New state septic regs mean home inspe...

New state septic regs mean home inspections, additional costs

There are 58 comments on the Santa Cruz Sentinel story from Feb 4, 2009, titled New state septic regs mean home inspections, additional costs. In it, Santa Cruz Sentinel reports that:

Skyline resident Arnie Wernick figures he'll pay about $100 more each year if the state, as planned, begins regulating a fixture of everyday life in the Santa Cruz Mountains -- the septic system.

Join the discussion below, or Read more at Santa Cruz Sentinel.

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SoOkiE

Santa Cruz, CA

#41 Feb 4, 2009
Hi Skepic. Thank you for the advice. The new system we have doesn't have a leachfield. It has little pipes laid under the soil, in a zip-zag pattern all over both the front and back yards. Out of these pipes, waste water that has been cleaned in our septic system waters our yard. The motor running the system is all computerized. It is inspected annually by the county.
It is ENORMOUS, two big metal boxes under my driveway. One of the best investments we have ever made.
I know exactly what you are talking about, though, about the stuff that sticks to the bottom of the tank. Our old septic tank, that major pain in the buttsky, that leaking stinking thing, had to be pumped every three years and the sludge at the bottom, WOW.
Again, thank you.
curious

Santa Cruz, CA

#42 Feb 4, 2009
We live on a ridge and have a leach field - we never have had to get our system pumped....are we going to have to be inspected every 3 years? Never had a backup or smell.
SoOkiE

Santa Cruz, CA

#43 Feb 4, 2009
Oh, one other thing folks: the county has a VERY low interest loan for assisting people in purchasing a newer, county-approved and environmently safe septic system. Ask at the planning department in the county building.
Septic Sam

Fort Huachuca, AZ

#44 Feb 4, 2009
curious wrote:
We live on a ridge and have a leach field - we never have had to get our system pumped....are we going to have to be inspected every 3 years? Never had a backup or smell.
All systems need pumped sooner or later, your scum layer (grease and oils on top) and your sludge layer (solids on bottom) will eventually plug your inlet and/or outlet baffles or solids will get in to your leach field and it will fail in time.

Depending on the size of your tank and number of people living in your house it can be between once every 1 to 6 years max. If you don't pump it you will learn the hard way, just wait. You can pop the riser cover off and use a long pole with a 4" x 6" piece of tin or plastic affixed to it, as you push down through the scum layer you will feel it go free once it breaks through the bottom of the scum and hits the grey water below, and then solid again when you hit the sludge.

The only thing that should EVER go to your D-Box and drain field is the gray water, no solids.
TaxPaynMeatEatn Republicn

Aptos, CA

#45 Feb 4, 2009
easong wrote:
I have a septic system, regularly maintained, nowhere near a stream, high above the water table on a ridge a mile or two from Bear Creek. I have community well water. Why do I have to pay a maintenance fee to the County? So that slobs can be policed?
I say inspect. If compliant, charge zero. If in violation, charge up the freakin wazoo.
Me too, mine says is for SLV - San Lorenzo Valley - where they do have a problem. I'm no where near SLV.

BTW - this was brought to you by the democrats and gray davis in 2000.

From my initial read - the law in AB885 - only applies to systems built or substantially repaired *after* July 1, 2004.

http://info.sen.ca.gov/pub/99-00/bill/asm/ab_...

There is "encouragement" in the law to make 20 year loans to home-owners if the cost of repair exceeds 1/2 of 1 percent of assessed property value. The interest rate is non clear since the referenced section dealt mostly with the state/federal matching:
http://law.justia.com/california/codes/wat/13...
Since Monterrey Bay is federally protected, you *might* qualify for 0 percent once you pay off 20% of the total loan. I'm sure they will figure out how to screw you out of that...

I haven't dug into the proposed rules - there is no guarantee that any of the intent is carried into the rule. Thats where comments are *very* important. Read it and comment. They must reply to "substantial" comments, either specifically or as a group.

Its interesting that some of ab885 seems to exempt municipal facilities, but some does not. since santa cruz city dumps subsurface into Monterrey bay, and exceeds water quality levels they might need another waiver. from the regional water board....

Certainly the San Lorenzo regularly exceeds quality, everyone in that basin is a suspect... And you thought you only had to worry about the republicans...
TaxPaynMeatEatn Republicn

Aptos, CA

#46 Feb 4, 2009
Septic Sam wrote:
<quoted text>
[...]
Depending on the size of your tank and number of people living in your house it can be between once every 1 to 6 years max. If you don't pump it you will learn the hard way, just wait. You can pop the riser cover off and use a long pole with a 4" x 6" piece of tin or plastic affixed to it, as you push down through the scum layer you will feel it go free once it breaks through the bottom of the scum and hits the grey water below, and then solid again when you hit the sludge.
[...]
you rock dude. of the 3-4 times I've had mine pumped, I could never get the pumper to tell me anything useful. Whats your service area?
curious

Santa Cruz, CA

#47 Feb 4, 2009
curious wrote:
We live on a ridge and have a leach field - we never have had to get our system pumped....are we going to have to be inspected every 3 years? Never had a backup or smell.
Thanks Sam. It's been a long time. I'll see about getting it pumped.
TaxPaynMeatEatn Republicn

Aptos, CA

#48 Feb 4, 2009
People better read this.
http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/pr...
Its very far reaching. Average upgrade cost for non-conforming systems is costed at $45,000 for a retro-fit supplemental treatment system! It requires septic and *well* inspections every 5 years - even for existing - based on the following:

(4) Any system that, in the judgment of a regional board or authorized local agency, discharges waste that has the reasonable potential to cause a violation of water quality objectives, or to impair present or future beneficial uses of water, to cause pollution, nuisance, or contamination of the waters of the state.

