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Updated 11:00am - Nov 26, 2014

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Environmentalist fined for polluting

By Nicholas Grube

Triplicate staff writer

A local environmentalist's property is considered a public nuisance due to the presence of a malfunctioning septic system and drainage ditch that spewed raw sewage into Lake Earl.

On Tuesday, the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors declared Eileen Cooper's property at 181 Mobile Lane a public nuisance and ordered her to repair the property and pay fines until the project is completed.

"You allowed the sewage to run...without regard to public safety and the environment," District Four Supervisor Gerry Hemmingsen said. "I think it's a blatant disregard for the rules, the environment and the community."

According to Code Enforcement Officer Dave Mason, the property was overloaded with people and too many people were using the same septic system.

"The contamination was literally off the chart," he said. "It was still warm."

Mason said the septic tank was so full that the sewage would spill under the house and into the drainage ditch still warm, with the ditch leading to Lake Earl.

Cooper, a vocal environmentalist and board member of the Friends of Del Norte, does not live on the property, and said she rented it out to several people.

"I know there were a lot of people living in my house, but it was only rented to one (family)," Cooper said.

She said that when she found out about the problem she evicted the seven residents and tried to fix the septic tank.

"We did know that we had a very serious problem and we did try to take care of it," Cooper said, but added that she had difficulty getting people to actually do the work for her.

For the supervisors, this excuse didn't work, since Cooper has known of the problem since 2005 and has not fixed anything.

"This seems to me like an absentee landlord who's lost touch with reality," District Three Supervisor Mike Sullivan said. "It is ridiculous this has gone on as long as it has."

Currently, there is no sewage coming from Cooper's property as the septic tank has been drained and no one lives in the home anymore.

•On a similar note, Code Enforcement Officer Mason was honored by the Board of Supervisors and the California Association of Code Enforcement Officers for his efforts in eradicating blight in Del Norte County.

Over the past two years, Mason handled more than 1,000 complaints, towed over 400 vehicles and issued over 100 citations. He was also responsible for six criminal investigations as well as securing $500,000 for the eradication of trash and debris from blighted properties.

"The state association of code enforcement officers – this is the first time they've taken this step to honor a code enforcement officer," Mason said. "It's an exceptionally high honor."

•The board did not take any action on the contract extension with Del Norte Ambulance Inc. County staff will review their proposal, which includes an 8 percent increase of their base rates, and will come back with suggestions at the supervisors' first meeting in July.

Reach Nicholas Grube at .

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