.
“The response we got back was not adequate to address the violations we found,” Laurence Polsky, Calvert County health officer, said Wednesday. “At the moment, we have not renewed their operating permit.”
Polsky said the abatement order still stands as written, and if another action plan is not submitted within the next few days, “it’s likely we’ll end up in court,” Polsky said.
Though the abatement order states that if the required actions are not met by the deadlines, the park will close, Polsky said the department is “not anticipating any imminent evacuation of the park.”
“We are very hopeful that Hallowing Point LLC will make the necessary repairs to the septic system, and people can continue to live there,” Polsky said. “We can issue a new operating permit, so it won’t disrupt the residents.”
In response to the abatement order, Mona filed suit March 18 against the health department, asking for a motion to stay, which was denied April 2 by Calvert County Circuit Court Judge E. Gregory Wells.
“Although the lines and connections to the system caused by freezing of plumbing lines were repaired by the park owner in late January and early February, follow-up inspections conducted by the Health Department indicate that substantial, systemic problems with the Park’s septic system remain,” Claire Pierson, assistant attorney general for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, stated in court documents opposing the petitioners’ motion for stay. “The failures in the septic system constitute a clear and imminent threat to public health due to potential exposure of Park residents to organisms that can cause life-threatening disease...”
The first required action, the order states, was for the property owner to submit a plan, no later than April 25, to install holding tanks to collect all sewage from the park and haul it to a wastewater treatment plant, according to the order.
Once the plan is approved, the property owner has 30 days to install the holding tanks and regularly pump sewage for transport and disposal. The final deadline is for the property owner to complete the construction of a permanent sewage connection to the public sewer system off Route 231, which runs adjacent to the park, is April 30, 2016.
Mona’s corrective action plan (CAP) was submitted April 17 and rejected April 22.
“Based on a review of the CAP, it generally appears that the park does not agree with the Health Department’s assessment of most of the systems on the property and proposes to make few changes to the existing systems, other than increased monitoring and the promise of discussing further action at some point in the future, if the park deems it to be necessary,” Pierson stated in court documents.
“The Health Department does not believe that the CAP provides a good faith basis from which to negotiate a consent order in the circuit court proceeding,” court documents state.
Pierson said a brief delay of no more than 10 days in enforcing the abatement order may be granted if the park wishes to submit a revised CAP that addresses additional current action that the park is willing to take to upgrade the system.
“Otherwise,” Pierson said, “the Health Department expects that the park will submit a plan that conforms to the requirements of the abatement order.”
“My hope is that the health department will respond substantively to our corrective action plan,” Benjamin S. Wechsler, Mona’s attorney, said Wednesday.
Wechsler could neither confirm nor deny whether a revised CAP would be submitted.
On April 24, Mona filed a temporary restraining order against the Calvert County Health Department and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to prevent the departments from taking any action toward the park outside of the abatement order. Wechsler said after both county and state attorneys stated no action would be taken until the health department filed a complaint through the court, the restraining order was denied.
“The next step is Health and Mental Hygiene will file a complaint, and that may happen within the next two weeks. That complaint would allege the property owner would not come in compliance with the abatement order,” Calvert County Attorney John Norris said Wednesday.
“The operating license would have expired four days ago, and at this point, we are giving a small window of time for further response,” Polsky said. “We likely will move ahead and request further action by the court in the very near future. … Until the court would order a closure of the park, the residents are still able to live there, if and when it would get to the court.”
Both Polsky and Wechsler said neither side wants to have to proceed through the courts.