JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - A mobile home in Cole County has been leaking raw sewage for years.
ABC 17 News first reported on this home last year, but no action has been taken since that report because county commissioners don't have the authority to charge property owners. Only the prosecutor has that power.
At the Cole County Commission meeting Wednesday morning, commissioners worked on drafting an ordinance that gives them the discretion to nudge property owners into cleaning up their acts.
Last year, commissioners were asking Attorney General Chris Koster to get involved.
Court documents show he's pursuing the case civilly under the Clean Water Act, but by law, the prosecutor is still the only one who can prosecute a criminal case.
If commissioners get their way, they'll soon have the tools to go after residents who are letting their sewage go untreated.
"We need something done because it's a health hazard," said Cole County Commissioner Kris Scheperle.
Out of 8 homes in the last 3 years, only 2 haven't fallen into compliance with the county sewage ordinance.
A property on Landing Creek Road is one of them. One of the owners, Joseph Meidel, is in federal prison.
Cole County Prosecutor Mark Richardson told ABC 17 News his position hasn't changed since last year, he's not going to use staff time to pursue the case.
"We're just looking for something with some teeth and something we can enforce and where we can make people get something done. Once we issue the violation notice and it's been referred to the prosecutor, the Health Department has done all we can do," said Mike Sapp of the Cole County Health Department.
Currently, the county sends letters hoping to get offenders into compliance, but when that doesn't work, the prosecutor has to be the one to act.
Commissioners are asking the Health Department to draft an ordinance where they can put a lien on a property, and ultimately if it goes unpaid, that property can be auctioned off.
"They can for code enforcement issues like trash and weeds, but not for sewage violations."
Commissioners hope to have a draft of the ordinance next week.
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