ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – For a couple that lives off Sontag Road, the site and smell of an unmaintained sewage system have worsened dramatically over the last few months. A situation that’s gone on for years, and now the community and a councilman are speaking out about the issue and similar ones in the area.
“Right in the middle of a number of homes is this septic system that has failed, so I think it’s a perfect storm of a problem,” said Councilmen Mark Harder.
He became aware of the issue just a few days ago. When he went out to visit the site, his concerns and frustrations with the county’s lack of action started to surmount.
For 20-year resident Bill Cochran, the 10-by-10 open sewage system has made it hard to bring over family and friends. The retired veteran and school teacher went into explained one of the biggest safety concerns for him.
“I have a five-year-old granddaughter, and that’s unsafe,” Cochran said.
Every time water is flushed at the property with the problem, the hole grows. Cochran said he’s watched it get out of control. When the county and state finally stepped in to check out the site, Cochran said he watched the tenant dig out more of the sewage, along the hole even bigger.
The health department and the natural resource department told Cochran there wasn’t much they could do besides issue citations and pass it to legal. He said his nose is left with that putrid smell.
When the rain comes, an entirely new issue arises, affecting not just a few houses but neighborhoods.
“This hill up here, water gushes down here,” Cochran said.
“It’s not too far from the Meramec River if all the right circumstances are there,” Harder said.
With many little creeks feeding into other waterways, it has the potential to cause more damage.
Cochran said that from federal to state, to county, nearly 30 complaints have been filed by him, but still, the sewage sits stagnant.
“Other than the normal bureaucracy of government, it’s very frustrating, how slow things move,” Harder said.
A report from the St. Louis Public Health Department was issued in March 2023. A dye test led to the sewage system failing inspection.
“These departments … they need to have some authority to do something about this, not just bump it around,” Cochran said.
His thoughts came after the property resident has done nothing.
FOX 2 contacted the resident and asked him about the situation, he said he was working on it. It’s the same response Cochran said he’s given him over and over again.
A lack of action has him frustrated with the district, especially, since his taxes have spiked.
“As far as St. Louis County …. my tax bill going up 85 percent on my property alone,” Cochran said.
Paying more for less, the issue isn’t just in this neighborhood.
“We have properties around the county that are similar to this,” Harder said.
He believes there needs to be more urgency to these issues.
“I think we need to look at our ordinances when it comes to these situations… things like septic systems, water systems… maybe needs to be on a higher priority list,” Harder said.