Installing and repairing septic systems in Ohio is about to get more complicated and expensive.
New rules governing private sewage systems go into effect Jan. 1, in an effort to create a standard policy for the entire state. Currently, each county health department sets its own setting standards and rules. Now, the county departments will answer to the Ohio Department of Health.
"This makes a statewide, unified set of rules," said Jack Jump, the Huron County Health District environmental director.
The biggest change is the elimination of the "cookie cutter" approach. In the past, a resident applying for a permit would receive several basic options, and a health department official would review and approve the plan. Starting next year, each system must be designed for each piece of property, Jump said.
Ronald Robinson, owner of Meadowbrook Excavating, 1261 New State Road, which installs septic systems, said many factors will determine the type of system used, including the slope of the property and the topography of the land.
Because contractors will have to do more legwork, they likely will increase the cost of installation, Robinson said.
The fee for private sewage installation also will be hiked $50, with the extra money going to the state health department. The fee for the application for a site review will be $100, a permit to install a new system will be $200, the annual operating fee will be $25 and the fee to register a system will be $100.
Last year the Huron County Health District issued 189 permits for new installation or repairs. Jump did not have final numbers for 2006, but said the number of permits increased this year as many homeowners tried to get one before the fees and standards changed in 2007.
Robinson said homeowners are unhappy about the new state regulations. However, for safety reasons, the state is far overdue for stricter standards, he added.
"You have to stop and think, anything you put in the ground will be drunk eventually. And I believe we're putting a lot more waste in the ground," Robinson said.
The new design standards will put more emphasis on homeowner responsibility. In the past, septic problems might affect neighbors instead of the homeowner.
"No one wants a septic breakout on their own property, but if it happens down the creek, people might look the other way," Robinson said. "A lot of people think (the new standards) are an overkill, but sometimes you have to do those things. You have to look at the big picture. It's just a change, everyone's afraid of a change."
Maintaining the septic system is just as important as proper maintenance, Robinson added. Any septic systems that need repairing will have to meet the new standards, Jump said.
Robinson said the maintenance aspect is hardest for those who go from living on a city sewer system to a private system.
"They need to understand that there are things you can't pump or dump down the toilet into the septic system," he said. Robinson told a story of one homeowner who ruined his system by dumping paint down the toilet.
"Keep it running properly. In the end, it will cost less than just letting it go and letting it self-destruct."