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Sanitation Dist. No. 1 of Jefferson County v. Campbell

June 6, 1952



STANLEY Commissioner. The question is whether a statute and regulations adopted by virtue thereof are constitutionally valid insofar as they may compel connection of abutting property with a public sewer system where its sewage is disposed of through private septic tank facilities originally installed in accordance with state health regulations.

Sanitation District No. 1 of Jefferson County is a municipal corporation or political subdivision organized under the provisions of Chapter 220, Ky. Rev. Statutes. The Louisville and Jefferson County Board of Health is a similar public corporation organized under the provisions of Chapter 212, particular KRS 212.350. We shall refer to these respective bodies as 'District' and 'Board.'

The District has constructed and is maintaining a sewerage system in the St. Matthews area, an unincorporated, thickly populated, urban community. The cost of construction was financed by revenue bonds payable with funds raised by service charges. See Somsen v. Sanitation Dist. No. 1 of Jefferson County, 303 Ky. 284, 197 S.W.2d 410; Engle v. Bonnie, 305 Ky. 850, 204 S.W.2d 963; Sanitation Dist. No. 1 of Jefferson County v. Louisville & Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer Dist., 307 Ky. 422, 208 S.W.2d 751; Sanitation Dist. No. 1 of Jefferson County v. City of Louisville, 308 Ky. 368, 213 S.W.2d 995.

KRS 220.170 defines the duties and powers of the district and confers upon it authority to adopt all necessary rules and regulations for its proper management and 'for carrying into effect the other objectives for which the district is formed.' Par. (5). Specific powers are vested by KRS 220.280. In paragraph (3), to serve its purposes, the District 'may require the use of the improvements of the district by persons and public corporations included within the district and for which the improvements were installed.' KRS 220.320 provides for the recognition and enforcement of the authority conferred.

Pursuant to the statutory authority, the District adopted board and definitive regulations. Sec. 26 is as follows:

'The owner of all houses, buildings, or properties used for human occupancy, employment, recreation, or other purposes, situated within the District and abutting on any street, alley or right-of-way in which there is located a public sanitary sewer of the District, is hereby required at his expense to install suitable toilet facilities therein, and to connect such facilities directly with the proper public sewer in accordance with the provisions of the State Board of Health and/or the Jefferson County Board of Health.'

The following section of the Regulations requires where a public sanitary sewer is not available, that private sewage disposal systems be used, the same to comply with the state plumbing code and the requirements of the State and County Boards of Health.

The statutes confer upon county boards of health broad powers relating to the public health. KRS 212.210 et seq. Although, as it appears, without express statutory authority, the Board adopted certain specific regulations, among which is that no person shall maintain upon any lot or parcel of ground situated on any street, alley, or road in Louisville or Jefferson County 'where there is a public sewer and water supply available for use of such unit of ground, any system of disposal of human excreta except by means of water closets connected with such sewers and water supply.' Regulation 303.301.

Three owners of property abutting the sewer line in the St. Matthews area, and served by a public water supply, resisted the demands of the District and the Board that they connect their property with the sewer system. They filed this suit seeking injunctive protection against prosecution and a declaration of rights. The plaintiffs charge the statute and regulations are within the constitutional bar of arbitrary action, Sec. 2 Ky. Const., and the requirement of the due process provisions of the state and federal constitutions. A stipulation of the facts was filed. Pertinent to the present issue are these agreements: Parts of the sewer system had been in use since July 1, 1949, and the entire system was completed about June 1, 1950. Prior thereto the residents of St. Matthews had maintained individual sanitary systems consisting of septic tank facilities. Connection with the sewer by other residents had continued progressively. Approximately 3,300 residences had done so and 125 were continuing to use septic tanks. Those of the plaintiffs 'are not less effective or less efficient than average working septic tank facilities and the original installation thereof was approved by the State Board of Health.' Sewage from the public system had backed up in the basements of forty buildings connected with it during the winter of 1949 and spring of 1950. These buildings are not on streets on which the plaintiffs' property is located. The defendants further expressly admitted in their pleadings that they were 'aware of certain defects' in the sewer system for which the Board is 'constantly seeking methods of remedying.' They stated that the sewer system 'is reasonably safe and adequate and that there have been no major difficulties as to the streets on which each of the plaintiffs reside.'

The circuit court was of the opinion that the duty of the Board is to see that no unhealthful conditions exist, and the duty of the District is to construct sewers to make it possible to eliminate unhealthful conditions; that the regulations requiring all parties 'whether unhealthful conditions exist or not to connect to same would be unreasonable and arbitrary since it is possible for the owners of the lots to operate and maintain some other form of disposal in such a manner so that same would not create a health menace or any unhealthful conditions.' It was accordingly adjudged that the foregoing regulations of the Board, 303.301, and of the District (26) are invalid and unenforceable. It was further adjudged that KRS 220.280(3), above quoted, violates Sec. 2 of the Ky. Const. and the 14th Amendment of the Federal Constitution and is, therefore, void and unenforceable.

The appellees, property owners, invoke cases which declare invalid regulations of administrative boards which go beyond statutory powers, such as Jefferson County v. Jefferson County Fiscal Court, 269 Ky. 535, 108 S.W.2d 181; Bloemer v. Turner, 281 Ky. 832, 137 S.W.2d 387; Robertson v. Schein, 305 Ky. 528, 204 S.W.2d 954; Henry v. Parrish, 307 Ky. 559, 211 S.W.2d 418. In the present case, the legislature defined the purposes and objects of sanitation districts to be in part 'to provide for the collection and disposal of sewage and other liquid wastes produced within the district; and incident to such purposes and to enable their accomplishment, to construct * * * sewers * * * and do all other things necessary for the fulfillment of the purposes' of the Act. KRS 220.030(4). The purposes are elsewhere manifested to be to maintain the public health in cooperation with the health authorities. To that end, as we have pointed out, the legislature specifically authorized a sanitation district to require the use of its facilities and adopt and enforce regulations to attain its objectives. KRS 220.170(5).

As stated in Nourse v. City of Russellville, 257 Ky. 525, 78 S.W.2d 761, it is sell settled that statutes relating to public health are liberally construed in order to effectuate their purpose.

On their face, and as of general application, the rules and regulations of the District are more clearly within the statutory authority than were those held to be valid in Keller v. Kentucky Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, 279 Ky. 272, 130 S.W.2d 821; Young v. Willis, 305 Ky. 201, 203 S.W.2d 5.

It is readily apparent that the sweep of the judgment striking down the statute and the regulations is too broad and goes beyond the issue in the case. That issue is confined to property which may be served by private sewer facilities which do not constitute a health hazard. The question is whether owners of such property may be compelled, nevertheless, to connect it with the public system and become chargeable with the costs incidental thereto, especially in the light of the admissions of defects in it. The validity of a statute, ordinance or regulation is to be determined by its general purpose and efficiency to accomplish the end desired rather than by its effect in a particular application or operation. A statute may be valid as to one state of facts and invalid as to another, or the manner in which it is administered may be constitutionally offensive. ...

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