Hubbard County officials disapprove of MPCA rule changes

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is amending state septic system rules. The change requires septic system professionals to drain a septic tank when inspecting it for cracks or other conditions that could cause it to leak.

Hubbard County officials have voiced opposition to the amendment – cost being one of their reasons.

Environmental Services Officer Eric Buitenwerf told county commissioners on Tuesday that his department warned the MPCA: “The more complex and costly you make this, the more you incentivize people to do the wrong thing. They like it looking good on paper and not good in practice.”

“Typically, you’re looking at $200 for an average tank to be pumped currently,” he said. “We have an issue with a shortage of maintainers that can do that work at present. That’s only going to be an exacerbating issue once this rulemaking takes effect in December, which they’re tentatively indicating.”

Buitenwerf recommended altering the county’s ordinances, which have some voluntary compliance inspections in them that are not state requirements.


“Now with the economics being what they are due to the whole pandemic, I feel that it would be appropriate for us to remove those voluntary triggers from our ordinances so that it’s not an unnecessary economic burden on folks to have to invite a compliance inspection for such things as primarily subdivision applications, and then it also pertains to variance applications for our subdivision signs and septic ordinances.”

The county board agreed, and Buitenwerf said he would have the county planning commission draft the necessary language.

Board chair Char Christenson asked if ESO would use its discretion to order a compliance check.

Buitenwerf said the wording could allow for that discretion, but continued, “I think there’s other ways, if we have reason to believe or have evidence that there’s an egregious failing system, there’s other tools in the tool box to deal with those.”

He noted that some southern Minnesota and metro area counties agree with the state’s amendments. “The further outstate you get, the less in support counties are,” Buitenwerf said, “so that didn’t help our case, not having a united front at the county level.”

In other business, the county board did as follows:

  • Approved payment of $4,542 to Aggregate Industries for concrete used in a test pour.

  • Approved the solicitation of bids for remodeling the county public works front office. The work will entail creating more separation between the public and staff due to the pandemic. CARES Act funding will be used.

  • Approved the low quote of $2,422 from Ulvin Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning for purchase and installation of a touchless drinking fountain / water dispenser, as recommended by the public works coordinator, with payment to be made from CARES funds.

  • Reviewed results of the Oct. 5 timber auction. All 11 tracts sold for a grand total of $256,150.

  • Approved a utility easement for Paul and Amanda Traut.

  • Approved final payment of $6,258 to Northland Excavating, LLC for the Long Lake access project.

  • Approved payment of $241,000 to Northwoods Consulting Partners, Inc. of Dublin, Ohio for implementing technology that will help social workers work remotely or in the field, as recommended by the county social services director, with payment to be made from CARES Funding.

  • Approved a prescriptive easement on private land in Schoolcraft Township owned by Justin and Jason Kolanowski and Scott Willet.

  • Held a closed session pursuant to attorney-client privilege related to Shaun Johnson vs. Hubbard County.

Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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