Judge Orders Pennsylvania Campground Cleared
The owners of a campground in northwest Pennsylvania have been ordered to clear their property of tenants in their latest battle with the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) over sewer and water issues.
Erie County Judge Shad Connelly issued an order Tuesday (Oct. 4) that requires Moon Meadows Campground, on Route 430 just west of Route 89, to close on or before Nov. 3. Connelly also ordered Thomas Peckham, who owns the campground with his wife, to pay the DEP $5,605 in costs, and he warned Peckham that he faces additional sanctions if he fails to comply with the order, the Erie Times-News reported.
The order was issued in support of the DEP’s petition for contempt, which claimed that Peckham violated a June 21 court order by continuing to operate with more water hookups than allowed.
Because the campground operates without a water-system permit, water hookups on the site are limited to 14. DEP officials said an inspection conducted in May found 31 connections.
Peckham argued at the time that the campground wasn’t open at the time of the inspection, and he said he was unaware that some of the connections on the property were counted among the 14 permissible connections.
In June, Connelly gave Peckham more time to bring the business into compliance with Pennsylvania’s Safe Water Drinking Act, but he warned Peckham that he could still shut down the campground if the water connections weren’t reduced or if he failed to obtain a state permit for having more than 14 connections.
DEP officials testified Tuesday that an inspection conducted on Aug. 17 found 25 water-service connections on the property. Brad Vanderhoof, the agency’s regional manager of its water-supply program, also testified that when he went with other officials to Moon Meadows for the Aug. 17 inspection, he saw Peckham turn off a valve and cut a water line to shut off water service to some of the campground sites.
When Connelly later asked Peckham why he cut the line, Peckham said the line “didn’t feed anything.”
Peckham, who represented himself at Tuesday’s hearing, argued that the campground has fewer than 14 connections, as some of the connections that DEP officials counted did not fit the department’s definition of a service connection.
Peckham said after the hearing that he plans to appeal the court order.
There are currently 17 people residing at the campground, Peckham said. They include a couple and a family of four who are all homeless, and without an address, those six people will not be able to get the food stamps they rely on to survive, he said.
Tuesday’s court hearing was the latest episode in a series of disputes between Moon Meadows and either the DEP or the Erie County Department of Health.
A county health inspector found puddles of raw sewage and substandard septic work done without a permit at the campground in June 2009.
Connelly ordered Moon Meadows closed in July 2010 after Peckham refused to make improvements to the water and sewage systems. Peckham claimed the puddles were not sewage, and the facility’s water and sewer systems were always approved in the past.
The judge allowed the campground to reopen in September 2010.