In this month’s regulations update, new onsite system siting rules are frustrating Georgia installers and homeowners, and state representatives in Michigan propose a fee-supported program for septic replacement
A series of bills to set a statewide regulation for the estimated 1.3 million septic systems in Michigan has been introduced in the legislature. House Bill 5732 would establish the regulations, including a time of transfer inspection. Under the proposal, local health departments could set standards stricter than state law. House Bill 5733 would appropriate $3 million to pay for an inspection program and the development of a database of septic systems. The program would be supported by user fees, which would also provide funding to support homeowners who can’t afford to repair or replace systems. Supporters of the bills say there are about 130,000 failing systems in the state, but only 11 of the state’s 83 counties have programs to detect failed or failing septic systems.
SOWMA recommends changes to Saskatchewan onsite wastewater program
An extensive survey by the Saskatchewan Onsite Wastewater Management Association has provided a long list of recommendations to the Ministry of Health on the province’s onsite wastewater program as it begins considering changes to its regulations. Among the 27 recommendations, SOWMA calls for a training and certification program for installers, required soil sampling at the restricting and limiting layers rather than basic site and soil evaluation, monitoring ports at each end of the system, high-level alarms, and GPS locating information on the permit application. It also calls for increases in setbacks, fines and penalties significant enough to encourage compliance; effluent filters on all systems; development of a best practice for inspections; a central database; and training for local health officers.
New onsite system siting rule frustrates Georgia installers, homeowners
New interpretation of a long-standing septic system siting rule is causing concerns in the 13 counties that make up the Georgia Department of Health’s District 2. Smaller lots that were established prior to 1984 have been grandfathered from minimum requirements on lot size and setbacks. Though there have been no law or regulation changes, the health district has “clarified” the minimum requirements. One septic system installer says a 1-acre lot that could hold a three-bedroom home under the old interpretation would now be limited to two bedrooms. He also says he’s working with one customer whose house plan would have been approved three months ago, but is no longer in compliance. The local Habitat for Humanity program has also expressed concern because most of the properties it acquires for low-income housing are grandfathered lots and meeting the increased standards would make the homes unaffordable.
MPCA study shows link between septic upgrades and lake water clarity
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has been monitoring lake transparency for about 40 years. In a report issued in June (using the latest data from 2014), of those lakes showing trends one way or the other, 25 percent had decreasing transparency while 75 percent were showing increasing clarity, an indicator of improved water quality. The agency found a link between phosphorus levels and transparency, and a link showing that those lakes with improved transparency also had ongoing watershed restoration and septic system upgrade programs.
School project gets the ball rolling on policing illegal sewage systems in Nova Scotia community
A 12-year-old girl’s water quality project for school has led to an agreement between Nova Scotia Department of Environment and the community of Lunenburg to replace 600 straight pipes that carry 600,000 liters (158,500 gallons) of raw sewage directly to the LaHave River every day. Local officials say they’ve been trying to the get the province to address the problem for more than 20 years. An elementary school project by Stella Bowles renewed interest in the issue and resulted in a $17 million project under Infrastructure Canada’s Building Canada Fund. The municipality of Lenenburg will oversee installation of septic systems for each home, and own and maintain each system for six years before turning it over to the homeowner. It’s expected to cost the homeowner $12,000 to cover unfunded costs, which will be repaid through property taxes over six years.
Ohio county assessing onsite systems, offering grants for repair and replacement
As Lucas County, Ohio, assesses the condition of septic systems in the county, it is also offering $300,000 in grants to repair or replace them. Of the 13,000 septic systems in the county, 544 have been assessed through mid-July in the voluntary program, with 28 percent lacking risers that allow homeowners to pump and maintain their systems. For repairs and replacement, the grant will cover the full cost for those at or below 100 percent of the poverty level. Those at 200 percent of the poverty level are eligible for 85 percent reimbursement, and 50 percent is available for those at or below 300 percent of the poverty level.
Oregon DEQ giving loans to replace failed systems
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is offering assistance to those who need to repair or replace their septic systems. Under a law passed in May, the DEQ has $250,000 for low-cost loans to help prevent the estimated 6,000 failed septic systems that occur every year. State officials say it is a start, but that they really need around $6 million. Details of the program are expected to be announced this fall.
Numbers of certified installers, pumpers in Georgia drastically reduced since 1999
According to The Septic Times newsletter of the Georgia Onsite Wastewater Association, 735 contractors have maintained their certification since the state first required it in 1999. In those 17 years, 5,876 contractors allowed their certifications to lapse and are no longer certified, and 3,658 companies have come and gone. As of June 1, 2016, the newsletter says there are 1,017 certified installers, 316 contractors certified for pumping, and 615 who are certified for both.