The Washington departments of Ecology and Health have expanded a septic system replacement program in the western part of the state to cover more counties. Loans of up to $15,000 are available at variable low-interest loan rates and flexible repayment options over 180 months based on income guidelines. The loan length can be extended up to five additional years. Along with primary residences, rental units and second homes are eligible if the system is at least 25 years old, if it is failing and there is evidence to support it, the homeowner has been contacted by local health officials, or if orders have been issued to make repairs.
The town board in Beacon Falls has denied a petition from one of its members to create a property tax credit of up to $500 for people with septic systems. The town’s sewer system is supported by tax money rather than user fees, so people not hooked up to it are paying for its operation. Selectman Kurt Hummel presented the petition with 25 signatures, but the board voted to take no action. Hummel, who says he pays $380 annually to have his septic tank pumped, has been paying taxes for the sewer system for 20 years even though he can’t connect to it because it hasn’t been extended down his street. The town is looking to enter into a regional wastewater agreement with a nearby town, which would result in a change to user fees to support the sewer system.
After 10 years of operating under onsite wastewater rules imposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Trumbull County (east of Cleveland) is now subject to the same regulations as all other counties in Ohio. The county was under the more strict EPA regulations due to a consent decree signed in 2006 because of the number of septic systems that were discharging raw sewage to ditches and bodies of water. Sand filters or secondary treatment are no longer required for systems that discharge water offsite, which added about $3,000 to the cost. The county may now also grant variances from connecting to a sewer system if a property has a functioning septic system, and can consider septic systems for lots that were not eligible under the consent decree but are under state regulations. The EPA has provided funding for repair and replacement of septic systems; $300,000 in 2015.
While the Legislature has yet to take formal action on Gov. Larry Hogan’s reversal of a requirement to use the best available technology for all septic systems in the state, Wicomico County is following the lead with plans to repeal its own impact fee for septic systems. Hogan’s action would overturn a 2012 law and require BAT only in environmentally sensitive areas, such as proposed by the governor. In reaction, County Executive Bob Culver announced a proposal to permanently repeal the $5,200 impact fee on new home construction, which has been subject of a moratorium since 2016, as proposed by Culver and approved by the County Council. The local impact fee was created about 10 years ago to pay off debt from school construction and repairs.
The owner of a South Carolina septic company has been sentenced to 18 months in federal prison and a $10,000 fine for illegally dumping septage. Timothy Howard, 51, owner and operator of American Waste Inc. was charged in federal court for two violations of the U.S. Clean Water Act. He was convicted of dumping septic waste into a grease trap at a restaurant in April 2011, and into a local sewage system in June 2013. Court documents also said he made false statements to local police and hid more than 85 percent of his septage handling activities from records submitted to the state. “Intentional acts by rogue septic haulers pose serious risks to the health of our community and environment,” Andy Castro, assistant special agent in charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Atlanta, said in a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office. “Those who operate within this industry must adhere to the regulations and laws for which they are permitted.”
The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality has begun the process of updating the technical guidance manual for septic systems. The proposed changes involve soil design groups, graywater systems and conditions for approving the use of composting toilets. Specific changes are available on the agency’s website.