St. Louis County septic rules go too far
In St. Louis County, there are approximately 38,000 septic systems, or individual sewage treatment systems, at rural homes. The county has formed a Technical Advisory Committee to update rules governing the 38,000 septic systems. The committee ha...
In St. Louis County, there are approximately 38,000 septic systems, or individual sewage treatment systems, at rural homes.
The county has formed a Technical Advisory Committee to update rules governing the 38,000 septic systems. The committee has scheduled nine meetings. The first one was May 5; the last one will be Nov. 2. After the last meeting, rules created by the committee, if approved by the County Board, will be imposed upon septic system owners.
I'm not happy about a lot of what is happening at these committee meetings.
For example, the committee plans to continue the county's present point-of-sale inspection (a look at your septic system before you sell your house), but it plans to remove exemptions that existed in the past.
If you have an underground septic tank hooked to a dry well or perforated pipe drain field: That system likely will fail to meet new specifications. The county could stop the sale of your house until either the buyer or the seller agrees to bring the system up to specifications.
To bring the system up to specifications, the county may strongly suggest using an above-ground mound system. The county may not require a mound but will eliminate all other options. In a mound system, household sewage is pressure-pumped into perforated pipes that are inside a mound of dirt. Unfortunately for the homeowner, a mound system can cost from $10,000 to $50,000 to install. And because such a system is above ground, it can freeze. During the winter of 2002-03 up to half existing mound systems in the county froze solid -- thousands of them.
Although mound systems are expensive and unreliable, the county may offer two reasons for them before allowing a sale of a house.
First, even if the water table at your home is 25 feet (or deeper) below the surface and your present underground septic system couldn't possibly pollute the groundwater, a county representative may dig a few inches down until he finds a water mark. That water mark will show that 4.5 billion years ago the primordial water table was very close to the surface, meaning it may return (along with the dinosaurs). So you need a mound.
And second, the county could contend that underground septic systems are guilty of what they call "nonpoint pollution." In other words, your underground system is injecting pollutants into the Earth. Those pollutants will get into rivers and streams and eventually pollute Lake Superior. They can show you a map of "impaired waters" to prove what they say is true. So you need a mound.
I don't think that the primordial water table argument or the nonpoint pollution argument are valid. I also don't think the county should have the legal right to stop the sale of someone's home based on the condition of the septic system. Furthermore, because of the unreliability and cost of a mound system, I believe a mound septic system should be a last-resort system for use only when conditions call for one.
I feel the county's Technical Advisory Committee has gone out of control with its rule-making. People, it's now or never! Once these new rules are passed by the County Board, they won't be easily changed.
Joseph Legueri of Gilbert is a writer, retired educator and lifelong Iron Range resident.