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Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

Auglaize County alters sewage rules

Mandate set after state delays residential changes

By Shelley Grieshop
WAPAKONETA - Auglaize County Health Board members unanimously approved several motions this week to modify home sewage system regulations after state officials recently squashed new rules put in place in January.
During their monthly meeting Tuesday, board members mandated a 1-foot vertical separation distance between the surface where wastewater is applied to the soil and the seasonal high water table. The old requirement was 4 feet.
Board members also approved bonding (insurance) requirements of $25,000 for home sewage system installers and service providers and $10,000 for septic haulers, an amount that was previously set at $25,000 by the state.
County Sanitarian Marv Selhorst said the emergency board action was necessary after the House and Senate passed a budget bill in June, which included legislation to delay the new regulations for two years.
"There are currently no state standards for these things," he said.
By delaying the new regulations for two years, the standards put in place in 1977 become effective once again. However, individual counties are being encouraged to adopt some rules tailored to their own demographics during the interim.
"By July 1, 2009, we're supposed to have a whole new set of rules," said Selhorst.
The rules that became effective in January were controversial from the start - mostly because the EPA sought "universal" standards for a state with various types of soil and seasonal water table levels, Selhorst said.     
Driven by the EPA's desire to clean up Ohio's waterways, the law requires newly constructed household sewage systems that discharge on-lot. The systems are more costly, some up to $15,000 or triple former costs, and require numerous testings from soil scientists and others.
"We continue to hire soil scientists; some are overwhelmed with work right now in some parts of Ohio," Selhorst said, adding he's only issued two sewage system permits so far this year.
A recent Ohio State University study showed that approximately 27 percent of Ohio's 1 million septic systems malfunction, often dumping untreated human waste into local waterways, contaminating drinking water sources and harming wildlife.
Selhorst said other sewage system procedures likely will be modified at future health board meetings.
"If they (EPA officials) don't come up with anything in the next two years, we may have to go with what we have established for our county so we might as well choose procedures we know work," he said.
The board held an executive session to discuss whether to purchase the building the health department is currently leasing on South Wagner Street in Wapakoneta. No action was taken on that matter, however, the board did approve a motion to blacktop the extra parking lot across the street.
The next board meeting is slated for 8:30 a.m. Aug. 14.
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