Prosecutors: Md. landlord’s illegal sewage setup caused E. coli in drinking water

A Charles County, Maryland, landlord has been ordered to pay a $10,000 fine and serve three years of probation after authorities said he illegally hooked up sewage pipes that contaminated the property’s drinking water with E. coli.

Robert Michael Ryce pleaded guilty in Charles County Circuit Court to two counts of installing a sewage system without a proper permit.

The Maryland Attorney General’s Environmental Crimes Unit prosecuted the case.

County health inspectors were called to the four-unit rental property in Marbury last October after tenants complained of pooling sewage on the property, the attorney general’s office said in a news release.

Inspectors discovered two illegally installed sewage pipes leading away from the rental buildings that were discharging waste near the well that provided drinking water to the residence.

When investigators tested water from sinks in the property, they found high levels of overall bacteria — known as coliforms — as well as the presence of E. coli.

“The drinking water at this property was contaminated by E. coli and other coliforms,” said Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh in a statement. “This is a serious hazard to human health and to the environment. The environmental laws this landlord violated, requiring proper permitting and inspection of sewage disposal systems, are in place to prevent bacteria into our drinking water and the waters of the state.”

In the release, Frosh’s office said investigators determined the pipes had been installed to redirect sewage away from the septic system’s drain field and that previous tenants had complained in the past about pooling sewage on the property.

Ryce must pay the $10,000 to the Maryland Clean Water Fund. He faced up to two years in prison and a $30,000 fine.

At the time of Ryce’s sentencing, the property was vacant and Ryce was making efforts to comply with state and county sewage and water regulations, Frosh’s office said.

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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