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Mandatory water, sewer hookups fought

CHARLES TOWN – A bill by a Berkeley County Republican that would prevent homeowners from being required to hook up to public water and sewer utilities has until the weekend to be taken up on the floor of the House of Delegates.

[cleeng_content id=”615616932″ description=”Read it now!” price=”0.49″ t=”article”]Delegate Larry Kump introduced HB4007 last month. The bill would prohibit public utilities from forcing homeowners to hook up to their system when they expand into new areas, unless evidence could be produced that an existing well or septic system posed a danger either to the homeowner or the surrounding community.

In order to be taken up by the full House, the bill must be voted out of House Political Subdivisions Committee before “crossover day” deadline Sunday.

Kump said he drafted the bill after having spoken with homeowners who were seriously harmed when they were compelled to hook into public water and sewer systems.

“If a public sewer system expands their operation, and you are in that expansion area and in close proximity to that line, you can be forced to hook up to the system which costs thousands of dollars, in addition to a monthly service fee,” Kump said “There are some homeowners who are elderly or disabled who are literally put into financial peril by a forced hookup to a sewer system. This is a problem that goes back as far as I can remember.”

Kump calls forcing homeowners to hook up to public utilities a violation of their property rights.

“If you have a septic system or well that is functioning safely, you could not be forced to hook up or pay fees,” he said. “If a septic system goes bad, you could be forced to hook up.”

Two weeks ago, the Political Subdivisions Committee held a public hearing over the issue.

“The testimony was pretty evenly balanced between pro and con,” Kump said. “The turnout was a bit sparse.”

“I understand both sides of the argument,” Kump said. “When public service districts want to expand a system they want to hook up as many people as possible in order to maximize their efficiency.”

Jefferson County Public Service District General Manager Susanne Lawton declined to comment on the proposed legislation.

The bill will have to clear both the Political Subdivisions and Government Organizations committees before heading to the House floor. These developments will have to come before Sunday in order for the bill to remain viable, since after that day the two legislative chambers stop working on bills their own members have proposed. The Senate, after this day, deals only with bills the House has proposed and visa-versa.

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