A county landlord received fines and a suspended period of incarceration for violating state clean water laws, according to a release from the Maryland Office of the Attorney General.
Robert Michael Ryce of Indian Head pleaded guilty in the Circuit Court for Charles County to two counts of installing an impermissible sewage system without permits, the release says. Judge Amy J. Bragunier sentenced Ryce on the first count to one year of incarceration, suspended; a fine of $20,000, with all but $10,000 suspended to be paid to the Maryland Clean Water Fund; and three years of probation. On the second, Ryce was sentenced to a suspended year and also received a suspended fine of $10,000.
Ryce owned and operated a four-unit rental property at 5105 Marbury Run Road in Marbury,” the release says. “The property backs up to Marbury Creek and is not connected to public water or sewer. The property is serviced by a well for potable water and a drainage field for sewage disposal.”
Charles County Department of Health inspectors responded to complaints of pooling sewage at the property in October 2018 and ordered Ryce to repair the failing septic system. During their inspections they observed two illegally installed sewage pipes leading from the rental buildings and discharging in close proximity to the well. Tests of the water from sinks in the property showed high levels of total coliforms and the presence of E. coli bacteria.
Subsequent investigation by the Office of the Attorney General revealed that the pipes were installed to redirect sewage from the living units away from the drainage field. Further, prior tenants complained of historic problems with the pooling of sewage at the drainage field. The case was prosecuted by the Office of the Attorney General’s Environmental Crimes Unit due to the combined risk to both the environment and to human health. At the time of sentencing, the property was vacant and the owner was making efforts to come into compliance with the appropriate state and county sewage and water regulations.
“The drinking water at this property was contaminated by E. Coli and other coliforms. This is a serious hazard to human health and to the environment. The environmental laws this landlord violated, requiring proper permitting and inspection of sewage disposal systems, are in place to prevent bacteria into our drinking water and the waters of the State,” said Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) in the release.
The office acknowledged the Charles County Health Department, Charles County State’s Attorney’s Office and Environmental Crimes Chief Investigator Thomas Waugh for their work in this matter.