Ohio considers onsite system rules changes


Some in Ohio are expressing alarm over the state considering rule changes for septic design and installation for the first time since 1977. Does this sound familiar? It should if you’ve been watching Florida in recent years, which has seen homeowners and state legislators criticize efforts to institute a minimal five-year inspection rule for all onsite systems.

We’re going to be reporting on the Ohio situation in an upcoming Rules and Regs feature in Onsite Installer. But as a brief preview, a survey by the Ohio Department of Health indicates that 31 percent of systems statewide need to be repaired or replaced, and that one-fourth of the state’s counties have not made significant updates to onsite rules since they were adopted many years ago. So the department wants to update the rules.

So what’s the problem with taking a good, hard look at septic regulations and make sure they protect the vital clean water supply? After all, so many other technologies have improved dramatically over the past 37 years; doesn’t the same hold true for our industry’s ability to efficiently protect the environment for everyone? It stands to reason that a new look is in order.

Related: Blog: Support point-of-sale real estate inspections

A few voices are starting a chorus of discontent over the prospect of new rules that might – I repeat “might” – lead to higher costs to homeowners installing new onsite systems.

“We have laws already in place which require government permits and inspections to safeguard water supplies,’’ says one reader on the Columbus Dispatch editorial page this week. “Why do government officials always want to add laws that are expensive and excessive for taxpayers while not properly documenting the problem they say we need protected from?’’

An editorial in the Wheeling News-Register, on the Ohio-West Virginia border, today questioned the need for new rules, and asks that state officials proceed cautiously.

Related: Septic System Approval Process Not So Simple

“Health department officials can head off some criticism by ensuring they are proposing the most economical systems and methods available,’’ the newspaper asserts. “They should do that simply because their job is not to add unnecessarily to the cost of building homes.’’

Yes, a reasonable approach is warranted. But isn’t it also reasonable to suggest that a rules review is prudent after so many years and when the onsite wastewater industry is making great strides in treatment technology? Rather than hinder development, I would argue that the state approving the use of new technologies – and mandating them where necessary – could spur development on what were previously unbuildable properties.

The health department, at its website, asks residents to look at the facts, not at rumors circulating about the new rules. I think that’s a wise response. See the health department’s explanation of the need for updates right here:

Related: Maryland Senate Bill 236 Explained

 

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