The proposed rule claims that *all* system pose this risk and are therefor subject to monitoring. If you fail or are even *near* an impacted area - you could be required to retrofit supplemental treatment at $45k!!!

This is *way* bad... SLV - you are totally sc/rewed.
FYI

United States

#49 Feb 4, 2009
We are currently in the midst of dealing with a leaky septic issue in our neighborhood. We have a culvert that runs along the street in front of our house and dumps directly into the river. There is a constant flow of water even with the lack of rain and it smells like raw sewage so bad that our family cannot even hang out on our front lawn anymore. The smell is absolutely nauseating. It is a HUGE embarrassment to us when we have company because they are greeted to the smell of s**t as they pull up our street.

We contacted the county (environmental) to help us in finding the source and they told us they didn't have the funds. If we wanted to deal with it, it would be up to us to hire someone to insert a camera and run it up the street to find where the water is coming from. We were appalled and baffled. What do they get paid for? Apparently if we don't like the smell we can pay to figure out who the culprit is, file a complaint, and then the county will "look into it". Obviously, their concern is not for the protection of the environment or for the well being of the people, otherwise a response to our complaint of a raw sewage leak flowing directly into the river would certainly warrant more action.

Because it is public record to look up when your neighbors last had their tank pump, we were able to find anyone who hasn't had it done in the last 5 yrs and contact them to kindly ask that they have it done and to inspect their system for faults. The septic companies have to report any faults therefore, this is the only method we have been able to come up with for getting something done about. BUT, it takes a cooperative homeowner to do it and a "legit" septic/pumping company (there are some out there that will do things not to code)...Other peoples irresponsibility is now reducing our quality of life in our own yard! I don't know the details of these new regulations, but I am happy that some attention is being brought to a problem we have here! The SLV is notorious for leaky septics...people up here have just gotten really creative with working around the county and the county IS NOT doing their job. I don't buy the 99% pass BS one bit!
Coulrophobia

Alviso, CA

#50 Feb 4, 2009
septicschmeptic wrote:
yikes
have you ever driven around rural SC county after a REALLY good rain spell? Like 5+ inches in a day 10 in in a week? Take a whiff, you'll be smelling septic left and right. Many systems might work 360 days out of the average rain year, and fail on those 5. The question: What should be done about those few days? Cost is a very real issue.
On my property, we do have problems when it rains hard and continuously for over a week. That hasn't happened this winter and happened once last winter. I can't afford to re-do the system.$20-30K minimum.
If I were caught and forced to, given RE market conditions, I'd give the house to the bank. I have no equity anyway, and in these times have to preserve our cash to ride out the storm.
What I have done is found ways around it that have, thus far, completely "eliminated" the problem: If a huge rain is coming I'll have it pumped (as in the first huge rain of the year). I installed an anti-backflow device (completely illegal, no permit!) that prevents ground water from coming back UP into the system if the water table rises, and we cut down on water utilization and have a (legal/permitted) gray water system for shower and laundry. With these measures, our old "uncle flo" seems to work just fine even in the heavy rains... it has capacity to accept incoming deuces until the rains die down and the water table goes down. However, in extreme rains such as the winter of 05/06.. that might not work.
just one person's experience!
You are right about the smell! It can be awful at the bottom of Bonny Doon road (very near Liddel Spring, where SC gets much of its water.) This is funny to read because I've been through some of the same problems with my system. During one exceptionally wet winter, when we got a foot of rain over a weekend and the ground was already saturated, we had waste come up out of the ground. I had the tank pumped (in the pouring rain), and scrimped on water until the ground dried a bit. I later had the system looked at, and some people told me I needed a whole new system, some said I needed a new leach field, and some said nothing was wrong and we just had unusually high amounts of rain and I should refrain from doing the laundry when it rained a lot (gee, thanks). And I would get it replaced if it was necessary, but I concluded that I was getting the hard sell from some of the septic system installers. So I wonder how fair the county inspections will be. Do a percolation test in October and you will get a much different result than in February. So how can this program be fairly administrated? Or does $300 just buy you the standard real estate inspection where the tank is drained and a mirror or camera is put down there (telling you nothing about the leach field). I don't see this plan working, even if there is a need for it.

