Agency of Natural Resources v. Supeno

Respondents Francis and Barbara Supeno, and Barbara Ernst, appealed an order of the Environmental Division imposing a penalty of $27,213 for water and wastewater permit violations. Respondents Francis Supeno and Barbara Supeno were siblings and jointly owned property in Addison. Barbara Supeno and Barbara Ernst lived adjacent to the property. In 2009, the siblings obtained a wastewater system and potable water supply permit, which authorized the replacement of a seasonal cottage with a year-round, one bedroom residence. The permit included the construction of an on-site well and wastewater disposal system. The water supply for the property was provided through a public water system. In 2014 the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) received a complaint of an alleged violation of the wastewater permit. ANR also became aware that the property was advertised as a two-bedroom, two-bathroom rental. An ANR enforcement officer went to the property and Barbara Supeno denied ANR access to the house. The Environmental Division granted ANR’s petition for an access order and ANR received access to the property. During the visit, the enforcement officer observed two water lines entering the basement; the officer also observed the permitted bedroom on the second floor and an additional non-permitted bedroom in the basement. Based on the officer’s observations, an emergency administrative order (EAO) was issued, wherein: (1) respondents failed to obtain a permit before modifying the rental home to add a second bedroom; (2) respondents spliced into the public water supply line serving the adjacent property and connected it to the rental property without obtaining a permit; and (3) respondents created an unapproved cross-connection at the rental property, which allowed it to switch between the well water and the public water system and created a risk that potentially polluted water could contaminate the public water supply. The EAO eventually became an Administrative Order (AO), imposing the penalty at issue here. Respondents argued that their due process rights were violated, the penalty assessment was precluded by res judicata, and the amount of the penalty was excessive. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the Environmental Division. View "Agency of Natural Resources v. Supeno" on Justia Law