By Tim Cox
Property owners with aging or failing private septic systems are facing a critical deadline at the end of this year when stringent new state regulations governing septic systems are expected to be in place.
The new standards are expected to make it extremely expensive -- and impossible in some cases -- to replace existing septic systems, which has sent some property owners scrambling to hook into existing public sewer systems. People building new homes also are rushing to get their septic systems permitted before the new regulations take effect.
The new standards, which will be enforced by the Ohio Department of Health, will largely outlaw most kinds of septic systems that discharge treated wastewater into local waterways.
"People don't have large enough lots to install new septic systems when they replace the old ones," Mercer County Commissioner Jerry Laffin said.
Small residential lots in rural unsewered areas face the biggest challenges, said Chris Miller, a Mercer County Health Department sanitarian. "It's going to make it difficult for some people, especially in an area like Maria Stein," Miller said.
The type of private septic systems allowed by the new rules will be determined by the soil type of the property, Miller said. In many cases, though, the existing sub-surface sand-filtered systems will not be allowed as replacement systems, he said.
Instead, residents will have to pursue more expensive options. Those include large leach fields, an option not available to people who own small residential lots, or more expensive treatment technology up to and including mechanical treatment systems.
Mechanical systems would require users to secure EPA permits for operation and also would require ongoing maintenance, Laffin and Miller said.
"It's going to be a lot more complex," Miller said.
Traditional septic systems still can be permitted through the end of the year. The permits are then good for one year after they are issued, even if new regulations take effect during the interim.
Miller predicted the new regulations -- and the financial cost associated with them -- would curb the development of rural housing.
"It's going to at least stunt that growth as people deal with the sticker shock," he said.