Rules & Regs: Texas Pumper Aims to Revolutionize Point-of-Sale Inspections

Also in this month’s regulations update, Minnesota’s governor removes seasonal weight restrictions for pumper trucks so they can service strained septic systems during COVID-19

Rules & Regs: Texas Pumper Aims to Revolutionize Point-of-Sale Inspections

Frank Aguirre sees a problem with septic inspections, and he wants to do something about it by forming a citizens lobbying group through his Texas Septic Systems Council.

“The problem is there’s no law, and there’s no standardized procedure,” says Aguirre, who lives in San Antonio where he owns Septic Systems Express.

The issue is not with new installations, but with system inspections when properties are sold, he says. In Texas these are called property transfer inspections. In other states, they’re known as point-of-sale or time-of-sale inspections. 

Onsite professionals are not necessarily the people who do most of these inspections, he says. In addition, he adds, sales are very emotional situations. If a deal is derailed by an inspection report, “it can become very litigious and get very ugly very quickly.”

What Aguirre wants to do — and he says his idea is in its early stages — is push the Legislature to establish an inspection review board. The board would be a private entity that would write an inspection procedure and a form for inspectors to use, and then review the completed reports.

After reviewing reports, members of the board would issue a pass/fail decision for a system based on the only two criteria that Texas law sets out for a failed system: wastewater backing up into a building, or wastewater on the surface of the ground. Based on other results in the report, the board may issue a letter of recommendation to the buyer and seller suggesting what could or should be done to ensure the onsite system is working properly.

Board members could meet virtually to save time and cost, and reviews wouldn’t take long, he says. “Many of us, like myself, can look at plans and know in a few minutes whether something functions.”

The board would have no enforcement power, Aguirre says, and could be funded by a small fee for reviewing a report. Because judgments and recommendations would come from the board, there would be no pressure on inspectors to produce a certain result to keep a deal moving.

“I think we have to go that route until we have more detailed laws,” he says. 

Aguirre is looking now for people interested in joining him because he wants to be ready for the next legislative session, which starts in January. This will not be like a legislative day when people go to the capitol for a few hours of talking, he says. Instead, it will be a focused effort to remain in continuing contact with lawmakers. From his own experience a couple years ago, when he had a few sentences about graywater inserted into a bill, he knows what it takes to get state law changed.

“I found out then it doesn’t take numbers; it takes guts,” he says. 


Minnesota Governor Lifts Seasonal Weight Restrictions

All of the people working at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic have put such a strain on onsite systems that Gov. Tim Walz had to take action.

The problem, reported the news website Patch.com, is that more people in homes for longer times has increased flows to onsite systems that in some cases could not handle the load. As a result, demand for emergency pumpouts soared.

To make work easier for pumpers, Walz signed an executive order on April 9 to lift seasonal weight restrictions only for trucks hauling septage. Truck weight limits in many northern states are lowered during the spring because roads may be weakened as they thaw.


City Officials in Idaho Criticize Onsite System Plan in Subdivision

The approval of a rural subdivision without a sewer line drew criticism from the City of Lewiston, Idaho, in April.

Commissioners for Nez Perce County, in the northwestern part of the state, approved a developer’s request to refrain from building a dry sewer line for four of the 16 lots in a subdivision expansion. The $80,000 line is not practical and is more than 1,300 feet from the most recent extension of municipal sewer, the developer says in his request to the county. He also says the state’s North Central District health office has found the soil capable of supporting onsite systems, reports The Lewiston Tribune.

The city is concerned about degradation of water quality. The city’s community development director wrote a letter that claims adding a dry sewer line now will make it easier for homeowners to connect later without disturbing lawns or landscaping. 

At a public hearing on the project, County Commissioner Douglas Havens said a properly designed and installed onsite system can effectively treat wastewater. “You can’t just automatically say there’s something incorrect about every single drainfield,” he said.



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