HOWLAND, Ohio - A local attorney has stepped up to the plate to help an elderly woman avoid fines and potential jail time over a working septic system.
Barbara Glaspell of Howland is having sleepless nights. The 72-year-old is worried each time the phone rings that it will be a notification about a court date and potential jail time.
Glaspell was notified by the Trumbull County Health Department that she must tie into a private sewer system her neighbor installed and must pay almost $17,000 or face a criminal charge.
"I do not have the financial status to do so," Glaspell said.
"She's scarred they're going to put her in jail," said Attorney David Engler.
Under Ohio law, if there is a sewer system within 200 feet of a person's property, who is using a septic system, they must tie into the sewer system.
But Attorney David Engler says the whole situation stinks since Glaspell's septic system is working and not causing anyone harm.
"The tragedy is that she already has a properly functioning septic system. So it's not as if the environment is being damaged because this little old lady is living in her house by herself and flushing the commodes because it's being properly treated," Engler said.
State Representative Bob Hagan says there needs to be subsides and other common sense solutions that protect the environment and help the homeowner meet mandates.
"Not only is it forcing them out of their homes, it's a heavy load on them because they have to move, they have to find another place. It's more economic struggle for them," Hagan said.
But the grandmother, who lives pay check to pay check, says she can't qualify for loans and adds subsidies for money she can't pay back and a possible criminal record won't help.
Attorney Engler, who has taken the case on for free, emphasizes there is a fix to this stinky septic situation and the burdensome regulations imposed on Gladspell and hundreds or thousands of property owners with properly functioning septic systems statewide.
He says the solution is in lawmakers hands. "The state representative can introduce legislation saying that someone who has an operational septic system does not have to tie in to a privately extended sanitary sewer line. Period, issue solved," Engler said.