It has been almost three years since Halifax resident Steven Edward Salley asked the Halifax County Service Authority for the last time to do right by him and correct a continuous overflow of sewage he said was destroying some five acres of his 100-plus acre farm.
Salley said seven spills had occurred since 2012.
At that time, two gravity-fed sewage lines were located on the property, and the authority at that same meeting in 2016, condemned another strip of his property for another sewer line to fix the problem.
For years, the sewage line across five acres of his wooded land on Cowford Road regularly overflowed. The pipe could not hold the sewage coming out of South Boston, so the raw sewage gushed forth from the four or five manholes on his property, he told authority board members.
And the authority paid to have lime spread to correct the problem.
A skeptical Salley told board members in 2016 he didn’t know if HSCA’s proposal to install a third force-fed line would make any difference.
At that time, he asked the board to award him $25,000 in compensation for the easement and previous damages to his property from existing gravity-fed sewer lines.
The board’s response was an offer of $10,000 for an easement based on an appraisal they had commissioned.
Salley refused the board’s offer of $10,000, and the board did not respond to the higher figure Salley had forwarded to them in a letter dated Aug. 15, 2016.
In his letter, Salley wrote “…if the offer of $25,000 is not accepted by the Halifax Service Authority, I will be forced to proceed with legal proceedings for inverse condemnation.”
Salley said his reason for going to the 2016 authority meeting was to make one last effort before going to court to get the authority to make him whole.
The authority refused.
After that, Salley told the authority he had no choice but to fight in court.
And true to his word, he took the authority to court in a civil action filed March 13, 2017 in Halifax County Circuit Court.
Represented by the law firm of Waldo & Lyle in Norfolk, Salley claimed in the suit the authority had used his property for sewage overflow easements without providing just compensation for its use and they damaged his property without just compensation. He asked that a jury determine and award just compensation as well as award him funds to cover attorney’s fees, costs and expert witness fees.
His legal pursuit has taken three years and cost him more than $76,000, according to court records.
And after hearing both sides and all the evidence earlier this year in January, the court ruled the authority had “taken and damaged” his property without payment of just compensation and the authority must make restitution to Salley to compensate him for depriving him of his constitutionally protected property rights.
The court order stated from the evidence presented that the authority’s “operation and maintenance of the waste water pipe on Oct. 15, 2014, Dec. 24, 2015, Oct. 8, 2016, Jan. 23, 2017, May 23, 2017, June 4 or 5, 2017, May 18, 2018 and Sept. 18, 2018 caused waste water and other items to physically enter upon and flood portions of the petitioner’s property.”
The only issue left now is how much it will take to make Salley whole.
The judge has ordered a jury trial be held to resolve that issue, and a pretrial motions hearing has been set for 10 a.m. Nov. 18 before the January trial.