Department looks into claims of sewage leaks, mold after Sandy
By Alex Bridges
Health officials are looking into claims of sewage leaks and mold in homes at a Shenandoah County trailer home park.
The Virginia Department of Health sent personnel to the Woodstock Trailer Court on Wood Park Lane off U.S. 11 on Thursday in response to concerns expressed to the Northern Virginia Daily this week that some homes contained mold long before superstorm Sandy flooded the community.
The department as of Thursday still had not received any calls of complaints from residents, according to Charles Devine, health director for the Lord Fairfax Health District.
"First, we want to make sure there's not an issue, and if there is an issue we want to get the specifics on it so we can get the right folks involved to resolve the issues," Devine said.
The department sent workers out to the trailer park twice.
"They did not see anything that they could say was leaking sewage," Devine added.
Individuals with concerns or complaints can call the health department office in Shenandoah County at 459-3733. The agency relies on contact by residents so that health officials can file official complaints and begin the investigation process.
"Whenever a citizen believes there's sewage material getting onto the ground or leaking onto the ground, we want to know about it so we can come out and inspect it and ensure that it is made right," Devine said.
"What I will do is let my environmental health manager know that there are folks there reporting that a couple of trailers appear to have sewage leaks on the ground," he said.
Workers did express concern about a large amount of water collected in the rear of the property that may infiltrate the park's waste collection system, according to Devine. However such a situation wouldn't harm the septic system or affect public health, but could raise the park's sewage bill. Health department workers likely will advise the property owner about the problem.
The department can give residents information on how best to protect their homes from mold after the flooding.
"When we go out there this afternoon, we're going to be handing them out to folks who are interested in seeing it," Devine said.
Some of the trailer park residents who were evacuated during superstorm Sandy returned home a day after the storm flooded the neighborhood. Water reached the doors and flowed into many of the trailers toward the rear of the park. When asked whether they worried about water damage causing mold and mildew in their homes, several residents said such problems existed in many trailers long before the storm hit.
The Toms Brook-Maurertown Sanitary District serves the trailer home park. Director of Public Utilities Rodney W. McClain said Thursday his agency had not received any calls about possible sewage leaks. McClain explained the department doesn't have jurisdiction over the property's collection system, which pumps sewage to the main sewer line along U.S. 11.
Devine explained the park's original drainfield was supposed to be disconnected when it connected to the main sewer line. A pump station was installed to push sewage uphill to the main line. The health department plans to meet with building officials and the sanitary district to see if water that has collected in the rear of the property has in any way affected the pump and collection system, Devine said.
"The septic system should be safely conducting the sewage material to the sewage treatment plant and if there is actual sewage material on the ground we'll go out and look at it and make sure that the appropriate folks are notified to get the problem fixed," Devine said. "We can get the problem solved."
The health district officials would need to examine where the problem occurred in the process to determine who has the responsibility to remedy the situation, according to Devine.
The trailer home park in the 1970s experienced septic system failures, according to Devine. As a result of the failures, the park was required to connect to the public sewage system once available, Devine said.
"But those old problems were solved by hooking up to the public system," Devine said. "Certainly problems could have developed - new problems could have developed since that time and we'd ask the public whenever there's poop on the ground we'd want to know about it."
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org