DURHAM — The head of a South Durham rest home has reached an agreement with state regulators that will allow it to remain open until a sewage issue is resolved.
The Ellison Rest Home off Fayetteville Road just south of the Streets at Southpoint mall ran afoul of the state's Division of Water Quality last year when its private septic system was deemed inadequate for the amount of waste water it was processing and discharging into a nearby creek.
The state had threatened sanctions -- including the possibility of closing the 29-bed facility -- unless the septic system was upgraded or the home connected to city sewers.
Rest Home owner Helen Ellison's attempt to connect to the sewer was blocked by her six siblings, who own adjacent land and would prefer to sell it to a developer rather than allow the new construction. So now Ellison is moving forward with a costly upgrade to her private septic system, said Mack Wiggins, an environmental technician with the state's water quality division.
The state has issued Ellison a six-month pump-and-haul permit. That means Ellison has six months to figure out precisely how to upgrade her septic system, during which time she'll pay to have sewage hauled away from the facility.
"There's no way the waste water will get into the environment," Wiggins said.
Upgrading the private septic system to the state's satisfaction may bring an end to a fractious saga involving Ellison and her six siblings, all of whom own shares in land left to them by their father. Ellison and her siblings have long been at odds, and the siblings fought her attempt to dig a line through a sliver of their communal land to lay the sewer piping.
Earlier this month, a Superior Court judge ruled she couldn't do so without their consent. At the time, Ellison's attorney, Floyd McKissick Jr., warned that if the rest home was shuttered, about 20 patients -- including some long-term residents -- would be displaced.
McKissick declined to comment Tuesday.
Wiggins, the state water official, said he would be pleased to sign off on the rest home's upgraded septic system if it filled the proper requirements.
"We're trying to do what's best for the environment, one, but also we're trying to help the rest home and keep her going," he said. "It's a tough case. We certainly didn't want to shut it down."
Staff writer Eric Ferreri can be reached at 956-2415 or firstname.lastname@example.org.