Help Flush Expensive & Unnecessary Septic Regulations
Due to overwhelming public outcry at a number of regional workshops, the State Water Resources Board has extended the public comment period to February 23, 2009 and the Sacramento hearing originally scheduled for February 9 has been postponed indefinitely.
If you are not familiar with what the State Water Board is up to, they are proposing regulations for ‘Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems’. (You and I simply call them septic tanks.) Many homes from the Wine Country to Meadowview, La Cresta, De Luz and most county areas not served by a public sewer system would be impacted by these proposed regulations, in some cases very seriously impacted.
The California Association of Realtors has been working since the regulations were first announced in 2001 to remove the more onerous, unnecessary and expensive elements of the proposal. With limited success.
A full copy of the currently proposed regulations and the draft Environmental Impact Report are available at http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/septic_tanks/ (Sorry. Nothings simple at the state.) If you can’t make it through the entire 41 page proposal or the 120+ pages of the EIR, there is a 17 page Executive Summary (complete with a cute little graphic of the sewage trickle-down theory) and a 5 page Q & A.
The stated goal of the proposed regulation – to prevent contamination of adjacent wells or groundwater resources – is admirable. However, as is often the case when presented with a simple task, the state agency has spent 8 years going way overboard in justifying their existence. Many elements of the EIR are specious and some of the proposed regulations would make owning a home with a septic system nearly impossible.
Inspections and certifications every 5 years at costs estimated to be about $700 are among the least of the problems. Mandates for ‘qualified professionals’, ‘certified analytical laboratories’ and ‘qualified service providers’ are either ill-defined or call for professions that don’t even exist yet. If those (currently non-existent) professionals determine your septic system is within 600 feet of a neighbors well or an ‘impaired surface water body’, you may be liable for a $45,000 retrofit. If you build a home in an area potentially meeting these criteria, the new system will set you back at least $35,000 to comply.
In addition to the five year requirement, if you want to sell your home any and all necessary retrofits and regulations would need to be met and paid for prior to point-of-sale. If you had the inspections but misplaced the documents, you would incur additional costs to replace them and/or recertify.
If you are concerned about increased onerous government encroachment into your private property rights, please read the proposed regulations. If you agree with the California Association of Realtors that the proposal is too far reaching and that the EIR did not adequately address the true impact either to the environment or to homeowners, you still have an opportunity to make your voice heard.
Because state regulatory agencies are not as responsive to the public as elected officials, we are asking that you register your opposition to this proposal with your state legislators asking them to intervene with the State Water Board to ensure that final regulations do not overreach and are not unnecessarily burdensome. Senator Hollingsworth and Assembly members Jeffries and Nestande are already behind you on this one but lending your voice to the growing chorus of outrage they are hearing can’t hurt. You can find their contact information elsewhere in this publication.
You can also register your thoughts directly with the responsible agency before February 23 by contacting the:
State Water Resources Control Board
Division of Water Quality
Attn. Todd Thompson, P.E.
Sacramento, CA 95812
Gene Wunderlich is Government Affairs Director for the Southwest Riverside County Association of Realtors. Address additional questions to GAD@srcar.org.