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Thumbs down on state septic-system inspection plan: Placer County Water Agency

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The Placer County Water Agency is weighing in against new septic system rules being considered by the state Water Quality Control Board that have rankled rural residents around the state. The agency’s board has issued a strongly worded statement to Todd Thompson, Control Board Division of Water Quality program manager, objecting to new regulations that include mandatory tests estimated to cost septic users $325 every five years. Water agency Board Chairman Gray Allen stated that the current proposal would “impose costs on homeowners who are already struggling in the current economic decline.” Costs would far exceed the one-half of one percent of assessed value recognized in Assembly Bill 885 to create a serious burden and the regulations fail to assure the financial assistance that the statute encourages, he said. “The agency suggests that state regulations provide – as does AB 885 – that homeowners be required to procure inspections of existing septic systems only where directed to do so by the county public health official or the applicable regional water quality board,” Allen said. The agency joins the Regional Association of Rural Counties, the California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health and the California Association of Realtors in coming out against the regulations. The proposal would create statewide minimum standards for both new and existing septic systems. There are an estimated 26,000 septic systems in Placer County that may be affected by the new regulations. The Placer County Water Agency position is that its water in streams and canals is already being tested and that its purity levels on the Yuba-Bear River and American River systems are high. “The reports of the surveys show that these stream systems have some of the most pristine water in California,” Allen said in his letter. The agency board contends regulation of septic systems should be handled at the local county level instead of statewide, by government regulators unfamiliar with soils and terrain in the locations septic systems are constructed and operated. The regulations are being considered to enforce AB 885, legislation enacted in 2000 to ensure healthier streams, rivers and watersheds around the state. The Placer County Board of Supervisors will consider submitting its own written comments at a board meeting today. County Environmental Health Director Jill Pahl said there are several concerns, including costs to property owners with new or existing septic systems. If the system fails the state tests, new systems and major repairs would be significantly more costly, she said. The state’s proposed septic system regulations are on the agenda for discussion at 11 a.m. today in the Board Chambers, 175 Fulweiler Ave., Auburn. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com.