Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (OWTS) Concerns
As businesses and property owners of the land and homestead parcels which fall under the rules of the OWTS Ordinance, we wish it known that we take personal responsibility of not polluting our own land. In general, a property owner who suffers the consequences both financially and quality of life (even beyond the septic system - polluted well drinking water) we inherently take great responsibility to ensure properly performing and non-failure of our systems. Realize that it is in our own personal best interest to maintain and repair failed systems. That being said, we do not feel such strict rules are necessary particularly to an area which does not currently show any negative consequences to the current systems. (Tier 0)
Below are some (not all) issues in the Draft LAMP which consists of three documents titled: Amended Onsite Wastewater Treatment System Ordinance (OWTS); Local Agency Management Program; and Onsite Water Treatment Systems Technical Manual. (AKA Septic Systems in Alameda County)
Guidelines stated in the Ordinance should be used to formulate and qualify the proposal as stated in the three items below: (These three items are referenced below as “objective of the Ordinance. When you read that we are referring the the following)
1. The Ordinance “is intended to serve the best interests of the citizens of Alameda County by managing risk to public health, public safety, and the natural environment and promoting public welfare…” (Page1).
2. The Ordinance is intended to …”protect public health and the environment by protecting ground water and surface water quality.” (Page 2)
3. OWTS policy…is to protect water quality and public health”. (Page 5)
Every requirement should be evaluated as reasonable if and only if they serve the above guidelines.
Palomares Creek does not flow to the SF Bay. As per CA State, if your system is not failing and is working properly it is automatically included in Tier 0 described below:
What Tier Applies to my OWTS? page 4 http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/program...
Existing OWTS that conform to the requirements for Tier 0 will remain in Tier 0 as long as they continue to meet those requirements.
Existing OWTS that are properly functioning and do not meet the conditions of failing systems or otherwise require corrective action (for example, to prevent groundwater impairment) as specifically described in Tier 4, and are not determined to be contributing to an impairment of surface water as specifically described in Tier 3, are automatically included in Tier 0.
We believe the LAMP should divide the county into segments which match the Tier system Palomares Canyon is considered a Tier 0 area as shown: http://gispublic.waterboards.ca.gov/webmap/owts/ow...
15.18.030 Purpose and Intent
4. Adopt science-based minimum standards for site evaluations, performance, repair, and modification of existing Systems; design, construction, and installation of new Systems; and operation, maintenance, and monitoring of all Systems.
What is the science behind testing systems every two years? What is the science that indicates redwood systems, which function properly, are not in compliance?
A. The provisions of this Chapter and its enforcement are intended to be reasonable. To that end, the following standards are set:
1. The requirements imposed are those minimally necessary to manage the known or reasonably anticipated risks to human and natural environments. (Page 3)
Minimally necessary is left to the enforcement agency to define during a project or repair. Too much ambiguity. This needs a definition.
15.18.170 Qualified Professional Registration Certification Program
A. The Department shall administer a Registration Certification Program for System practitioners including Designers, Installers, and Operations, Maintenance and Monitoring Service Providers in accordance with the procedures in the Manual.
B. The Department shall administer a Septage Tank Pumper Permit Program in accordance with the procedures in the Manual and the requirements of the California Health and Safety Code, Division 104, Part 13, Sections 117400- et seq.
C. It shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to engage in design, construction, alteration, repair or modification of a System within Alameda County without first registering obtaining a certificate from with the Department, however nothing contained herein shall prohibit a resident owner from installing an on-site wastewater system or making repairs or alterations to an on-site wastewater system on said resident owner’s property when the conditions specified in this Chapter and the Manual are met. (Page 10)
Comment: “Certification” has been changed to “Registration”. Certification implies some asemblance of training and professional testing. There should be a licensing procedure for those who may be evaluating our systems and making the recommendations or doing the repair work.
Is there is a conflict of interest when the person doing the inspecting is also the one who may do the repairs?
15.18.180 Operations, Maintenance and Monitoring Program (OM&M)
A. An OM&M program will be established by the Department to encourage or require inspection, monitoring, and/or service to Systems, including Standard and Alternative Systems, as delineated in the Manual to insure long-term performance, and groundwater, surface water, and public health protections.
