Charles County Property Owner Pleads Guilty to Violations of Environmental Laws, Required to Pay Fine to Maryland Clean Water Fund
News Release, Office of Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh
BALTIMORE, MD (AUGUST 20, 2019) – Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh today announced that Robert Michael Ryce, of Indian Head, pleaded guilty in the Circuit Court for Charles County to two counts of Installing an Unpermitted Sewage System. The Honorable Judge Amy Janel Bragunier sentenced Ryce on count one to one year of incarceration, suspended; a fine of $20,000, suspending all but $10,000 to be paid to the Maryland Clean Water Fund; and three years of probation. On count two, Ryce was sentenced to one year of incarceration, suspended, consecutive, and a suspended fine of $10,000.
Ryce owned and operated a four-unit rental property at 5105 Marbury Run Road in Marbury. The property backs up to Marbury Creek and is not connected to public water or sewer. The property is serviced by a well for potable water and a drain field for sewage disposal.
Charles County Department of Health inspectors responded to complaints of pooling sewage at the property in October 2018 and ordered Ryce to repair the failing septic system. During their inspections, they observed two illegally installed sewage pipes leading from the rental buildings and discharging in close proximity to the well. Tests of the water from sinks in the property showed high levels of total coliforms and the presence of E. Coli.
The subsequent investigation by the Office of the Attorney General revealed that the pipes were installed to redirect sewage from the living units away from the drain field. Further, prior tenants complained of historic problems with the pooling of sewage in the drain field.
The case was prosecuted by the Office of the Attorney General’s Environmental Crimes Unit due to the combined risk to both the environment and to human health. At the time of sentencing, the property was vacant and the owner was making efforts to come into compliance with the appropriate state and county sewage and water regulations.
“The drinking water at this property was contaminated by E. Coli and other coliforms. This is a serious hazard to human health and to the environment. The environmental laws this landlord violated, requiring proper permitting and inspection of sewage disposal systems, are in place to prevent bacteria into our drinking water and the waters of the State,” said Attorney General Frosh
The Attorney General thanks the Charles County Health Department, Charles County State’s Attorney’s Office, and Environmental Crimes Chief Investigator Thomas Waugh for their hard work on this case.