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Standardized septic-system rules on tap

State panel starts working today on guidelines

Thursday, September 30, 2010  02:54 AM

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

The Ohio Department of Health is working on new rules governing home septic systems that would eliminate the current county-by-county guidelines.

State legislators enacted a law this year to create statewide regulations. An earlier set of state rules was suspended six months after they went into effect in 2007 after people complained that meeting the standards would be too expensive.

Individual county boards of health were then left to write guidelines as they saw fit. Many, including Franklin County, adopted the 2007 rules as their own.

Although the statewide rules are still a couple of years away, some details of how they will be implemented were fixed in state law this year.

A key change is that counties cannot require homeowners in low-risk areas to have more than

18 inches of soil between their septic-system drainage field and the underlying bedrock, although homes in areas at a higher risk of contamination would be required to have between 24 and 36 inches of soil separation.

A commission set up by the state health department will determine what constitutes low risk, such as one house on a large lot, or high risk, such as a subdivision of homes more closely packed together.

Franklin County requires at least 12 inches of soil between the leach bed and the bedrock that overlies the water table.

Systems installed before the new rules go into place - sometime after Jan. 1, 2012 - will be grandfathered in unless they are causing a public-health nuisance that is not being addressed by the owner. The new rules also will create a statewide appeals process for owners who have been denied a permit to install a septic system or ordered to replace an existing system.

The health department's commission will meet for the first time from 1 to 4 p.m. today in the department's offices at 35 E. Chestnut St. in Columbus.

The commission will keep the process open to the public, said Rebecca Fugitt, manager of the Residential Water and Sewage Program. "Our goal is to build a consensus. We need to protect the public health and yet balance that with the cost to homeowners."

jjarman@dispatch.com

Posted 9:30 AM  View Comments

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