B.The OM&M program will be in accordance with guidelines in the Manual and may also incorporate specific recommendations of the Department, System consultant/designer, manufacturer, and/or Qualified Professional.
(Pages 10 and 11)
Suggestion: The Department should encourage inspection, not require it. Eliminate “or require” in the wording.
15.18.260 Site Evaluation Requirements
G. An approved Site Evaluation Report for installation of a System completed prior to the effective date of this Chapter shall expire on May 12, 2018 and shall be unacceptable for purposes of issuing a System Installation Permit after that date unless the review included a site specific evaluation substantially equivalent to a Site Evaluation as defined and described in this Chapter and the Manual; and the submitted System Design meets the currently adopted standards of this Chapter and the Manual. For Site Evaluation Reports which included a proposed System Design and which was completed prior to the effective date of this Chapter, the Department may require a resubmittal of System Design that meets the purpose and intent of this Chapter to protect water quality and public health, including but not limited to requirements for Supplemental Treatment and an Operating Permit, where warranted. (Page 18).
Comment: Does this mean that all systems are not certified past May 2018? All are then out of compliance? Why would working systems, which do not put the objectives of this Ordinance be noncompliant? This adds unwarranted stress and financial burden with zero improvement to health and the environment. Requires additional budget to the ACDEH.
Suggestion, remove this constraint.
15.18.270 Existing System Performance Evaluation Requirements
A.Performance Evaluations shall be conducted on existing Systems in accordance with the provisions in the Manual to verify the functionality and integrity of the System under the following circumstances:
1.To obtain a System Operating Permit when biannual or annual reporting requirements have not been met.
2.To evaluate an undocumented or unpermitted System to demonstrate that the System is sized appropriately and is protective of human health and environment.
Comment: #2 is an open ended ticket for the ACDEH to require that old systems be replaced.
Suggestion: Re-evaluate this requirement against the objective of the Ordinance.
15.18.300 System Operation, Maintenance, and Monitoring Requirements
A. Every System shall be subject to the requirements of the Operation, Maintenance, and Monitoring (OM&M) Program as specified in this Chapter and in the Manual.
B. Biennial Registration will be required for Standard Systems installed under a valid Installation Permit issued by the Department. A Performance Evaluation by a Qualified Professional will be required for the initial biennial registration. Subsequent biennial registrations can be conducted by the Owner, however it is recommended the system be inspected by a Qualified Service Provider every few years.
Comment: How do we know what all the operation, maintenance, and monitoring requirements will be if the Manual hasn’t even been released yet?
Suggestion: Systems have been in operation for fifty years without failure, registration should be every 10 years or if the area has water pollution rating.
C. An Operating Permit will be required for Standard Systems that were installed without a permit from the Department but have passed a Performance Evaluation, Alternative Systems, Non-Discharging Wastewater Disposal Units, Cluster Systems, and Community Systems, or where the type, size, location or other aspects of a particular System warrant the additional level of oversight provided by an Operating Permit. Monitoring of Alternative Systems shall be conducted by or under the supervision of a Qualified Service Provider.
Comment: Why should an old system that is obviously not malfunctioning be subject to an “additional level of oversight?” Why should the owner be required to get an Operating Permit? This is not the minimum level of requirement mentioned by ACDEH in the beginning of the draft ordinance.
Suggestion: Remove this requirement
D. Owners of all Systems shall record the following information on the property deed for the benefit of future owners and successors:
1. Notice of the requirement for an Operating Permit, including all Operating Permit conditions of approval; or 2.Notice of the requirement for Biennial Registration of a Standard System; and
3.An agreement granting the Department access to inspect the system after providing the property owner with proper notification. (Page 20)
Comment: Some may feel this is an invasion of property rights. Why does the Department need to inspect the system. These negotiations are between the seller and the buyer.
Suggestion: Remove #3.
F. Replacement areas for Dispersal Fields shall be reserved for the System repair and/or replacement as described in the Manual. The Replacement Area shall be indicated on the As-Built drawing and shall remain undeveloped, protected from compaction, protected from vehicular traffic, and shall otherwise remain free of conditions that would make it unsuitable as a future Replacement Area.