About the gray water waste lines -- I've seen that abused a lot up here in Bonny Doon. It may be technically legal to run waste from your washing machine onto the ground, for instance, but it you're using non-green detergents, bleach and other harmful products, it's wrong.
Coulrophobia

Alviso, CA

#51 Feb 4, 2009
Skeptic wrote:
Hey, SoOkiE:
You'll be sorry if you just forget about your new system for 10 years and then pump it, as you plan. Septic tanks accumulate solids at the bottom and floating scum at the top. When the solids reach the bottom of the baffle in the tank, the tank fails to work properly. When the scum gets so thick that it spills into the outflow pipe, you'll clog your distribution box and drainfield. Big expenses follow. Septic systems need to be pumped before either of these bad things happen. How soon? That depends on how much it is used. Usually every 3 to 4 years they need pumping. Ask your pumper whether you waited too long or did it too soon, based on what he finds when he looks in there at your next pumping. Also have him inspect the distribution box, looking for solids or scum that shouldn't be in there. I suggest everyone have their septic pumper install outflow filter screens in the outflow tee fitting in their tank. That way, if the scum starts to outflow, the screen clogs, water level in the tank rises, and you soon find runoff at the tank because you waited too long to pump, but at least you don't ruin your leachfield. Read about septic systems here: http://cfpub.epa.gov/owm/septic/homeowners.cf... .
It would make more sense for the Cal regulations to require pumping every so many years so instead of just inspection, the cost would actually be spent on something useful. Anyway, the pumpers always report to the County what they see when they open the lid, whether the system has been overflowing into the outflow, etc. Old redwood septic tanks all eventually leak and rot, so they should be replaced with modern concrete tanks to avoid contamination of groundwater.
I think requiring tanks to be pumped regularly (with the mini-inspection that goes along with that) is a great idea, but I suspect that there would be a new trade in fake pump receipts if people are allowed to get it done on their own.
TaxPaynMeatEatn Republicn

Aptos, CA

#52 Feb 5, 2009
Coulrophobia wrote:
<quoted text>
[...] So how can this program be fairly administrated? Or does $300 just buy you the standard real estate inspection where the tank is drained and a mirror or camera is put down there (telling you nothing about the leach field). I don't see this plan working, even if there is a need for it.
[...]
350 is the states estimate of pumping cost and associated state fees to fund the program. When was the last time you paid <$350 to get you tank pumped. It will be double that cost.

There is also a $350 estimate on well testing that not mentioned in the article. Same deal, some unspecified amount of the $350 is to fund the "fees" of the program.

The state will be putting together a big computer database on the reports submitted by certified pumpers and well testers along with county input. Once your in that system as failed, you will have to update to the new standards. If you overflow during rain, its certain that you fail to meet "federal and state quality targets". You are then required to install "supplemental treatment" at an estimated cost of $45,000. The opportunity for abuse is substantial, angry neighbors, greedy pumpers, or county workers.

Financial analysis estimates >10,000 jobs created by this legislation costing $350 million dollars paid for by the 2x$350 fee. People gonna make coin - homeowners sc/rewed.
Coulrophobia wrote:
<quoted text>
[...]
About the gray water waste lines -- I've seen that abused a lot up here in Bonny Doon. It may be technically legal to run waste from your washing machine onto the ground, for instance, but it you're using non-green detergents, bleach and other harmful products, it's wrong.
Funny enough, thats not specifically covered, because its not 'subsurface'. Its illegal under other existing law if its not fairly clean though.
JCS

AOL

#53 Feb 14, 2009
Still think we should have the entire SLV County go with the Waste/Water Treatment Plant! Big Basin State Park, has its own! Been there for 50/60 years! And if they installed that system in the Heart of the big Redwoods, it can be done here! Results! You never have to Pump again! And yes your property will go up in Value!!! By the way! All Treated Waste Water, goes to Santa Cruz, Waste/Water Plant. Same place they take all our Pumped Septic Waste! then all in Treated and yes pumped into the Ocean.
Corralitos Taxpayer

Watsonville, CA

#54 Feb 14, 2009
Here's some good news on all of this. The regulations were found unworkable so they are going back to try it again some time in the future. So we get time delay before seeing this in some altered format:

http://www.cfbf.com/agalert/AgAlertStory.cfm...
mireille neumann

Alhambra, CA

#55 Mar 16, 2009
What are the inspection guidelines prposed by your county? How are they different from the state requiremenrs?
Think First

Watsonville, CA

#56 Mar 16, 2009
JCS wrote:
Same place they take all our Pumped Septic Waste! then all in Treated and yes pumped into the Ocean.
You mean that most of the time it is treated. Its typical for these systems to dump massive amounts of sewage into local waters in heavy rains. Like the over million gallons of raw sewage spilled north of SF recently. But thats always ignored when considering 'desired water quality levels'. The system the state was looking to require would outperform municipal systems.
snyper42

Santa Cruz, CA

#57 Mar 16, 2009
What about incinerator toilets for solid waste? The result makes decent compost additive, I hear.
One size fits all

Watsonville, CA

#58 Mar 21, 2009
snyper42 wrote:
What about incinerator toilets for solid waste? The result makes decent compost additive, I hear.
Yeah, at $10/dump it woudl be less expensive from me to drive to town to relieve myself...

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