Report on 3/30/2018 PRMD Meeting: Septic Regulations

Dear River friends and supporters:

I attended the 3.5 hour meeting last Friday with the lead County Planner (Nathan Quarles: 707.565.1146) on the proposed new County septic regulations. Approximately 60 people attended and the whole time was devoted to answering questions of those present. Nathan stood in the front of the room and did his best to respond forthrightly and as completely as possible to almost all questions.

Comments have now been received and responded to on the OWTS Manual Revision (LAMP Part 2). PRMD’s response to comments.
Revised OWTS Manual links:
Clean version and Strikeout-Underline-Annotated version
The document is scheduled to go to the Board of Supervisors for approval on May 8, 2018. (Meetings held in Supervisors’ Chambers at 575 Administration Dr. in Santa Rosa and start at 8:30 AM. ) It is unknown at this time whether Supervisors will approve as is, or recommend further revisions. Once Revision is authorized, it will NOT be implemented until the Regional Board’s Pathogen TMDL is authorized. Also, you can find RRWPC writings on Pathogen TMDL on our website.

We have been informed by Regional Board staff that after Supervisors approve the Revised Manual, it will then go to the Regional Board for approval as well. This will probably occur at their July meeting. They will not approve Pathogen TMDL until LAMP revision is authorized. Regional Board will also have a 30-day comment period in May and/or June before they either approve the entire program or not. I believe that the Regional Board will not make specific revisions, but can somehow make further recommendations after LAMP is fully approved. (My information on this is confusing. I will get this clarified, but may not be able to do so immediately. The situation is still in flux.) It is a bit unclear how this will work, but I was also told that no new County regulations will be activated until the TMDL is approved by the Regional Water Quality Control Board. Also, many attendees at the March 30th meeting also expressed concerns about the confusing implementation efforts.

Here a summary of the main concerns and responses as I noted them:

· The first point, made loud and clear, was that the Planning Department will not contact people about upgrades to their septic systems. County has no legal right to enter a person’s private property without permission. The following actions can trigger review of septic history and inspection:
o Application for building permit that expands load bearing of structure’s outer walls (items such as fences, roofs, windows, etc. will NOT trigger septic review)
o There is a complaint filed that requires an inspection
o Voluntary compliance without inspection will no longer be allowed once the Revised Manual is approved. Voluntary compliance will now include an expert soils analysis for any dispersal system construction or repairs.
o Regional Board, who is not prohibited from contacting property owners about their septic systems, intends to mail letters to property owners in Northwood, Monte Rio, Villa Grande, and Camp Meeker after July that will probably ask whether the property relies on a redwood box or cess pool for waste treatment. These will no longer be allowed and owners will be required to upgrade, although I believe that responding to the agency with this information will be voluntary. We think a reasonable amount of time will be allowed and those short of funds can be given more time and possibly financial assistance. We understand that the Sonoma County Water Agency has been charged to seek out and apply for grants that would help fund those who are economically disadvantaged. We have no more details on this at this time, but will keep you informed.

· Septic inspections will include/require a site evaluation that includes soil analysis and perc test that are to be done by qualified soils engineer or similar expert. Contractors will no longer be allowed to conduct the soil analysis for dispersal system (unless they have credentials to do so. There were many comments regarding this requirement, including concerns about whether an adequate pool of soil experts would be available on a timely basis. ) It is my understanding that this is not the case for simply replacing tank, which can be done by contractor without special design/soil analysis. Former soil categories of Class I, II, and III will no longer be considered.

· In the event of the need for emergency repairs, such as following a big fire, new rules will be considered. These have not been proposed as yet.

· Determination of whether work plans are for a remodel or a rebuild relies on the current standard of 50% threshold, although we are not sure how 50% is determined. Over 50% is considered rebuild and under 50% a repair. If there is a working septic under 50%, then they won’t need to replace system. If there is a cesspool, they will have to replace either way as these are no longer legal.

· Waiver prohibition areas will sunset when TMDL is adopted by Regional Board.

· Steep properties that cannot be code compliant will need to get waiver from Regional Board who will probably not give waivers near impaired waterways. (We will let you know when Regional Board considers this so interested property owners can attend meeting.)
· Ground water will need to be analyzed for replacement systems in addition to soil analysis and expert certification. All commenting wanted time extensions to meet requirements.

This is it for now. I’ll send new information as it comes available.