DEC probes septic problem at apartments
CLIFTON PARK The state Department of Environmental Conservation is investigating an ongoing septic problem at an apartment complex in western Clifton Park.
Officers from the DEC Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation executed a search warrant at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday at Blue Barns Apartments, 11-21 Ashdown Road, a DEC spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday.
“The search warrant is in relation to a persistent septic system failure, and the investigation is ongoing,” spokeswoman Charsleissa King said in an emailed statement.
Town officials said they first heard of a problem with the apartment complex’s septic system almost a year ago.
In June 2012, the owner of a neighboring property contacted the town about a leak in the septic system’s leach field.
When the Blue Barns Apartments, formerly called Peg Apartments, were built, the owners at the time made an agreement with a neighboring property owner to locate the complex’s septic leach field in his vacant field, said Steve Myers, town director of building and zoning. County property records say the buildings were built in 1972.
“My understanding is that the soils available at the site were not suitable for septic,” Myers said. The field is some distance from the apartments and other houses on the street, he said.
That neighbor noticed a year ago that a pipe that was supposed to be pumping liquid into the leach field underground had broken to the surface and smelly water was seeping out onto the ground, Myers said.
“You just know by the smell of it that it’s not clean water,” he said.
Myers and other town officials talked with the owner, whose name Myers would not disclose Tuesday because of a town policy to not release names of people who make complaints to the town.
The town then reported the issue to the DEC, which planned to investigate, and officials haven’t heard from the neighboring owner since.
The DEC did not contact the town about Tuesday’s search warrant, Myers said, and the town has no information on the current issue or whether the DEC’s action comes in response to the town’s complaint.
The owner of a vacant field behind the apartment building did not immediately return a call for comment Tuesday.
The town has not received any complaints from tenants about this issue; Myers said he doubts they would notice a problem since the septic field is not near the building.
Blue Barns tenants did complain to the town previously about an unrelated sewer problem in the apartments that was caused by groundwater getting into the drain pipes and filling the septic system, Myers said. The owner fixed that problem, he said.
Most properties in that area have septic systems rather than public sewer lines, said town Supervisor Phil Barrett: “There’s still a fair amount of the town as you get into the more rural areas that still have septic.”
The management company for Blue Barns Apartments, Sterling Oaks Communities, did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
On its website, Sterling Oaks Communities describes Blue Barns Apartments and its other property, the five-story Stockade View in Schenectady, as “the adult luxury community of doctors, engineers, educators, professionals and seniors.”
It calls Blue Barns Apartments a “30-apartment boutique complex with 4 acres of grounds.” Five brick buildings in the complex house six apartments each.
Two-bedroom apartments there rent for $1,200, including hot water, heat, cable and high-speed Internet, according to rental listings. One-bedroom apartments start at $975.
The company says in its listings that it recently finished renovating the entire complex, including the entrances and halls, while inside the apartments the company added new kitchens, bathrooms, carpet, windows and doors.
The building’s owner is listed in county property records as Green Oak Blue Barns, which bought the property in 2011. The town estimates its full market value for tax purposes at $1.2 million.