BRISTOL - The stench from his neighbor's apartment complex has been on Craig Lydic's mind - or rather his nose - for the past several months, but finding relief has been a struggle because of the owner's absence. Neither the county health department nor the court system has been able to reach her.
"The septic was so bad it was backing up into the bathtubs and the sinks," Lydic said. "I could smell it from the backyard."
Lydic lives next door to the triplex at 7128 state Route 45 and also owns the neighboring Bristolwood Golf Course. He said the issue with the stench, which he also said could be smelled from the first hole of his course about 150 feet away, started about six months ago when all three apartments were occupied.
Tribune Chronicle / Margaret Thompson
Many attempts have been made to contact the owner of this house at 7128 state Route 45 in Bristol about a nuisance septic system.
"Last winter you literally could smell it from the road as you're going 50 mile an hour," he said. "I'm trying to run a business here. It's already hard even without that eyesore."
According to Trumbull County Health Department documents, the issue goes back as far as three years when in June 2010, the septic system was tested and found to be a nuisance. In July 2010, the owner, Nora Kuszmaul Hites, sent in an application to begin a septic replacement.
However, at meetings in 2011 with the health board and the director, she was absent.
In 2012, the health department was notified by an installer that he was ready to start the septic installation and would be pulling a permit.
By March 2013, the system was still not installed.
On Aug. 13, Newton Falls Municipal Court dismissed a case against Hites for failure to repair the sewage treatment system. Lydic believes the case was thrown out because of Hites' age, but according to the court, it was dismissed because Hites was unable to be served.
It is not the first time she has been unable to be reached. Several letters sent to her by the health department over the years can be found in the property's health department folder with return to sender labels affixed to them.
The Tribune Chronicle was unable to contact Hites as no number is listed for the address given on the Trumbull County Auditor's website. She is reported to be living in a nursing home in Middlefield.
As recently as last week, vehicles were parked at the apartments. Knocks on the door, however, went unheeded.
Bristol Trustee Doug Seemann said he was unaware of the septic situation but that he believed the owner is in her 90s and not doing well.
Whether a property owner is elderly does not affect how health regulations are handled, Dr. James Enyeart, Trumbull County Health commissioner, said.
"We go off who owns the property," Enyeart said. "Somebody has to be in control of an elderly person's property."
Though the smell has died down - Lydic believes because several of the occupants have moved out - and other neighbors did not seem to mind the situation, Lydic is still concerned about the property being an eyesore.
He said he has yet to file nuisance complaints because he doesn't want to be "that guy" in the situation.
"Let's stop pointing fingers and try to move forward," he said.
Where forward exactly is though may be back to the beginning, according to Enyeart.
He said it is not the health department's responsibility to serve papers to those involved in court cases. Because the court dismissed the case, he said the health department will have to start the process over. In this case, he said, it would go back to the department's attorney.
Enyeart said this is part of "playing within the law."
"It's not always easy to eliminate some of these nuisances due to unusual circumstances such as health and so forth," he said, "but it's what we have to do."