Many Florida Counties Opt Out of Septic Inspection Program

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Ten of 19 counties with first-magnitude springs have voted to opt out of having septic tank inspection programs, according to the state Department of Health. A measure in 2011 allowed the 19 counties to opt out with a supermajority vote.


The Senate approved a bill to ease restrictions on development of property near the Great Lakes sand dunes. Current law requires people who want to build or install septic systems to get a permit and prove the construction will not harm the environment. The proposal from Sen. Arlan Meekhof would shift the burden to the state Department of Environmental Quality. The proposal would affect 70,000 acres of protected sand dunes in Michigan. The House had not yet addressed the bill.


In a demonstration for local officials, dogs were used to track down septic system failures, sewage leaks and illegal connections to storm sewers in Maine and New Hampshire. The dogs are from Environmental Canine Services in Vermontville, Mich.

The state Division of Environmental Health approved the Busse system for treating residential wastewater. The system, 90 percent smaller than typical drainfields, organically breaks down 100 percent of the waste and installs above ground in hours. It uses 0.4 percent micron filtration and aerobic and anaerobic treatment. Effluent, which exceeds recommended clean water standards, is recycled in the house, reducing freshwater demand by 30 percent. Busse has more than 600 such systems in 15 countries worldwide. An average system costs $21,600.


As of August, Douglas County instituted a new septic ordinance that includes additional permit requirements and fee adjustments. The ruling affects standard and alternative onsite systems, holding tanks and privies, and restaurant/bar/hotel systems. It also requires soil verification for all new systems. The ordinance is at


Gov. Tom Corbett issued an executive order requiring the Department of Environmental Protection to assess how to make timely permitting decisions. The department issues permits covering municipal plans for individual onsite systems. The agency also issues permits under the NPDES program after permitting municipal plans that allow stream discharge for sites where unsuitable soils rule out drainfields.

Rhode Island

Implementation of amendments to state rules for onsite systems in salt pond areas were postponed to November 2014. They would require property owners to install denitrification technology when building additions smaller than 600 square feet. Other changes extend the deadline for replacing non-failing cesspools in areas where sewer extension projects are planned to 2020. The deadline for replacing non-failing cesspools near the coastline or other tidal features remains Jan. 1, 2014.


Two years after the Whatcom County Health Department allowed homeowners to inspect their onsite systems, officials say the evaluation submittal rate dropped from 66 percent to 22 percent. Therefore, officials proposed adding $25 to property taxes for 28,000 homes in the county with onsite systems. The new tax would replace a $35 fee for submitting inspection reports and a three-cent-per-gallon septage tax. Pumpers would pay the tax, which would add about $30 to the cost of pump-outs.


According to officials with Sheridan County and the Sheridan County Conservation District, more than half the septic systems within 300 feet of Big and Little Goose Creek are not permitted. County Public Works director Rod Liesinger drafted a resolution waiving the $250 permit fee to encourage homeowners to call the department to locate their systems. The state Department of Environmental Quality considers the creeks contaminated with fecal coliform.


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