Amish seek compromise with Ohio county

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KENTON, Ohio – The Amish in one Ohio county say they want to work with health officials who voted to evict them from homes that don’t have proper wells and outhouses.


An Amish community leader in northwest Ohio’s Hardin County apologized to the Kenton-Hardin Board of Health and said residents are seeking a compromise, according to The Columbus Dispatch. The Amish had previously vowed to fight efforts to make them comply with new building edicts.


Last month, eviction notices were issued for two new homes built by the Amish because they didn’t have required wells and septic systems for their outhouses.


“I want to apologize to the board,” Cletus Lambright, a bishop and leader in the Amish community, said during the meeting Tuesday night in Kenton. “This is all new to us, and we didn’t know what to do.”


Hardin County officials said they will work with the 200 or so Amish families who live there.


Last summer, the health board said it would start enforcing rules that any new home must have a proper well and septic system – something the simple-living Amish have never had to do. Health inspectors have not forced existing Amish homes to change.


Partly at issue are rules that require concrete, watertight pits under outhouses and the waste hauled away. The Amish, who avoid modern technology, wanted to continue digging their own pits and spreading the waste on the land.


The board said families will be allowed to design and build their own watertight tanks to go under their outhouses, although an engineer will have to inspect and approve them.


And the builder of one of the homes solved his problem by designing a cap for his well, although he still must enclose the gasoline engine that powers his pump in a galvanized container to prevent oil and water contamination.


Hardin County Prosecutor Brad Bailey said if both families make progress on the issues, the orders to condemn their homes won’t be enforced.


“We’re not going to evict anybody if you’re moving in the right direction,” Bailey told the dozen Amish who attended the meeting this week. “But you have to be acting in good faith and doing something to comply.”


The health board refused to give the Amish an exemption to allow them to continue to spread human waste on their own land. Other Ohio counties have granted such an exemption.


All other Ohio counties with an Amish population have long ago settled similar disputes. Logan County, for example, agreed to let the Amish build their own pits as a compromise. Holmes County, with the state’s largest Amish population, says the Amish follow the rules.


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