Arkville trailer park dispute over failed septic system

Staff Report
The owner of an Arkville trailer park is being fined $250 a day, retroactive to September 10, for failing to adequately upgrade its on-site sewage collection system.

According to town officials, the problems at Carlson’s Trailer Park have resulted in spills of raw sewage that have leeched directly into the East Branch of the Delaware River.
Trailer park owner Richard Gulde said he won’t pay the fines. Instead he plans to appeal the judgment and will seek to have it overturned. The fines were levied against him by Middletown Justice Glen George. He found himself in court as a result of a lengthy on-again-off-again dispute between not only Gulde and Middletown Code Enforcement Officer Pat Davis, but also New York City Department of  Environmental Protection (DEP), the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the State Department of Health.

According to Davis, Gulde was aware that broken pipes needed to be replaced when he bought the trailer park several years ago, but the onsite sewage collection system, which is tied into the Margaretville Wastewater Treatment facility, continues to fail about once a year.
“The owner refused to repair them,” said Davis. It’s Davis’ belief that the repairs could be made at a cost of about $40,000.

Gulde, on the other hand, insists that the work will cost several times more. He claims that he is being discriminated against because the park provides housing for people with low incomes. He blamed his tenants for causing much of the system failure by “flushing the wrong things down the toilets” and creating blockages.

No project funding
Gulde also claimed he originally agreed to replace the system on his own at a cost of $120,000 until he learned that the Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC ) has a septic rehabilitation and replacement program.
“They subsidize everyone, why not me?” he said. 

 Gulde did not qualify for the program, because it is for owner-occupied homes and not a trailer
park.

“Unfortunately, none of our programs could provide funding for making repairs to septic laterals for properties that are already hooked to a wastewater treatment plant, such as Mr. Gulde’s,” said CWC corporate counsel Timothy Cox. 

“The trailer park is a commercial property – the individual mobile home occupants do not own their lots,” he adde. Cox explained that the CWC offered Gulde help in the form of a low-interest business loan, but he did not apply for it. 

According to Davis, the most recent spill occurred earlier this month and it was Gulde’s continuing refusal to remedy the situation that finally landed him in court.

On October 10, Judge George ruled in favor of the town and levied fines against Gulde retroactively. The judge also ordered Gulde to begin construction on the new system in three months or face possible arrest, said Davis.

Gulde, however, is pleading poverty. He claims the repairs will cost him $170,000 in out-of-pocket expenses and that he stopped making money on the trailer park after Tropical Storm Irene wiped out seven trailers there. He also says many of the residents are low income and cannot be expected to pay for the upgrades, if he passes the costs along to them. He seeks to win on appeal, but he also hopes that by speaking out about his problems, he might also win some ground in the court of public opinion.

Meanwhile, the fines against him are mounting. They’re now at about $18,000 and counting.