WatchSonoma Watch

State regulators relax septic system rules


State regulators Wednesday presented a new proposal to govern septic systems that may be polluting California rivers, removing many of the requirements that drew heavy criticism two years ago.

“There are some dramatic changes in this policy,” said Darrin Polhemus, deputy director of the state Water Resources Control Board. “There is no longer mandatory septic tests, no longer mandatory well testing, no longer the need to create an operating manual.”

Still, the proposal ran into some criticism at two hearings in Santa Rosa, where it was viewed as another layer of government.

“I am concerned that the regional board will layer additional requirements on top of the local boards,” said Steve Lederer, director of environmental services for Napa County.

Napa County Supervisor Dianne Dillon said she was concerned about the impact on landowners who may face costly septic system repairs, even though state officials said there are funds available for low-interest loans.

“We can’t have residents abandon their homes because they can’t afford the costly advanced-treatment systems,” Dillon said.

The plan was outlined in afternoon and evening meetings at the Wells Fargo Center attended by 425 residents, in contrast with a crowd estimated at more than 2,000 people who showed up when the first state proposal was unveiled two years ago.

Polhemus said the proposal is intended to have local water quality control boards address the problems of polluted waterways and septic systems.

In the case of Sonoma County, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board would deal with pollution in parts of the Russian River, Petaluma River, Laguna de Santa Rosa, Santa Rosa Creek and Sonoma Creek.

The regional boards would have five years to determine where the pollution was coming from, what role septic systems play and how to regulate fixing failed systems and systems for new homes, Polhemus said.

Currently, “there are no requirements for individual property owners,” he said.

However, if the regional water boards do not come up with a program, then individual property owners living within 600 feet of the polluted waterways would be directly affected, according to the proposed regulations.

Those landowners would be required to make retrofits if problems are discovered. The cost could be as much as $27,000 for improvements to a system serving a three-bedroom home.

“I am concerned about clear water, but as a single mother and a low-income person, I am concerned about requirements that could price me out of my home,” said Brenda Adelman of the Russian River Watershed Protection Committee.

Other speakers were adamantly opposed to the state water board proposal, questioning its authority and saying it was an unfair restriction on homeowners.

A hearing by state water board directors will be held Nov. 15 in Sacramento and a proposal is scheduled to be adopted next spring.

12 Responses to “State regulators relax septic system rules”

  1. Social Dis-ease says:

    The septic thing.
    The well thing.
    the de-fund road maintanance thing.
    The raise water rates thing.

    Is all the same thing.

    UN Agenda 21/ICLEI.

    They sold us down the river.

    There will be more crap comming down river for as long as ICLEI is dictating

  2. Kay Tokerud says:

    They are delaying the new rules, not relaxing them. Now, for 5 more years, anyone including non-governmental groups can supply information about pollution sources and impaired waterways to the State Water Board. In order to shrink the number of critics to the new plan the Agency told people to check the status of their property on their website which does NOT CONTAIN COMPLETE INFORMATION about which waterways are ‘IMPAIRED’. In short, it may now look like property owners are safe from the new regulations. By the end of the five years with new input being gathered, there likely won’t be any waterways free of contamination. At that time, most property owners anywhere near a waterway will have to pay for expensive tests and possibly system replacements.

    That’s how they play. It was a trick to minimize criticism of the new plan. In spite of their tactics not one person in the first session (300) were in complete support of their plan and only one (probably brought in) in the second session was in complete support. All others were either completely or partially opposed to their new plan.

    Most saw the State’s proposal as an overreach of State authority that was unnecessary because the local agencies were already handling any problems caused by failing septic systems.

    The State Water board didn’t say how many property owners would be affected, nor did they say what would happen to owners who were financially unable to comply. The real kicker was, that many pointed out, that it is near impossible to tell where pollution that gets into waterways comes from. Unauthorized sewage dumps, animal feces, agricultural runoff, etc. are all sources of pollution which may amount to far more than what is being caused by a limited number of failed septic systems. The State Water Board made no attempt to quantify the proportion of pollution coming from other sources. The State Water Board (unelected) is laying all the blame on private property owners who may have nothing to do with the pollution found in rivers and streams. This kind of governmental abuse needs to stop.

    None of the Agency’s board members at the meeting live on property with septic tanks! Shame on them.

  3. Unfounded Speculation says:

    Low flow + DELIBERATE clandestine sewage dumps set the stage for more Agenda 21 oppression.
    Green is the guise,
    ’till we open our eyes.

  4. Social Dis-Ease says:

    I’ve spoke to legal council.
    That Constitution thing again.
    Good luck getting past my electric

  5. Steveguy says:

    As a Boy Scout in the past, we did the Russian River 50 mile canoe trip. More than once.

    The lagoon was a cesspool back then, orange water and very smelly.

    Now we spend millions for ‘observers’.

    Ohh, to have a ‘ non-profit’ fed by a myriad of agencies, all for a measly contribution to a local politician or 10.. For cheap !

    The stench now is the money being spent for a ‘feel good’ project !

    Occupy the waste in GOVERNMENT !! Occupy the GREED, occupy the corruption !

    It is not just Wall Street, it is the extreme environmentally challenged that also are corrupt. They are reaping millions from the taxpayers, directly.

