Magee trial continued

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 1, 1999

in sewage case

By MICHELLE J. WILSON

Staff Writer

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Published Aug. 1, 1999

A district court judge rescheduled the trial for a local attorney who allegedly allowed raw sewage to run across his property.

Timothy J. Magee, who owns Southland Village Trailer Park in Troy, is pleading not guilty to the charge of unsanitary operation of sewage disposal. The misdemeanor is punishable by up to a $500 fine, according to the "Code of Alabama."

The case of the State of Alabama vs. Magee was set for July 23, but it was rescheduled July 21 by District Judge Steven E. Blair. The trial is now set for Aug. 20 at 2:30 p.m. in Pike County Courthouse.

The defendant’s attorney Malcolm McSwean filed a motion to continue the trial July 19, according to court records. The same day, Magee filed a motion for discovery.

Magee’s motion of discovery requires the State through District Attorney Mark Fuller to produce records of plans, permits and engineering documents kept by the Pike County Health Department about the septic system installed at Southland Mobile Home Park, records state. Magee also asked for the names, addresses and telephone numbers of the state’s witnesses.

Louis F. "Sonny" Williford, health department environmentalist, said the problem began last summer when residents at the trailer park and owners of adjacent property complained to the health department that septic systems there were malfunctioning. When the systems fail, raw sewage flows across the ground.

Williford said he contacted the trailer park’s owner, Magee, to advise him of the problem, and it was never satisfactorily repaired.

The Pike County Health Department has been trying for more than one year to get Magee to repair the malfunctioning sewer lines, Williford said. They filed a court action as a last resort.

Magee was arrested on a warrant May 8 and charged with unsanitary operation of sewage disposal.

He is charged with a violation of Code of Alabama 22-26-1. According to the law, it is a misdemeanor to maintain an insanitary sewage collection facility or one that is likely to be a menace to public health.

The state board of health and county boards of health require property owners to install facilities that allow for proper disposal. In a statement to "The Messenger" July 15, Magee said, "According to information provided to us by our consultants, there exists no problem with the septic system (in Southland Trailer Park)."

Residents who are served by the City of Troy Waste Water Treatment Plant have their sewage treated there. But people who live outside the system, like residents at Southland Village Trailer Park, must rely on septic tank systems.

A septic tank system takes waste from the toilet inside a residence and delivers it through pipes to a septic tank, where the waste is separated from the water, Williford said. The water goes into a disposal field where it is absorbed by the soil, and waste stays in the septic tank.

He said residents of several trailers use each of the septic systems.

"Those systems are not properly sized for the number of people who are using them," Williford said. "They are more than 25 years old and are overused.

"Any system will fail overtime if it is abused and overloaded. That’s when the system backs up and raw sewage flows to the surface."

That’s exactly what Williford alleged happened at Southland Village Trailer Park.

When raw sewage flows to the surface, it creates "a serious health hazard," said M. Britton Kelly, area 10 environmental director for Alabama Department of Public Health. "Anytime human excretia is deposited on the soil’s surface, there is the potential for microbial pathogens, hepatitis, typhoid fever and salmonella."

Pests, including rats and fleas, that come in contact with the raw sewage can spread other diseases, he said.

Fortunately, the health department has received no reports of illness resulting from the situation at Southland Trailer Park, Kelly said.