Health board declares house unfit to live in

Jeanne McCauley looks at the mold growing on the wall of her house on Ridge Court in this February photo. She has sought solutions to the water problems at the house since it was built in 1992. The Board of Health at its Monday meeting declared the house unfit to live in---File Photo By Kelly Overton.

Jeanne McCauley is still having problems with her septic system and sewage spilling onto other properties. In 15 days, she will have to do something about it.

The Daviess County Board of Health unanimously voted Monday to declare the house unfit to live in. She has 15 days from when she receives the condemnation letter to either fix the septic system or move out.

McCauley, 1905 Ridge Court, was profiled in a February story in the Times-Herald after having several problems with her septic system that a contractor wrongly installed.

She had the home built following a settlement after an explosion killed four of her family members and burned three others. Her son Christian, who lives with McCauley, suffered burns on 92 percent of his body. He was 5 years old at the time of the explosion in 1992.

Neighbor Richard Barker came to the meeting asking for help from the board. He said sewage runs into his backyard, especially every time it rains.

“I getting the brunt of the water,” Barker said. “To get into my backyard, I have to wear hip waders.”

Barker also had septic problems when he moved into his home at Ridge Court but got together with neighbors and forced the contractor to fix the septic systems. McCauley would not settle the suit as she said her system was not fixed.

“I think it is time for her to do something,” Barker said. “I think everyone’s been lenient with the person for some time.”

McCauley said in February her new septic system was installed at the same time as her neighbors got their new systems, but hers did not work properly from the beginning. She has not been able to find anyone to fix the problem since the house has eaten up all the money from the original settlement and she is on disability. She was forced to take out a loan on the house to cope with all the repairs and is now in danger of losing the house.

Board member Dr. William Phillips, DVM, acknowledged the problems that residents of Ridge Court are facing.

“The area there has never been right, as far as I am concerned,” Phillips said.

Barker agreed.

“The developer of the area, it’s a known fact from the five (original homeowners) that he put shoddy septic systems in,” Barker said. “Pop-off (septic valves) are illegal.”

New county sanitarian Geoff Stoner said he has sent several letters to McCauley but she refused to heed them.

“(The situation) needs to be decided on,” Stoner said.

Barker wanted the board to consider asking the city of Washington to annex the three subdivisions on the old Donaldson Road and give the homes sewer access. Board President Dr. Merlin Coulter, MD, agreed it is something the city should look into.

If McCauley’s septic system is not fixed, she will be forced out by condemnation. The order will also be placed on the deed to the home should she try to sell the house.

“We hate to do this, but I think we have to do this,” Board Member Dr. Stephen Cullen, MD, said.

In other business


The board approved the increase of fees charged to county residents. A septic system permit will cost $50, as will a food retailer permit. A temporary food permit will go down to $15. The fees still have to be approved by the county commissioners if they are to go into effect in 2008.


The board unanimously voted to mandate permits for all commercial septic systems in the county. If the system is for a non-profit organization, like a church or school, the organization will not be charged.

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