City works to curb illicit discharges

Aim to eliminate dumping into Salem storm sewers

SALEM — An ordinance aimed at curbing illicit discharges into the city’s storm water system is in the works.

The Utilities Committee of city council reviewed a sample ordinance with city Law Director Brooke Zellers Tuesday night, making suggestions for changes and directing him to deliver a final version for the committee to consider.

Councilman Geoff Goll, who chairs the committee, said the city doesn’t have authority at the present time to prohibit individuals from putting items into the storm sewer, which is overseen by the city service department. Some of those items could be oil or other hazardous materials.

Both Goll and Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey, who also serves on the committee, talked about the fact that the legislation will not allow for grandfathering. In other words, if something had been done previously or an illicit connection dated back to before someone owned a home, the situation must be fixed.

“We have to say they can’t do this any longer, period,” Goll said.

Zellers also talked about protecting people who may purchase a home unaware of an illicit connection that dates back, such as an improper sewage connection to the storm water system.

In an email attached to the sample ordinance, he said the legislation includes criminal penalities for violators but also gives discretion to the enforcement agency, the city Service/Safety Director and the service department. Those people found unaware of a pre-existing illicit connection would simply have to remediate the situation and not be charged criminally.

Much discussion centered on the use of the words “may” and “shall.” Goll said the moment someone is permitted to make a decision, due to the use of the word “may,” then that can change how something is enforced, especially if there’s a change in the person holding the position.

With the word “shall,” there’s no question.

The ordinance will come back to the committee for a final review before a decision is made on whether to send the proposal to council for a decision.