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County disagrees with proposed septic tank pumping rule

The Hubbard County Board voiced its opposition to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's proposed amendment to state septic system rules.

The MPCA may require a septic tank to be pumped empty before an official inspection to determine the tank's integrity. The tank would be inspected through a maintenance hole while empty, except if a licensed inspector knows ahead of time that a particular tank is not going to pass inspection for any reason, or if there is a report showing the tank passed inspection while empty within the past three years.

At the Dec. 19 board meeting, Environmental Services Officer Eric Buitenwerf said his department "and many local contractors are opposed to this proposal because it will increase the cost of a compliance inspection, and thus, serve as an incentive for people to do the wrong rather than the right thing."

"That pumping, on average, runs a couple hundred bucks on a typical residential tank, so you're adding that cost onto what a compliance inspection is running," Buitenwerf said. "I'll have some opportunities at forums to voice sentiments in regard to that proposed rulemaking so I wanted to make the board aware."

Compliance inspections on existing systems are valid for three years, Buitenwerf noted, adding

that a licensed inspector should determine whether or not pumping is necessary.

Board Chair Vern Massie said he had several issues with the draft amendment.

"Pumping out a septic tank in the fall, it can't regenerate enough heat and the system is going to freeze up," Massie said. "There's been no proof that these systems have to be pumped every three years. There's no way a septic tank is going to fill up high enough in three years, or five years, to project solids out into the drain field like they always preach."

Vice Chair Cal Johannsen agreed with Massie. "I've seen septic systems where the tank was there for 20 years, and when we collapsed it to put in a new one, there was maybe a foot of solids in it. It wasn't enough worth to pump it."

"Fight it as hard as we can," Johannsen said. "They don't have a clear where they're putting it once they pump it."

Julie Kingsley, Hubbard County Soil and Water Conservation district manager, said permits are required to spread sewage on a field.

According to a public notice, the MPCA anticipates that the rule amendments will require a local government to adopt or amend an ordinance or other regulations. "Because of differences in local SSTS (subsurface sewage treatment systems) ordinances, it's possible that some county ordinances will require amendment."

The notice states the MPCA does not plan to plan to appoint an advisory committee for this rulemaking project.

The public may submit comments to the MPCA until 4:30 p.m. Feb. 20, 2018. Written comments, questions or requests for more information on the possible rule amendment can be directed to Katie Izzo, MPCA Rule Coordinator, 520 Lafayette Rd. N., St. Paul, MN 55155-4194 or katie.izzo@state.mn.us.

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