Lenawee County, Michigan authorities hope to find a compromise with Amish over sewage and water violations in an ongoing conflict in this southern Michigan community.
That’s according to a new article in the Daily Telegram. The report contains more details about how waste is handled by the Amish:
The health department said it started receiving complaints in 2015 about how the Amish were disposing of their waste, according to a news release. Recently filed court documents stated sewage was being discharged on the ground, which violates county health code.
One Amish couple told The Daily Telegram earlier this month they dispose of their waste by dumping it on a livestock manure pile. Hall said other Amish families dispose of their waste in similar ways.
The main problem with this method is that the waste is untreated. Michigan public health code does not allow for human waste or gray water — wastewater from bathtubs and sinks — to be disposed of in such a way, Hall said.
What sort of deal is the county proposing?
One compromise that has been offered to the Amish is to install septic tanks underneath the outhouses that is then pumped out by a licensed professional, according to Martin Marshall, county administrator. These are called vault privies and are sometimes used in campgrounds and roadside rest areas.
A nearby conservative Amish settlement handles it this way:
This is how Amish in Branch County dispose of their waste. Paul Andriacchi, environmental health director for the county, said the Amish are required to have a privy. A licensed septic professional then pumps out the waste and that waste is then treated, just like at a municipal water treatment plant.
Andriacchi added the Amish are required to undergo inspections and hold all the same permits as anyone else, though provisions exist in the Branch County health code that allow for things such as the vault-style privy.
Amish have already refused potential compromises:
However, in Lenawee County that was not something that could be agreed upon, Marshall said.
Marshall said Amish families moved into two separate existing homes in the county that had septic systems and wells.
An option given to those families was to build outhouses on top of the existing septic tanks.
“That was not an acceptable alternative,” Marshall said, and no agreement could be made.
The article also goes into detail on how the Amish get their water, and how their hand pump method does not comply with county standards.
The county says that the way the Amish do things here presents a danger both to neighboring residents, and to themselves as well.
Amish remain in their homes illegally
No homes seem to be in imminent danger of being destroyed, following the recent ACLU-backed counter-lawsuit against the county.
The county also put out a news release recently which “stated no home has ever been demolished for noncompliance of environmental health code.”
However, the fact is that under the present health department order, Amish are living at their homes illegally:
The homes have been ruled unfit for human habitation. Health code allows for this if homes do not meet the county standards for adequate water and sewage systems. The health department can issue orders requiring people to vacate the premises if these conditions are not met and have done so at the Amish properties. It is unlawful to live at a residence if this order has been issued.
This remains a precarious legal situation, and will need to be resolved one way or another. Hopefully that happens with no people displaced or homes demolished.