Court Bars Helsels From Dumping Sewage

June 09, 1991|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff writer

A Circuit Court judge upheld a court order yesterday barring a West Virginia man and his brother from dumping sewage on their Gambrills property.

An attorney for Willie F. Helsel, who owns 45 acres on Hog Farm Road, had asked the court to rescind the emergency order. The order also gives the Health Department control over the cleanup of twin sewage lagoons discovered on the property.

Health officials discovered the pits, which they fear could contaminate drinking water and pollute a nearby stream, after receiving ananonymous tip last month.

Judge Bruce C. Williams issued an orderMay 8 granting the county access to the property. Helsel's brother, Howard, who lives on the site, previously had refused to allow inspectors on the site or to reveal Willie's whereabouts.

Yesterday, Willie's attorney tried to convince Williams that the emergency has passed.

Willie Helsel, 70, has promised to cooperate with the county to complete the cleanup, said attorney Darrell L. Henry. However, Helsel is worried the cost will be higher if the cleanup is treated as anemergency.

The county intends to recover from the owner whatever it spends in cleaning up the site. Officials already have spent about$23,000 removing nearly 100,000 gallons of sewage, which is being stored at the county's Cox Creek Waste Water Treatment plant, from the lagoons. Tests show the sewage probably came from residential septic tanks.

Health officials plan to spend at least another $10,000 digging wells to test and monitor the ground water around the site.

"There is no big bugaboo about this site," Henry said.

But Williamssaid he was not convinced the danger had passed.

"There has to bean injunction to prevent Mr. Howard Helsel from any further dumping and possible contamination of ground water," Williams said.

WillieHelsel, a lifelong resident of Princeton, W.Va., said he purchased the property off Hog Farm Road in 1962 as a place for his brother, Howard, to live.

"He came into this matter as a good Samaritan to help his brother, who may not be there totally, mentally," Henry told the court.

Both brothers were in the septic tank cleaning business, Willie said. Not long after Willie bought the Gambrill's property forhim, Howard installed the sewage lagoons.

At the time, Howard told Willie that the Health Department had inspected and approved the site, Willie recalled. Health officials said they are unaware of any approvals.

Willie said he originally acquired the land with the intention of selling it two or three years later and splitting the profitwith Howard. But Howard, a bachelor, had nowhere else to live.

Later, the two brothers had a falling out. Willie told the court that he last visited the site in 1967.

"Several years ago, when I attempted to visit the property, my brother met me at the gate with dogs and I was fearful to enter," Willie said in a written statement released June 3.

Willie told the court he will ask his brother to vacate the property or else be forcibly removed.

Health inspectors visited the site after an anonymous resident reported seeing a septic tanker truck dumping on the Helsel property without a permit.

Cheryl Boudreau, a county attorney, said the caller identified the truck as belonging to B&B Hauling, which she said is owned by Thomas Burnopp. Burnopp is married to Willie Helsel's granddaughter.

County Health Officer Thomas C. Andrews said sewage contains nitrates, which can be especially harmful to infants and have been linked to "blue baby" syndrome, and bacteria that can cause ailments such as diarrhea and ear aches.

Willie said he was unaware of any dumping until his granddaughter told him of newspaper accounts.

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