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Bellevue Village Sewage Disposal a Messy Issue

Sept. 28, 2004 – Installing a sewage treatment plant at Bellevue Village in St. John would make the affordable housing project too expensive, Reliance Housing Foundation president Bob Jackson said Monday.
Jackson was responding to a Sept. 8 letter sent to Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Dean C. Plaskett by Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg. Donastorg predicted that Reliance Housing's plan to install septic tanks rather than a sewage treatment plant would create an environmental problem within five years.
Donastorg said the septic tanks will overflow and malfunction, causing contamination of soil and water as well as a public health concern.
"We don't want to make a mistake we'll live to regret," he said Monday.
He claimed in his letter that it was "unfair to saddle the new residents of Bellevue with a shoddy and inadequate plan for sewage disposal simply because they are not paying an exorbitant amount for housing."
Jackson said the Bellevue Village is being built on rocky ground. This means that the contractor would have to excavate through the rock to install the sewage lines from each unit.
"It would have made the whole development impossible because the cost is too high," Jackson said.
Donastorg said no one had demonstrated what the cost would be. "And they'll still proceed anyway regardless of what I say," Donastorg said.
He said in his letter to Plaskett that the government did not provide proper planning and oversight for the Bellevue Village project.
Plaskett said that the Planning and Natural Resources Department reviewed the project. He said it meets the Uniform Building Code regulations for plumbing.
He said that the Rules and Regulations for Onsite Sewage Disposal Systems cited by Donastorg in his letter do not apply because Bellevue Village does not sit in the first tier.
"Those rules and regulations pertain to the Coastal Zone Management program," Plaskett said.
The CZM program covers only shoreside projects, referred to as the first tier. Bellevue Village sits inland on Gifft Hill Road.
And, Plaskett said that even if the CZM rules applied to Bellevue Village, he has the right to issue a waiver in cases of hardship
"It's clear there would have been a very high cost to put in the package system," Plaskett said, referring to a sewage treatment system.
Donastorg said he learned after he wrote Plaskett that the Rules and Regulations for Onsite Sewage Disposal Systems do not apply to the Bellevue Village project.
Plaskett said conditions attached to the building permit require regular septic tank pump outs.
Jackson said that Reliance Housing will hire an on-site manager who will be responsible for organizing regular septic tank pump outs.
"Do you really believe they will be pumping the septic systems on a regular basis?" Donastorg asked.
Jackson said that he expects residents to start moving into Bellevue Village in February. The rest of the residents will move in as the rest of the 72 units are finished, with the last unpacking their belongings in June.
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