Septic failure leaves nursing home in a bind

PROSPECT — A septic system failure at RegalCare at Prospect caused a health emergency that may require the relocation of nursing home residents.

Maura Esposito, director of the Chesprocott Health District, which oversees the nursing home, said she was first called to the facility after a towel blocked a drain causing a sewage backup in mid-July. That led to the discovery of a failing septic system and the involvement of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Esposito said the facility, which is licensed for 120 beds, had 91 patients as of mid-August.

In an interview with the Citizen’s News last week, Esposito confirmed that some residents had been moved out of the facility.

A message left with RegalCare seeking comment wasn’t returned as of press time

Esposito said the septic failure is “very odorous and the temporary solution that they have presented to us in a very short period of time would still result in a lot of odors and construction equipment,” she said. “We have discussed the fact that there are some people who can’t handle that very well. Some can, some can’t. Until there is a fix there shouldn’t be people in there until it is a safe environment for them.”

In letter dated Aug. 9 sent to family of patients the company at first stated some residents needed to be moved within the building to accommodate for renovations of some resident rooms. In a second letter dated Aug. 15 the company addressed the septic problem.

“As you may be aware, the facility experienced a septic backup in the past few weeks,” stated the letter signed by Melissa Vivo, administrator. “RegalCare at Prospect has been working diligently on this. We are in the process of assessing the situation with engineers and have been working with the local and state health department regarding this matter.”

The letter did not address the need for patients to be relocated to other facilities.

Esposito said company leaders have taken a “proactive stance and are going to be removing some of the patients little by little to get all of the septic system fixed.”

RegalCare purchased the 25 Royal Crest Drive facility and five others from Paradigm Healthcare last year.

The facility in rural Prospect is considered a high water use facility, but has no municipal sewage connections. That means its wastewater runs into a septic system on the property.

“Septic systems fail,” Esposito said. “They don’t last forever.”

The nursing home’s permit with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection allows for 9,000 gallons of daily effluent. The DEEP regulates all systems over 7,500 gallons, while the local health district oversees septic systems up to 2,000 gallons.

Michael Hart, of the DEEP, said there are two steps toward remediating the problem.

The first is to temporarily install two 21,000 gallon holding tanks that can be temporarily pumped into.

“That will increase their holding capacity and better manage the holding of waste off site,” he said.

The second is to determine what caused the failure and to formulate a technical repair plan. The DEEP will oversee that process.

“This is something we deal with quite often here,” Hart said of septic failures. “In any time frame there is, somewhere in Connecticut, there is a system that is malfunctioning or failing. We are used to dealing with this.”

He said the DEEP demanded that the facility be responsive.

“They have got extensive remedial work they have to do outside and inside this facility and they are not going to be allowed to just sit on their hands while workers and residents may be in a position to be exposed to this stuff,” he said.

Esposito told the Citizen’s News the health district has weekly meetings with the facility to “evaluate their schedule of work and its completion and keep them on task.”