State Lists Alleged Violations at Home of Wastewater Chief
By CHRIS BURRELL
An investigation underway by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has found nine alleged violations of state environmental codes on property in Oak Bluffs owned by Joseph N. Alosso, chief operator of two municipal sewage treatment plants on the Island and former board of health chairman in Oak Bluffs.
Mr. Alosso is told to appear in front of a DEP board Tuesday in Lakeville for an enforcement conference, according to a proposed consent order sent to him on June 1.
State legislative liaison Russell Smith gave a copy of the letter to the Oak Bluffs board of health Tuesday.
Mr. Alosso is the manager of the wastewater treatment plants in both Edgartown and Oak Bluffs. He is also a member of the Oak Bluffs finance committee.
The consent order, labeled as a draft, is a sternly worded ten-page letter, detailing a series of alleged violations surrounding the installation of a septic system at Mr. Alosso's new four-bedroom house on Carole Lane in Oak Bluffs.
"The respondent [Mr. Alosso] discharged to the septic system without first obtaining a certificate of compliance," the letter states. "The respondent backfilled the system before the final inspection was completed."
Another possible violation: The DEP consent order argues that Mr. Alosso's septic system exceeds the septage flow allowed in a nitrogen sensitive area.
"I have no comment on an ongoing investigation," Mr. Alosso told the Gazette last night.
Mr. Alosso could face orders from the state to reduce his four bedroom house to three bedrooms, and enact a deed restriction spelling out that limitation. He could also be ordered to upgrade his septic system.
The state environmental agency began its investigation last winter acting on a complaint it received. This week, a spokesman at the DEP office in Lakeville would not comment on the case, saying the matter was "enforcement sensitive."
Last summer, while still a member of the board of health, Mr. Alosso obtained building and septic permits to build a four bedroom house on his 7,405 square foot lot, telling his own board and the building department that he was simply replacing an existing four-bedroom house with a new one.
But the number of bedrooms involved is critical. Local assessors listed his existing house - an 824-square-foot ranch - as having only two bedrooms; a special notation in the assessor's records mentions two additional bedrooms below grade, in the basement.
The house sits on a 7,405-square-foot lot in a section of town designated as Zone 2, where strict state and local regulations protect the town drinking water supply.
The formula for residential construction in Zone 2 is prohibitive, allowing just one bedroom per quarter-acre of land, roughly 10,000 square feet; but pre-existing homes are grandfathered.
State investigators who came to Oak Bluffs in March found no hard evidence of an existing four-bedroom house. "Assessors cards for the years 1989 and 1992 indicate the house consisted of three bedrooms," the DEP letter states.
Mr. Alosso bought the property in 1995. Investigators located no record of renovations, additional bedrooms or upgrades to the septic system between 1992 and July of 2003.
As for the notation about two extra bedrooms in the cellar, the assessor told officials from the DEP that "the note was added to the assessors card a couple of years ago."
The consent order letter from the state also raises concerns about the lack of a septic compliance certificate for the new house. When health agent Shirley Fauteux went to inspect the system on Nov. 26, it had already been covered over.
State environmental regulations require that septic systems be exposed in their entirety when they are inspected, before a certificate of compliance can be issued: "Subsurface components of a system shall not be backfilled or otherwise concealed from view until a final inspection has been conducted by the approving authority and permission has been granted by the approving authority to backfill the system."
Mr. Alosso, who lost his bid in April for reelection to the board of health, could face penalties and fines if the DEP chooses to enforce the violations laid out in its proposed consent order.
A variety of remedies is spelled out. One could require Mr. Alosso to purchase a quarter-acre of land somewhere in Zone 2 and place a development restriction on the land as a way to offset the excessive nitrogen loading on his home's parcel.
He might be ordered to excavate the system for inspection and apply for a certificate of compliance from the board of health. The DEP could also require him to install a nitrogen-reducing treatment system to the existing septic system.
Proposed penalties could total up to $4,500 a day if Mr. Alosso failed to comply with orders from the state agency.
This week, Mr. Smith, who works as legislative liaison to state Rep. Eric Turkington, told the Gazette he has offered to assist Mr. Alosso in his dealings with the DEP.
Mr. Smith said he believes that Mr. Alosso may be the victim of political in-fighting in Oak Bluffs.
The political tension in town hall around the Alosso issue spilled over into Wednesday's board of health meeting, when two board members blamed their health agent, Ms. Fauteux, for her handling of the DEP letter.
Both Sari Budrow, board of health chairman, and William White were visibly angry with Ms. Fauteux. "It's a private matter," said Ms. Budrow of the letter.
"You don't hand out a document when you don't know what's in it," Mr. White said.
Linda Marinelli, the health board member who defeated Mr. Alosso in April, rose to Ms. Fauteux's defense, arguing that the letter was a public record given to the board of health by Mr. Smith, who was working in his capacity as legislative liaison.
Mr. Alosso attended the meeting and said nothing, but handed board members a scathing letter, calling on the board of health to punish Ms. Fauteux.
"We feel compelled to insist that the Oak Bluffs board of health take immediate action against the agent up to and including termination," the letter signed by Mr. Alosso and his wife, Evelyn Alosso, stated.
The letter also threatened legal action against the town. "In her seeming glee in targeting myself and my family, Ms. Fauteux has put the entire town in a tenuous position," the letter stated.
The criticism of Ms. Fauteux mirrors the board's reaction last winter when Ms. Fauteux wrote a letter to DEP official Jeffrey Gould, seeking an opinion on how building inspectors can issue occupancy permits without required septic approvals.
Then board member Mr. Alosso reacted sharply, saying Ms. Fauteux was ordered not to contact the DEP. He drafted a letter to the DEP asking the agency to disregard the Fauteux letter and successfully lobbied for a unanimous vote, muzzling the health agent from any future written contact with the state agency.