Officials point fingers over River Haven RVs (w/video)

Sara  Sneath By Sara Sneath

Feb. 15, 2014 at 10:02 p.m.
Updated Feb. 16, 2014 at 8:17 p.m.

Cuero resident Joe Burke speaks at the DeWitt County commissioners meeting regarding septic tank regulations in the River Haven neighborhood. Burke was visibly upset when he commented that "If we are going to put our dirty laundry out there, let's all wash it together."

Cuero resident Joe Burke speaks at the DeWitt County commissioners meeting regarding septic tank regulations in the River Haven neighborhood. Burke was visibly upset when he commented that "If we are going to put our dirty laundry out there, let's all wash it together."

CUERO - Melvin Chaloupka, an RV park owner in River Haven subdivision, said he spent about $60,000 to get the septic system permitted for his park.

But he says his neighbors have not been required to do the same. The flood damage prevention court order, which requires landowners to elevate their electric boxes and keep their property rubble free, is also not being enforced, he said.

"Well, what the law states is if you ever change the usage for what the septic system was originally designed for, you have to go get it re-permitted to meet the specifications of what you're using it for now," Chaloupka said. "If it was originally built for a one-bedroom house and then you put 10 RVs on it, the septic system is not big enough to handle that flow."

Chaloupka has been working to get the floodplain and septic system regulations enforced for more than two years. On Monday, he brought the issues to the DeWitt County Commissioners Court once again.

But Chaloupka's neighbors say his pursuit of enforcement is fueled by business competition and an ongoing feud.

"That's not true. My neighbors are saying it's my greed that's driving this, but if anything, it's their greed that they don't want to spend the money to do what's right," Chaloupka said. "You're risking the people's health because they could be drinking water from a contaminated water well because the septic system is overloaded. And you're risking my flood insurance because the county is not enforcing the floodplain regulations."

DeWitt County continues to delay enforcing regulations of on-site septic systems and flood damage prevention. While Victoria City-County Health Department and DeWitt County point fingers at one another, Chaloupka looks to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for state regulation enforcement.

"DeWitt County won't do what it's supposed to do. DeWitt County commissioners court is in denial about their having any non-compliant septic systems," Chaloupka said.

He said he is meeting with a TCEQ representative next week.

On-site septic system regulation is administered at the county level, according to TCEQ. But DeWitt County contracted Victoria City-County Health Department to serve as its "designated representative." In this role, the health department can issue notices of violation, which are then sent to DeWitt County for enforcement.

In Monday's DeWitt County Commissioners Court meeting, County Judge Daryl Fowler said a representative of Victoria City-County Health Department recently drove through River Haven subdivision and found no septic system violations. Fowler said Monday that the health department did not have authority to take any action unless sewage is observed on the ground.

"That is certainly not true," said Dr. Bain Cate, the director of Victoria City-County Health Department in an email Monday.

Cate said previous notices of violation sent to River Haven subdivison by the health department were for unpermitted septic systems.

"I do not know what happened to these notices of violation," he said in the email.

Cate said the seven unpermitted septic system violations were delivered to an enforcement officer for DeWitt County last year.

DeWitt County Attorney Raymond Reese said the health department did not formally file citations but brought some potential cases to his office that the health department later decided it didn't want to prosecute.

"Any implication that VCCHD-EHD withdrew the complaints from the DeWitt County attorney's office is flawed," said Cate in an email Monday.

He said the health department does not have the authority to withdraw notices of violation once they are delivered to a county enforcement officer.

On Thursday, Fowler said he hadn't discussed the issue with Cate recently.

"It may be that we need to have a meeting on what a violation is and what it is not," Fowler said.

"The commissioners court will continue to monitor the situation for compliance with its current court orders," Fowler said in a formal statement Thursday.

But River Haven subdivision neighbors say Chaloupka's concerns are not about following the rules but about competition and bad blood between previous friends.

Joe Burke said he bought land in the River Haven subdivision so that his son could fish. He leases land to RVs to help pay for his medication, he said.

"We got a little feud going out there. They need to get their big britches on and either hire a lawyer or be a man and say, 'I'm sorry,'" Burke said in Monday's commissioners court meeting.

"Our problem is not the judge's fault or the commissioners' fault. It's about four people who won't get together and say, 'You need to do this or do that,'" Burke said.

"We all tried to do the right thing," said Lloyd Boedeker, a landowner in River Haven subdivision at Monday's commissioner court meeting.

Boedeker said he was one of the landowners who received a violation notification from Victoria City-County Health Department.

"That cost us a lot of time off work and money, and we don't appreciate it," Boedeker said.

Chaloupka's neighbors also point out that Chaloupka's RV park is currently for sale.

Chaloupka said his original plan was to build the RV park, run it for three to five years and sell it.

"It might be for sale, but as long as I own it, I'm going to stand up and challenge the DeWitt County Commissioners Court to follow their regulations," Chaloupka said.



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