Stephens City files lawsuit against sanitation authority

The Town of Stephens City announced late Friday afternoon that it has filed a lawsuit in Frederick County Circuit Court against the Frederick County Sanitation Authority.

The town is asking for $1 million in damages and seeks to cease a sanitation authority operation of what the town calls an illegal well within its Public Water Supply Protection District as well as a judgment that water supply contracts “no longer exist between the Town and FCSA, breach of contract, trespass, payment for water the FCSA has withdrawn,” according to a news release.

Town Manager Mike Majher said the town had set up a meeting with the sanitation authority to discuss billing questions.

“We were to be given access to the FCSA’s books, via Mr. Mowery (Robert P. Mowery, C.P.A., chairman of the FCSA),” Majher noted in the news release.

“We brought our engineering consultant. FCSA came to the meeting unprepared, and Mr. Mowery did not attend. Mr. Weindel (Uwe E. Weindel, engineer-director of the FCSA) did not seem to know what the meeting was about, and he said that all requests for information should go through their lawyers. So, we took his suggestion.”

Majher said they have been trying to negotiate.

“We’ve just been running into so many walls. It really just let us know that we weren’t going to get anywhere further with these meetings.”

Stephens City police shut down a production well dubbed the “Bartonsville Well” on Aug. 7 and put up notice that reinstating the well operation would qualify as a Class 1 Misdemeanor and/or a Class 4 Felony. Weeks later, the well resumed operation.

The town did obtain sanitation authority minutes from the meeting in which the well was referred to as simply a “test well.”

Majher said that the well’s operation status will have no effect on water distribution and access, although a letter from the Town Council recently had advised Frederick County residents to keep an eye on their water and sewer bills.

The town’s lawsuit also incorporates unfulfilled Freedom of Information Act requests about the well that the town sent to the authority.

“It’s a public organization, so they have a responsibility to share this information,” Majher said.

The sanitation authority claims that the well was drilled before the water protection area was established, but the town contends that changing it to a production well in the 2000s qualified as a change in land use.

Although the town has sought out diplomatic resolutions to the issue, Majher said that the authority has forced the town’s hand with the lawsuit.

“They’ve really backed the town into a corner on this one,” he said.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com