South Portland gives owner of home that neighbors call a health hazard more time to track source of ‘noxious odors’

Posted Aug. 07, 2014, at 12:05 p.m.

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — City councilors on Monday postponed a decision on whether to declare 29 Willard St. a public nuisance because the owner allegedly burned trash in a fireplace.

Fifteen property owners and renters who live near the home filed a petition with the city claiming property owner Mary Giggey has been burning household trash indoors in her fireplace. In the petition, they said the frequent burning of plastics releases “noxious fumes, causing the air quality in our neighborhood to be a major health hazard.”

A leader of the neighbors, Ann Thomas, of 45 Willard St., told councilors she has been trying to resolve this issue for six years. She said she has enlisted the help of code enforcement and fire department officials, and air quality inspectors, and personally pleaded with Giggey.

Considering the city’s free curbside trash and recycling system, Thomas said, “I do not understand why this problem even exists.”

Giggey, however, denied ever burning anything other than wood in her fireplace, and claimed that plastic bottles found in her fireplace during an inspection a year ago had been misplaced by her husband, who was recovering from a stroke.

After just over an hour of testimony and discussion, councilors decided they did not have enough concrete evidence to determine a public nuisance exists.

Councilor Tom Blake suggested they delay action until November, to give Giggey, her neighbors and police the opportunity for better communication and tracking of incidents of noxious odors.

Since it was enacted in September 2012, the city’s public nuisance ordinance has only been used on one property, that of former state Rep. Chris Muse in June. Under the ordinance, violators who fail to rectify problems on their properties could face fines from $100 to $2,500 per day.

In other business Monday:

• Councilors transferred $25,000 from the undesignated fund balance to cover year-end costs for the city-contracted draft ordinance committee facilitator, Jeff Edelstein, who helped the committee draft the law passed in late July that bans tar sands from the city.

• They also transferred $81,000 from the undesignated fund balance to fund additional landscaping and median work along the Maine Mall area.

• Police Lt. Frank Clark, who is filling in while Chief Ed Googins is on leave, swore in Sgt. Christopher Todd, who was promoted from officer.

 

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