Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Councilor's plan hikes odor fines

NEWBURYPORT — City councilors agreed last night to take more time to review a proposal by at-large Councilor Kathleen O'Connor Ives that would allow the city's health director to impose thousands of dollars in fines on any party that violates rules and regulations by creating air pollution — or, in the case of the landfill, odors from the emission of hydrogen sulfide.

In a measure submitted to councilors at the start of the meeting, O'Connor Ives removed an emergency preamble to her bill that would have allowed councilors to skip the steps of referring the measure to their subcommittees. The state Department of Environmental Protection would need to approve the measure, O'Connor Ives said.

O'Connor Ives instead asked the bill be sent to the council's General Government and Planning and Development subcommittees. Members of the city's Board of Health, new health agent Robert Bracey, and representatives from the state Department of Environmental Protection will also be invited to attend.

A meeting will likely be scheduled after Mayor Donna Holaday, who sits on the General Government subcommittee, returns next week from a conference. Bracey takes over as the city's health agent on Feb. 22.

The updated version of O'Connor Ives' ordinance increases the number of fines a person could be punished with. She said last night the figures are the current amounts used by the state's general laws, Chapter 111.

Violators could receive a fine of not less than $1,000 or more than $5,000 for a first offense, and for a subsequent offense, not less than $5,000 or more than $10,000. Each day of a violation can be construed as a separate and succeeding offense.

O'Connor Ives' initial draft called for violators to receive a fine of $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second offense, $200 for the third offense and $300 for the fourth offense and each one after. Each day on which there is a violation can be deemed a separate offense.

O'Connor Ives said last week the idea for her measure was first mentioned at an advisory committee for the Crow Lane landfill four months ago. Neighbors of the Crow Lane landfill suffer health problems due to the release of hydrogen sulfide, reporting nausea, headaches, sinus problems and watery eyes, among others.

Under the ordinance, anyone who violates it may be penalized by indictment or a complaint filed in district court.

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