The Village of Egg Harbor has found major discrepancies between the amount of holding tank and septic waste reported dumped at its wastewater treatment facility by two of seven haulers who use the facility.
Utility Committee Chair John Heller told the village board on Dec. 14 that numbers reported by two haulers do not jibe with the amount of waste monitored at the plant.
The total volume is monitored at the plant rather than individual amounts dumped by the haulers.
“It’s on the honor system,” Heller said.
He told the village board the discrepancies amount to approximately $30,000 annually in lost revenue to the village for waste it processed.
Heller told the Pulse that Utility Supervisor Paul Peterson noticed there were shortfalls in the amount claimed to have been dumped and the total amount processed.
“He got suspicious and decided to back check and see if the amount reported on the cards was the same as indicated by the metering system. So he did that and it wasn’t,” Heller said. “To follow that up, we went to the county sanitarian and we got all the records as to the amount of material that was dumped at Egg Harbor for three months in ’14 – June, July and August – and based on that, we found substantial shortfalls.”
The amount the haulers report to the county are based on what the haulers bill the owners of the septic or holding tank systems they’ve emptied. The amount the haulers report to the village is what they are charged for dumping the waste for treatment.
The initial results prompted a more thorough search of records in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Heller told the village board that 98 percent of the discrepancies were the responsibility of two haulers. Records indicated that discrepancies by one hauler amounted to the loss of $18,000 to the village in 2013, $20,250 in 2014 and $9,200 in 2015.
The significant drop in this year’s discrepancies may be attributed to letters that were sent in June to the two haulers with the largest discrepancies, asking for clarification of the discrepancies.
“They responded, not giving us much clarification,” Heller told the village board. He added, however, that the discrepancies dropped significantly after the letter was sent out.
“We’re thinking this is intentional,” Heller said. “We think they were intentionally defrauding us.”
So Heller asked the village board if they approved of the action the Utility Committee had planned, which is to invoice the haulers for the amounts they hauled in the past according to what they report to the county and their customers.
If the haulers do not agree to make up the shortfalls, Heller said the village would pursue legal action against them, revoke their ability to dump at the village treatment plant, and get the Department of Natural Resources involved, since they are responsible for wastewater treatment plant oversight.
“I’m afraid of starting this witch hunt and having haulers driving to Baileys Harbor instead, losing all that revenue,” said Village President Joe Smith.
Heller said he doubts if all seven haulers would ever do that, and reiterated, “This is a situation of fraud.”
“We all get our systems pumped. We all pay them. It should be fair all the way,” said Village Trustee Bob Dickson.