Attorneys Seek a Legal Ruling in Case Against Oak Bluffs Man

By James Kinsella
Gazette Senior Writer

The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has moved for summary decision in its complaint against the supervisor of two Vineyard municipal sewage plants for allegedly violating state septic rules at his own house in Oak Bluffs.

In the motion filed early this month, the DEP reiterated its claim that Joseph Alosso and his wife, Evelyn Alosso, violated eight state rules when they installed a septic system for a four-bedroom house at their property at 53 Carol Lane in Oak Bluffs.

The state contends the Alossos, among other things, began using the septic system before obtaining a certificate of compliance, that they built a septic system too large for the size of the lot, and that the system was placed too close to the property line.

The motion is the latest step in an enforcement action that began early last year. The case is currently in front of an administrative law judge. The Alossos face possible fines of up to $28,310.

Mr. Alosso supervises both the Edgartown and Oak Bluffs wastewater treatment plants.

Yesterday he characterized the motion as an ordinary step in the process.

"That's typically what they do automatically," Mr. Alosso said yesterday. "We also will file."

Similar to summary judgment at the superior court level, summary decision means that the facts are undisputed and the case must be decided solely on the issues of law.

Mr. Alosso said yesterday that he disagrees with the premise.

"The facts are very much in dispute . . . The state contradicts themselves a number of times in their filing," he said.

The motion by state environmental officials comes as the Oak Bluffs wastewater commission has asked the town selectmen to grant a raise to Mr. Alosso. The town currently pays Mr. Alosso an annual salary of $40,000 and does not require him to work more than 20 hours per week.

In Edgartown Mr. Alosso is paid $74,500 a year to supervise the wastewater treatment facility. The job is considered full time.

Last Monday the Oak Bluffs wastewater commission met with selectman and board chairman Gregory Coogan and selectman Michael Dutton.

At the meeting, wastewater commission members advocated for the salary increase for Mr. Alosso, noting that that he had not received a raise in four years and that the commission had given him an outstanding performance review. The authority to grant the raise rests with the board of selectmen.

Following the public session the wastewater commission went into executive session with the two selectmen to discuss contract negotiations. The selectmen have not yet proposed a raise for Mr. Alosso.

Mr. Alosso said he was pleased at the intitiative from the commission to raise his salary. "It's very nice that they wish to do it. I set up a department, I got a plant up and running. That's what they wanted to do," he said.

But one selectman who did not attend the meeting has questioned the wisdom of reopening Mr. Alosso's contract.

Selectman Kerry Scott said the proposed raise comes outside the town budget season where increases are reviewed by the finance committee. Also, she questioned the need to reopen Mr. Alosso's contract, a personal services document, while similar contracts, such as those held by town administrator Casey Sharpe and police chief Erik Blake, are not being reopened for review.

Ms. Scott also openly questioned Mr. Alosso's performance, calling his communication with the board of selectmen less than stellar in the past year.

Two months ago, selectmen reduced annual payments to Mr. Alosso by $10,000 following a request from the board of health. Mr. Alosso had been receiving annual payments from the town to conduct testing for volatile organic compounds in a groundwater plume coming from the Oak Bluffs landfill. The state requires the tests.

But the board of health said Mr. Alosso should not be involved in the testing at a time when he is under investigation for possible state environmental violations at his own home. The board of health has assumed responsibility for conducting the tests.

Asked whether the proposed salary increase from the wastewater commissioners is a way to compensate for the lost testing payments, Mr. Alosso said, "I think that's an unfair statement to make. The board of health has nothing to do with the wastewater commission."

The timing, Mr. Alosso said, is tied to his hire date of August 27 and an accompanying job performance review.

As for the groundwater testing, Mr. Alosso said, "The town asked me to do a job. There's no additional work that needs to be done."

In the motion for summary decision, MacDara K. Fallon, the attorney representing the DEP laid out the facts in the case:

When the Alossos bought 53 Carol Lane in 1995, the property had a three-bedroom ranch house and used a cesspool for septic disposal. The Alossos demolished the ranch and built a four-bedroom house in its place. They also installed a Title V septic disposal system designed for a four-bedroom house. The property at 53 Carol Lane measures .17 acre.

The state claims the following violations:

* The Alossos began to use the septic system before a certificate of compliance was issued. The claim is supported by an affidavit from state environmental engineer Ronald J. White.

* The septic system was backfilled before a final inspection. The claim is supported by an affidavit from Oak Bluffs health agent Shirley Fauteux.

* The Alossos applied for a certificate of occupancy before a certificate of compliance was issued.

* The system installed by the Alossos was designed to handle a septic flow that exceeded what was allowed in a nitrogen-sensitive area for the size of the lot.

* The Alossos built a four-bedroom house on a property that was restricted to a three-bedroom house.

* The Alossos conducted only one percolation test on the system, but at least two are required.

* The Alossos installed the septic system within five feet of the property line, but a setback of at least 10 feet is required.

* The Alossos did not seek a variance to build the system within the required 10-foot setback, nor did they notify abutters to the property that the system would be built within five feet of the property line.