New county regulations for installation of septic systems went into effect on July 4.
According to the Delta County Health Department, the new rules will have no impact on existing septic system arrangements that are already permitted and operating properly.
The regulations were mandated by the state last year.
Under the new rules, the county was given the choice of adding new restrictions in several areas where it has declined to make restrictions in the past. Among those 17 regulatory areas, the county has opted to leave in place current policies allowing use of various septic arrangements including vault privies and pit privies in some instances.
The new regulations increase regulatory language on septic systems from 66 to 103 pages. The new state regs have been incorporated into the county’s rules, explained environmental health director Ken Nordstrom.
The new rules were approved by the county Board of Health which consists of the three county commissioners and two at-large citizen members. There was an advertised public meeting of “stakeholders” in the new regulations during the review and adoption process. Nordstrom said that about a dozen contractors, builders and system installers attended. A basic fact sheet on new septic regulations has also been distributed to local realtors, Nordstrom added.
Nordstrom explained that new rules place emphasis on wastewater treatment rather than on wastewater disposal, as the old regulations did.
That shift in emphasis is reflected in new terminology. Septic systems were formerly called “individual septic disposal systems.” Now, the new terminology is “on-site wastewater treatment systems.”
Leach fields are called “seepage beds” in the new septic system terminology.
Under the new regulatory regimen, there will be an emphasis on evaluation of the “soil structure” proposed for a septic system, Nordstrom explained. He said technical specifications for new systems will look at the ability of soils to more effectively treat wastewater, rather than serving as a disposal medium.
Whereas deep trenching have been used in the past to distribute wastewater below impermeable soil layers, the practice will be restricted or eliminated in the future.
Shallow leach field trenches are now specified to increase aerobic bacteria activity and treatment of wastewater.
Some local systems that have utilized wastewater disposal into fractured mancos shale zones will also be restricted.
The change will mean that in more instances, a professionally engineered system will be required for new installations. That could raise costs from around $5,000 to $15,000 or more.
“Normally in most of our areas that won’t be required,” Nordstrom said.
The new regulations were created by a state agency — the Water Quality Control Commission.
For now at least, the county’s $650 fee for a septic system permit won’t be increased because of the new regulations, Nordstrom said.