Bill Wayne's Political Pages - The Gadfly
Gadfly 123
Submitted to the Warrensburg Gazette for January 24, 2002

The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.

It's all my fault! Based on a report of a meeting about sewage problems in the county, we anti-zoning activists are to blame for unsanitary conditions. Well, I don't agree, so a brief review of the facts is in order.

After several attempts to pass "pig in a poke" county-wide zoning failed, control advocates hired a big city firm to write us a plan so we'd know what we were voting on. The plan was well-suited for Johnson County - Kansas, that is. A group of citizens worked on the plan, but it was hopeless; when presented to the voters in November 1997 it couldn't get even 30%. Not long later, the county commission looked into passing a local sewage ordinance as authorized by state law and as suggested by zoning foes. They discovered then just how expensive to enforce the ordinance would be, and the issue quietly disappeared from public view.

I've done some research into state law (RSMo 701.025 thru .059). Actually, laws are pretty strict even without a local ordinance; the state Department of Health is taxed with enforcing them. Essentially, the exemptions from state rules apply to properties over 3 acres, and then only if the effluent doesn't enter neighboring property or cause a nuisance (RSMo 701.031). The definition of nuisance (RSMo 71.025) pretty well includes anything causing an unhealthy condition. Basically, it appears that the neighbors and the state have resources to deal with anyone spilling raw sewage.

From the story I read, it appears that the crux of the matter is reluctance of the county prosecutor to push these cases. The state law (RSMo 701.037) says the county prosecutor "shall" start proceedings on cases referred by the health people. I doubt that office would wave off an assault case if they didn't have the offender's social security number, so I wonder why one is required for endangering the public health. A fair question to ask when officials involved next face the voters.

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