In a notable legal development, Christopher J. Plunkett, 49, owner of Sawmill Campground in Cumberland Valley Township in Pennsylvania, has been mandated to pay a fine of $1,000, along with $825 in attorney fees to the township following allegations of significant environmental and operational concerns at his campground.
According to an article by Bedford Gazette, the case against Plunkett gained momentum after cell phone footage, captured by Geraldine Man, a former resident of the campground, was presented in court. Recorded on November 15 and 19, the videos allegedly depicted water leaking from an unoccupied camper on Plunkett’s property.
This incident raised serious questions about the campground’s adherence to environmental standards, particularly in wastewater management.
Compounding Plunkett’s woes was an injunction filed by the Cumberland Valley Township Supervisors in October.
The injunction called for an immediate cessation of operations at Sawmill Campground, allegedly due to unresolved issues related to water, sewer, and permits.
In the courtroom, Judge Travis Livengood expressed his concerns about the persistent nature of the problem, as evidenced by the interval between the two video recordings.
He pointed out that the wastewater leakage, not connected to a proper septic system and spilling onto the ground, constituted a direct violation of the order in the original injunction.
Despite these allegations, the court did not find conclusive evidence to support claims that Plunkett was living in his former home above the campground office, exceeding the allowed number of rental units, or mishandling sewage capacity.
Man’s testimony suggested that Plunkett might be residing in the house, citing observations of covered windows and movements between a campsite and the house.
Plunkett countered these allegations by showing that his family was living in a camper and provided evidence of the dismantled state of the bathrooms in the former home, which is currently unpermitted for occupancy.
The situation was further complicated by testimony from Luke Helsel, the Sewer Enforcement Officer. Helsel noted the absence of final permitting plans from Plunkett to rectify the identified issues.
A tense moment ensued when Plunkett accused Helsel of retaliatory behavior in relation to a building permit application, an accusation Helsel denied, clarifying that the issuance of a permit was contingent on reducing the number of campsites.
Lisa Whisler, Plunkett’s attorney, highlighted the lack of a specific deadline for Plunkett to address the campground’s issues.
Plunkett himself testified, presenting bills to assert his compliance with sewage regulations and to substantiate his claim of not residing in the unpermitted home.
Plunkett now faces a 30-day deadline to settle the fine and associated costs. The fine is directed to the probation office, while the attorney’s fees are owed to Cumberland Valley Township.
This case serves as a stark reminder of the stringent regulations governing campground operations and the importance of maintaining environmental and operational standards.