Beech Grove files lawsuit against Franciscan Alliance over water overflows

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BEECH GROVE (May 20, 2014) – Water from the old St. Francis Hospital site is flooding nearby basements and posing an expensive health risk, a new lawsuit from the city of Beech Grove claims.

The city filed a lawsuit against the Franciscan Alliance, owners of the hospital that closed in 2012. According to the complaint filed in Marion Superior Court, storm and surface water from the hospital is draining into sanitary sewers outside.

Beech Grove owns and operates a separate sewer system that collects wastewater from residential and industrial users in specific sanitary sewers; the system also collects storm water in storm sewers. City ordinances prohibit storm water from entering the sanitary sewers, and violating the ordinance results in a fine of $1,000 a day. Each day’s violation is considered a separate offense, according to city officials.

The lawsuit claims up to 30,000 gallons of water were being dumped from the hospital site into the sanitary sewer system per day, overwhelming the sewers and resulting in basement backups. The city said the unauthorized discharges led to backups of raw sewage and storm water into the basements of nearby homes.

“What’s backed up in these people’s homes? I don’t even want to know,” said Mayor Dennis Buckley. “The taxpayers of Beech Grove for who knows how long have been paying to treat St. Francis’ waste water. So what we’re asking is for them to stop.”

Mike Mourer has lived across the street from the hospital for decades. He doesn’t think the hospital system is the only one to blame.

“We’ve lived here for 30 years and have had problems with our sewers for 30 years,” he said. “[The facility] has existed for 100 years. Why are we waiting until now to address this?”

The city said Franciscan Alliance refused its request to inspect the site until February 2014 despite a city ordinance allowing such inspections. When engineers took a closer look, they discovered water flowing into the sanitary sewers; sump pumps at the hospital were pumping water from the basement and into the sewers.

City officials are worried about the overflows and potential contaminants. Late last month, the city installed meters to monitor the water flow.

“It has always been our intention to work with Franciscan Alliance to resolve these issues,” said Buckley, “but our first obligation is to the taxpayers of Beech Grove.  It is simply irresponsible to ask them to pay to treat this water and to live with raw sewage backing up in their basements, while placing an undue burden on our city’s infrastructure.  We hope Franciscan Alliance is willing to do their fair share and to partner with us in resolving these very important public health and economic concerns.”

The city cites four counts against Franciscan:

  • Count I:  Ordinance Violation (Impermissible Flows).  The City requests that Franciscan Alliance be fined $1,000 for each day’s violation.
  • Count II: Ordinance Violation (Reimbursement for Inspection and Monitoring).  The City requests that Franciscan Alliance be ordered to reimburse the City for the costs of its investigation, including the reasonable costs of monitoring and sampling flows.
  • Count III: Public Nuisance.  The City requests an order enjoining Franciscan Alliance for illegally discharging flows into the sanitary sewers, to abate any causes of those illegal discharges and the transport of any contaminants, and to pay for the city’s reasonable attorneys’ fees.
  • Count IV:  Unjust Enrichment.  The City requests reimbursement from Franciscan Alliance for causing the City to convey flows from the St. Francis Hospital site to the Citizens Energy Group for treatment without compensating the City.

Read the full complaint here

Franciscan St. Francis Health provided the following statement to FOX59:

“We just received notice today (May 20) that the City of Beech Grove has filed a lawsuit in Marion Superior Court and we have not had time to fully study its details. As policy, Franciscan Alliance and its division, Franciscan St. Francis Health, does not comment on pending litigation.”

 

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