The following is a summary of the presentations given at the September 13, 2005 Community Sewer/Septic Meeting; the questions raised to discuss the existing regulations, looming regulations and costs associated with the maintenance of a septic system and installing a new technology system are also included in the summary below.
Richard Wagner, Bureau of Environmental Services for the Los Angeles County Health Department
The approval of septic systems until recently were according to the regulations explained in the Plumbing Code, but now with an increase of worry over various water quality issues, the State is looking at new designs for septic systems. Consequently, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) is reviewing the proposed regulations in Assembly Bill (AB) 885, regarding septic systems and the goal of denitrifying the ground water.
Existing and Looming Regulations
- It is the regions policy that on no basis should the ground water be degraded.
- For the past five (5) years the SWRCB has been working on how AB 885 can establish a septic system design that will set the statewide standards. The SWRCB website (www.swrcb.ca.gov ) has the proposed regulations for the State.
- Regulations in place aim to limit the amount of nitrates going into the groundwater. For example, a major problem is when a septic system is in bedrock. While in the public safety view it is fine, but environmentally it is a problem because percolation is not occurring properly so eventually nitrates seep into the groundwater.
- Prior to the new regulations there may not have been a solution to a failed system if it was at 100% expansion and/or no place left on the property to place the system. Now the department is in the mode of approving systems with the most intelligent design, which provides good data/records to understand why certain decisions were made. Consequently, what was approved ten (10) years ago may not be approved today.
- The City, as a result of MOU with the Regional Water Quality Control Board, is charged with identifying who has septic tanks. If the City did not enter into the MOU residents would have had to pay $900 per year for a waiver from the SWRCB so that they did not have to file an annual report with the Board. However, even with the MOU between the Board and the City the waiver for property owners are not guaranteed.
- AB 885Ã would mandate that every seepage pit have larger systems than now, which is good if the property has space because there would be better treatment for the sewage and the system would last longer.
- How do developers receive approval from the County to put in septic systems? A developer must furnish a map showing that each proposed property can support a septic system. This is accomplished through data and statistics from a geologist and other consultants.
- Define what constitutes a major repair, which could trigger the need for a new technology system? Currently, it is a failure in the dispersal area of either seepage pit or leach lines. In AB 885, a new system would be needed if there was a problem with the septic tank and/or a failure in either the seepage pit or leach lines.
- Is it true that the State wants to do away with all septic tanks? No. Not all septic tanks are harmful to the environment; if it is maintained well there are no adverse effects.
- What is a sign that your septic tank has problem? Either stuff will be on the ground by the tank, there will be a back-up in your home (bathrooms). A back-up can also occur in the septic tank if the problem is clog in the leach lines or seepage pit.
Tom Cowan and Cliff Jones, Gopher Construction Company
Mr. Cowan distributed packets regarding the maintenance of the septic systems to those present. Mr. Cowan explained that his company provides maintenance for many properties in the City, as well as in the surrounding areas, and that a majority of the septic tanks in Bradbury have seepage pits and not leach lines. It was also reported that a septic tank only needs to be pumped once every five (5) to seven (7) years and has a lifespan of twenty (20) years, depending on the soil that is below. Currently, if a septic tank needs to be replaced the costs could be as low as $20,000 and as high as $40,000. At the end of Gopher Construction presentation the gentlemen offered alternatives and treatments to extend the life of septic tanks; this information may be obtained by contacting Gopher Construction. City Hall can provide the company contact information to interested residents.
- If the City does not move forward with sewers and status quo remains, what will be the consequences? Regulations are getting stricter for new systems and systems that need major repairs are being required to meet the new system design requirements, which can be costly. Estimates for the new system design exceed $50,000 and may require annual monitoring/permitting with associated costs, as well. The City Council does not have the authority to form the Assessment District and levy the assessments to finance the sewer system. Consequently, the sewer system will not be precluded from establishing an Assessment District at a later date if there is majority support at that time. Currently, the City of Bradbury Municipal Code requires properties that are seeking permits to add 1,000 square feet or a use that potentially increases the septic load (adding a bedroom or a bathroom, for example) and that are located within 400 of a sewer main are required to connect to the sewer system. This is the only trigger that exists at this time, although the City Council could consider requiring connection within a certain time frame or at such time as the property transfers ownership. The consideration of these options would be premature at this time.
- If Gopher Construction is called to inspect a septic tank and there is a problem is the company mandated to report it to the County? No. Only is the inspection of the tank is for a real-estate transaction.
- What is the difference between the septic systems from the 1950s and 1960s and those with the new technology? The difference is not great; seepage pits are required to be deeper and wider and the tank itself is pre- fabricated.
- What triggers the recommendation for the new technology systems? There is a need for a new system if it is percolating more than 5.2 gallons per square foot per day. The new system and seepage pit may also be needed if there is a room addition or a new home is being built. The costs associated with the new technology systems have run from $3,000 to $10,000 on average for geologist