Comment: An area roughly the size of the leach field is required to sit vacant in case the old System ever needs to be replaced. Current systems will likely fail this test and will they not be acceptable? How does this fit with the objectives of the Ordinance as stated above. Currently functioning permitted systems my not qualify for an Operation Permit.
Suggestion: Remove this requirement
G. Monitoring results shall be submitted to the Department in accordance with reporting guidelines provided in the Manual. The Department shall be notified immediately of any System problems observed during the System inspection and monitoring that could lead to the System failure.
1. Owners of Standard Systems must submit a written report, every two (2) years, to the Department detailing that the System continues to function as designed and permitted as provided in the Manual.
2. Owners of Systems with an Operating Permit are subject to the Operating Permit requirements as provided in the Manual and must submit a written report every twelve (12) months detailing that the System continues to function as designed and permitted as provided in the Manual. (Page 21)
Comment: Filing a written report every two years and a self report every year is over kill for systems functioning without failure for decades?
Suggestion: The owner of a Standard System should be allowed to submit the report themselves every five years and not have to hire someone to do it. When a system is pumped a report can be filed at the ACDEH should the system have failures.
15.18.410 Transfer of Permit
No System installation permit issued under this Chapter may be transferred or assigned in any manner whatsoever voluntarily or by operation of the law, without the express consent of the Department. (Page 25)
Comment: This would seem to indicate that one can’t sell their home or parcel without the consent of ACDEH. Need explanation on the reasoning and how this is meets the objectives of the Ordinance.
A.The Department shall conduct perform enforcement of the standards of this Chapter and the Manual.
B. All violations of this Chapter and the Manual are determined to be unlawful and declared to be detrimental to the public health, safety and welfare, and are declared to be Public Nuisances. (Page 26)
Comment: By this wording, an old system that doesn’t meet current construction standards
is judged to be unlawful even though there is no evidence of malfunction, such as contaminated wells or creeks.
Suggestion: Evaluate this against the Ordinance Objectives
15.18.5690 Appeals From Administrative Enforcement Fees and Fines
Any person receiving notice of an administrative enforcement fee or fine from an authorized enforcement officer in accordance with the provisions of Section 15.18.5230 (Penalty for Violation) of this Chapter may appeal such action to the Department by submitting a letter contesting that fee or fine to the Director of Environmental Health at the address listed on the notice; however, the letter contesting the fee or fine must be postmarked no later than ten (10) days after the date of the notice of violation. Upon receipt of such a request, the Director of
Environmental Health shall request a report and recommendation from the authorized enforcement officer, and shall set the matter for hearing at the earliest practical date. At such hearing, the Director of Environmental Health may hear additional evidence, and may reject, affirm, or modify the administrative fee or fine imposed. The Director may designate a Department employee to conduct the hearing. The decision of the Director of Environmental Health, or of his/her designee conducting the hearing shall be final. (Page 31)
Comment: The option of appealing fines to the Board of Supervisors should be provided. Ten days is an extrememly short period of time. Many persons vacation for 14 days.
Suggestion: Thirty days to pay fees, add appeal process.
Why hasn’t the Manual been made public? How can we comment intelligently on all this when half of the two major documents isn’t available? The Manual contains all the specifics about what is required.
We were promised a summary document in March. The due date to submit comments has arrived without the documentation we requested and were promised.
Those of us don’t happen to have a copy of their old permit should be treated leniently. ACDEH lost the records of the old permits, we didn’t.
The policy should be that if there are no contaminated wells, no polluted creeks, no sign of seepage, no back up in the system—then the system is not harming the public health or the natural environment. The public and environment would be better served by the ACDEH focusing its resources on well known and sizable septic pollution issues in the County.
In order to get the financial resources for the over worked ACDEH the fees will be high for zero value to the environment.
Why would ACDEH review improvements such as roofs and inside remodels which do not include septic related uses?
Performance Reports should be based on a visual inspection and well/ground/creek water sampling. If there is not evidence of malfunction, the system should be judged acceptable and in compliance as Tier 0.
Grandfather all existing systems as in compliance until shown to be non-functioning.
Remove any reference to building materials used such as redwood with existing systems.
Remove ACDEH permit reviews other than those which directly add risk to the septic systems.