New Nevada County septic charges worry homeowners | SierraSun.com

New Nevada County septic charges worry homeowners

Laura Brown
Sun News Service

NEVADA COUNTY “-Local homeowners, contractors and Realtors are worried proposed state regulations for septic tanks could cause an unneeded financial burden on people already struggling with the recession.

A proposal to change regulations could affect 25,000 households in Nevada County, including Truckee, and more than 1.2 million in California.

At a special meeting held last week, more than 150 people filled the board chambers of the Eric Rood Administration Center to hear and comment on an update by the state water resources board.

“They took some pretty harsh criticism from citizens,” said Wesley Nicks, director of the county’s environmental health department.

The meeting attracted officials from governments in Nevada County, from Sierra, Plumas and Placer county governments, contractors, septic industry workers, rural homeowners, Realtors, hydrologists and farmers.

“I was impressed by the intelligence of the questions and the diversity of the questions,” Nicks said. “There were certainly some people that were angry.”

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Isolated incidents of ground water contamination have occurred in Nevada County’s low-lying areas, but septic tanks have never posed a serious health risk here, Nicks said.

“It does occur on occasion. We haven’t seen a big influx of problems with systems that would justify (more) regulations,” he said.

People who spoke at the meeting voiced satisfaction with the way the county monitors septic tanks and saw no need for the state to add additional regulations, Nicks said.

“At the present time these systems are serving Californians very well. The horror stories are few and far between,” said Doug Donesky, a local resident who also serves as district 4 planning commissioner.

In coming weeks Nicks will send his written comments to the state water board commenting on its draft environmental review of the proposed changes.

He said his comments will mirror local citizens’ concerns. A number of similar public workshops are scheduled in other rural Northern Californian counties this month.

“We’ll wait and hear what the state does with it,” Nicks said. “The water board will then mitigate its plan, change the draft regulations or provide further explanation,” Nicks said.

If signed into law, homeowners would be required to hire professionals to inspect septic tanks and test private wells every five years, a task that could cost land owners thousands of dollars.

Developers could also be hit with new costs associated with installing equipment.

Rural counties are hardest hit by the proposed regulations, because a higher percentage of homeowners use private wells and septic tanks rather than municipal water and sewer.

Plans for changes to septic tank regulations originated in Santa Monica and Malibu, where some leaky tanks leached human waste into the Pacific Ocean.

Donesky questioned why an urban area in the state was affecting rural counties with different geology.

“Somehow that morphed into ‘let’s go to Nevada County and Sierra County where the population is nil,'” he said. “Why this big umbrella?”