KENTON, Ohio – Over the pleas of the local Amish community, a northwest Ohio health board decided to go ahead with plans to condemn two newly constructed Amish homes because they don't have required septic systems for their outhouses.
More than 100 Amish turned out Tuesday night to ask the Kenton-Hardin County Board of Health to reconsider the condemnation order, which requires that the homes be brought into compliance or the families move out.
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, outhouse-using Amish have never had to do. Health inspectors have not forced existing Amish homes to change. Around 200 Amish families live in Hardin County.
At issue are rules that require concrete, watertight pits under outhouses and the waste hauled away. The Amish, who turn their backs on modern technology, want to continue digging their own pits and spreading the waste on the land.
The Columbus Dispatch reported that on Tuesday night, Henry Yoder read a letter signed by the Hardin County Amish community's seven bishops asking the board to reconsider its orders. Yoder owns one of the houses that are not in compliance.
"Our goal is to uphold and maintain the biblical principles of faith which our forefathers believed: to be a separate people," Yoder read. "And, as stated in Romans 12th chapter, `Be ye not conformed ... '."
County Prosecutor Brad Bailey said the issue is bigger than just two homes. Leeching and contamination from the human waste and bad wells can reach the water table and hurt others, he said.
"Our rules at the health department are to prevent problems before they happen, not to react to them," he said.
After more than two hours of testimony from health officials, the board's eight members didn't change their minds. They reaffirmed the orders to condemn the homes that they initially issued in January.
Now, the families can dig proper wells and install approved concrete pits under their outhouses, appeal the orders to the Hardin County Common Pleas Court, or move.
"Our goal is to live simple, God-fearing lives, and we feel your requirements are undermining our simple way of life," Yoder said, reading from the bishops' letter. "Our plea is to live in peace among our fellow citizens and maintain our lifestyles on our own personal properties unless it is definitely proven we are a health hazard to our neighbors."
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.