Springwater Hoarders’ Animal Waste Now a Public Health Nuisance

"SPRINGWATER – A property on Wrights Road is now considered a public health nuisance and the subject of another repair order from the Livingston County Department of Health and the Town of Springwater, forcing its owners to negotiate a settlement or cleanup plan with the County.

Livingston County Public Health Director Jennifer Rodriguez says that the approximately 77-acre property at 6679 Wrights Road has been under investigation by the Health Department for over a year. ‘Large amounts’ of animal feces, food, dead cows and ‘organic waste’ have sat on the property for years. The house was condemned on June 30, 2016 and the property owners live in a camper.

“You’d have to wear some protective gear if you were going to look at the property,” said Rodriguez. “The stench is very strong. It’s a large amount of garbage.”

The property is home to livestock and numerous free-ranging animals including feral cats, goats, chickens, many cows and a bull. According to a memorandum to the County’s Human Services Committee from Mark Grove, County Director for Environmental Health, neighbors have complained of loose animals, dead cows and garbage since April 2004.

Since 2004, the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office has investigated 15 reports of loose or dead animals and the Department of Health has investigated eight reports of excessive garbage. The Department of Health has issued three repair orders to date.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) investigated the site and tested local water supplies, particularly a ‘water bed’ that flows towards Dansville. The DEC found that the water bed did not threaten public safety and was compliant with all regulations.

However, Rodriguez said that the goal is to get out ahead of a health nuisance before it becomes a health threat.

“We always want to educate the community and prevent threats to public health and safety, and this is one of those cases where there is a real public health nuisance that needs to be abated,” said Rodriguez.

“Some people have flea market items displayed on their lawns, or lots of collectible items or furniture,” said Rodriguez. “That’s not a public health problem. But when you have lots of food, animals and waste sitting on a property for a long period, then there is a public health nuisance and the Department of Health has the authority to call for a hearing and issue a repair order.”

The Department of Health had a hearing with the property owners before the Livingston County Board of Health and issued a joint repair order with the Town of Springwater.

Now, the Livingston County Board of Supervisors, with the help of County Administrator Ian Coyle, is negotiating a plan with the property owners that might entail the owners cleaning up the waste, or the County cleaning it and holding the property owners liable for that cost, or a stipulation with a hearing and a fine.

“We have to step in, support the Board of Health’s position, protect the water supply and the neighbors and uphold the applicable sanitary code provisions,” said Coyle. “We have no other choice.”"

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