The Pocahontas Public Service District (PSD) has initiated condemnation proceedings against Linwood area residents who refuse to give up their land for a sewage treatment collection system. One of those residents, Steve Mardosa, plans to fight the PSD in court.
Mardosa lives on Route 219 north of Linwood, an area where the PSD is spending more than $2 million to build sewer pipes to 10 existing homes. The planned sewer pipelines north of Linwood are part of a $27 million wastewater treatment system that includes a treatment plant along Snowshoe Drive.
Part of the collection system north of Linwood, a lateral sewer line approximately 1,400 feet in length, is being built just to bring Mardosa and a neighbor into the sewer system. The estimated cost of the 1,400-foot lateral line is $150,000.
In August 2012, following litigation by Snowshoe Mountain, Inc., and five substantial Linwood-area landowners, the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) ordered the PSD to build a centralized sewage plant at the bottom of the mountain. The PSC order specified that the area north of Linwood would be included in the service area, despite its sparse population. The PSC order did not mandate inclusion of housing developments south of Linwood on Route 219 into the service area.
Mardosa, a retired auto body repair company owner, thinks it’s wasteful for the PSD to spend $150,000 to force two unwilling customers onto the system, especially when the utility is forcing the customers to surrender easements for construction. State law allows utilities to force property owners within 300 feet of a public sewer line to connect to the system.
Mardosa claims that valley customers are unfairly being forced to connect to a system that primarily serves Snowshoe.
“I feel that they’re overstepping the bounds of eminent domain,” he said. “We’re losing some property rights and we do not want the system. In reality, this is a system for the mountain and they’re dragging us in to make it a public system. They’re attacking and getting as many customers in the valley as possible, to improve the ratio of valley customers to mountain customers. They’re using public money to build a private system.”
The retired businessman contends that construction of the lateral line to connect two customers is not in the public interest.
“My property rights are being violated and my civil rights are being violated,” he said. “They’re picking on me to make their numbers more favorable to the Public Service Commission. I feel that eminent domain is being abused. They’re using part of the law to go after two owners, which is not in the public good. I am a trout fisherman and I want to see the issue of sewage being dumped into the water resolved. But this is not the right way to do it.”
Mardosa has already been served with notice of the PSD condemnation complaint. He plans to file a response and represent himself in Circuit Court.
“I’m representing myself in court because I cannot find any attorney in the county who will fight the PSD,” he said. “I would love to get their expertise, but no one wants to touch it.”