  6. Joe Right says:

    It would be nice if those of us who would be affected by the abuse of property rights
    could go be “occupiers” at local and state water agencies.
    But I’m pretty sure we all have to go to work instead.

  7. Beef King says:

    More government failure on top of government failure.
    I know where the pollution in the river is coming from. I don’t need 5 YEARS and more tax dollars to figure that out, and neither does anyone else.
    I want my tax dollars back.

  8. Pearl Alquileres says:

    Of course we need to protect the environment & keep our water clean but were not talking about some recently built chemical plant spewing waste into the river.
    So I guess the argument is “how much”?
    Humans swimming in the water pollute it. That’s why you’re not allowed to swim in a reservoir.
    So do we ban swimming in the rivers & streams?
    If your answer is “yes” then move on. This discussion is OVER for you!

    Someone who has a malfunctioning septic system that is leaching raw sewage into a river or stream OBVIOUSELY needs to fix it.
    I know 1st hand because I came home one day several years ago to find a County Inspector trespassing on my land because someone reported me for my septic tank overflowing into the creek.
    Of course it WASN’T and once they saw that, they went on their merry way.

    So what are these people trying to accomplish here since we already have laws protecting our water ways from the very problem they claim to be fixing?
    Since we already HAVE LAWS and they already have the power to enforce them, what is the REAL motive here?

    Blindly accepting the word of the people responsible for things like the Russian River Sewer system (remember that multi-million dollar fiasco?) is lazy & ignorant.

  9. Frank says:

    i have been to both State Water Resources Control Board public comment meetings here in Santa Rosa yesterday at wells Fargo and today at Skylane Blvd
    both meetings have something in common
    if the water board follows up on there rules and regs. Homeowners, farms, large landowners, business will slowly be evicted.
    everybody wants clean water and there are solutions that are not so costly
    to human life
    the city of Santa Rosa needs to change the permit and regulations for one thing
    so septic systems can be repaired.
    Dairys need protection in Sonoma County
    we have gone from 300 in 1970 to 60 today.
    for those that say clean up the crap, i agree lets get rid of the crap at the Water resource Board, less government.
    tax all 501c they are a specail interest group and craping on the enviornment.

  10. Clean up your act says:

    The outrage is absurd as are some of these posts. Our water needs to be protected from irresponsible landowners. Period. If it means it’s going to cost you to upgrade your system, fine. Why should our environment suffer because people aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do.

    If your septic system is leaking, fix it. If not, be prepared to be heavily fined for the costs we will all bear. Get real. If you can’t afford to have a working septic system that doesn’t leach into the river, do the right thing and stop using your toilet. Figure it out. Because you can’t afford to fix it give you no right to avoid legal compliance. We wouldn’t need laws if people were responsible in the first place. But they aren’t. They are selfish imbeciles putting their own convenience ahead of everyone else.

    I have no sympathy. You bought (or inherited) your property knowing it was off the grid and that you were required to have a septic system that functions properly and doesn’t pollute our waterways. Why on earth should we simply allow your crap (literally) to pollute our water simply because you can’t afford to meet your obligations.

    The odd irony is I’ll bet some of these people feel very strongly that oil companies who fail to prevent spills should have to pay for the clean up. Why is this different? Oh, I get it, because it means YOU have to pay. Absolutely absurd. Aren’t you embarrassed by the fact that your waste in our river means people will be getting sick? Don’t you care? Aren’t you ashamed that our river has become your toilet? As far as I’m concerned, anyone with a leaching septic system that doesn’t fix it should have their property taken. Period. End of story.

    If that’s too severe, then what’s the alternative? Raise taxes on us so we can clean up your crap?
    Outrageous. Anyone who fails to get their septic system up to code obviously doesn’t believe it’s an issue. So here’s an idea, if you don’t fix it, you have to drink it. Sound good?

  11. bill me says:

    if you live in the country, you know if your septic tank is working properly or not without being an expert and without doing extensive testing or monitoring. we all have a responsibility to be a good steward of the environment, and for those that have not been, they need to voluntarily step it up and get their systems working properly. that being said, do we really need a watchdog agency making sure folks actually do what they should be doing? i certainly have a right to swim in the Russian River without watching someone’s leachfield bypass float by. i say we as a society need to meet our responsibilities and if we do, then we do not need these regulators with their fancy interactive maps and smooth speeches about how remarkably sensible taking your land use rights away can be. i say, tend our own gardens and cut the power and funding out of the EPA. use the savings to fix our potholes.

  12. Pearl Alquileres says:

    These mindless bureaucracies self perpetuate exponentially because we keep giving them more & more.

    We have given them WAY too much money, WAY too much power and they have WAY too much spare time on their hands.

    When you take someone fresh out of collage, plunk them down in a nice cushy office with a huge salary, fat pension, endless staff, fat budget with NO ACCOUNTABILITY, they begin to believe that they really must be special.
    They really must have amazing powers of observation.
    They become convinced that they have the solutions and with all the power to implement & enforce their ingenious ideas and force the public to do whatever they wish.

    And then they look out their window & see the “occupiers” DEMANDING that they have even more money & more power to come up with more ideas on how they can take more money and give it to more people.

    This is NOT going to end well folks.
    It never has, never will.