FAYETTEVILLE — Following a public hearing Friday morning in which no opposition was voiced, the Fayette County Commission unanimously adopted the Comprehensive Public Nuisance Abatement Ordinance.
The fewer than a dozen people gathered in the commission chambers broke into spontaneous applause and one audience member was heard to utter the word “Wow.”
During the public hearing portion of the meeting, those who did address the commission asked for clarification on a few aspects of the ordinance while others praised the commission for sticking with its efforts to clean up Fayette County.
“I am glad I got here in time to hear this,” said Mount Hope resident Jean Evansmore. “I’m glad to see and hear and read about it that something is going to go ahead and be done. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your work for those people who are going to live a helluva lot longer than I am.”
Local environmentalist and business owner Gene Kistler questioned Michael Callaghan about the enforcement mechanism included in the ordinance. Callaghan, a former secretary of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, and his team created the 86-page ordinance based on the authority granted county commissions in West Virginia Code Chapter 7-1-3ff and 7-1-3kk.
“The Code Enforcement Agency can serve various orders and make people clean things up,” Callaghan said, adding that if companies or individuals refuse to comply with an order, “ultimately it will end up in a court system.
“We have the authority to order things to happen…, then you go to court.
“If there is complete non-compliance there are provisions in there to (arrest people).”
“This really just codifies all the environmental laws into one place so the commission can clean up things that happen in the county,” Callaghan said, referring to the ordinance’s granting of authority to deal with hazardous waste spills, the release or threatened release of any hazardous substance, waste, pollutant or contaminant into the environment that may adversely affect the health of Fayette countians.
The ordinance adopted Friday allows for the creation of a code enforcement agency comprised of six statutorily-appointed individuals, as well as two at-large members.
The statute calls for the county administrator, in this case Deborah Berry, to act as chairperson of the CEA. Also appointed must be a professional engineer, the county health officer, the litter control officer, a county fire chief and the Solid Waste Authority director.
The commission made temporary appointments at Callaghan’s request in order to get the board operational. Appointed were engineer Kate Candillo, county health officer Teri Harlan, litter control officer Tommy Harris, Armstrong Creek VFD chief Shannon Estep, SWA director Aletha Stolar and at-large members Gene Kistler and Jeff Proctor. Callaghan said he hopes to meet with the CEA members in the near future.
Matt Wender, commission president, thanked those present for their “willingness to help us out with this. I think some of those folks who have done damage to our county need to be held accountable.”
Following a number of complaints from county residents and studies that have revealed a number of chemicals related to industrial gas waste in local streams, the commission early in 2016 adopted an ordinance to ban the disposal of fracking waste in the county. The day following the commission’s adoption of the 2016 ban, Pittsburgh-based gas company EQT Corporation filed a lawsuit that eventually led to the ordinance being declared invalid by a federal court.
“I think this second go at it … will be successful,” Wender said, “(and) at least let polluters know that we’re going to keep going after this aggressively.”
The commission will next meet at 9 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 31.
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