Town of Alderson reacts to tragedy - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Town of Alderson reacts to tragedy

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ALDERSON, WV (WVVA) For residents and business owners in Alderson it is actually illegal to have a septic tank in town.

But the tank that the 2-year-old boy fell into wasn't actually a septic tank. It was a grease tank that mayor Travis Copenhaver says separates the water from grease and grime from the car wash, before it enters the town's sewer system.

"Our chapter 1b2505 of the municipal code of the town of Alderson specifically deals with open areas. We were not aware that this area was open."

Since the 2-year-old Alderson boy fell into the grease tank town mayor Travis Copenhaver says the towns new goal is prevention.

"Since this incident has occurred the zoning officer, who is a special officer of our police department, has gone to other businesses to make sure that there aren't open spaces that we weren't aware of. We also have done housekeeping on our own to make sure that our water plant and sewage gates have been locked so that we don't have the misfortune of something like this happening again," says Copenhaver.

But town officials aren't the only ones who have to work to protect.

"It's impossible for the city to enforce and see every violation of the municipal code,” says Copenhaver. “People have to be responsive and proactive citizens and do something on their own."

Now after the tragedy, the question becomes who is responsible.

"In this particular case when you are dealing with a septic or storage-like device that someone could obviously fall in, then you have the obligations to be sure that that's protected,” says Attorney Charlie Stacy.

Stacy says since an ordinance was violated, the Exxon store could be facing harsh penalties.

"If there is an ordinance that was violated, then they are of course subject to a civil or criminal penalty, just like any other ordinance or statute,” says Stacy. “If they are deemed by the authorities that they have broken the law from a civil standpoint, obviously the death of a child, they're facing a negligence wrongful death suit for the loss of that child."

But either way, Copenhaver says it isn't right to point fingers.

"It's not a blame game, there's been a tragedy," says Copenhaver.

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