Lorain County health commissioner explains new septic system program

Lorain County Public Health Department Commissioner Mark Adams explains a new mandate for septic systems during a Lorain County Commission meeting. (Heather Chapin – The Morning Journal)

Lorain County commissioners heard more details about the new wastewater system program from the Lorain County Public Health Commissioner on Jan. 19.

Lorain County Public Health Commissioner Mark Adams told commissioners during their meeting that the state’s plan to begin inspections of residential septic systems has been in the works for years.

The biggest concern about not inspecting septic systems can have a negative impact on local watersheds and lead to harmful bacteria and pollution, Adams said.

In fact, several counties in 2019 adopted the new unfunded mandate issued by the Ohio Department of Health in 2015, but Adams said he decided to wait because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The county has created a map of homes with septic tanks, he said.

A significant number of properties have tanks that are not registered with the county, and therefore officials have no knowledge of the condition of the septic systems, which is the goal of the new program, Adams said.

The health department has been tasked with inspecting every septic system in the county, whether by contacting the homeowner in person or by telephone, he said.

“This is what we have to do,” he said under the new mandate.

Homeowners must now purchase permits for their septic tank systems, which has drawn criticism from several residents.

A handful of residents voiced their opposition and concerns about the new program at the Jan. 16 County Commission meeting.

Lorain County Public Health has received about 2,600 voicemails since residents were informed of the new fees.

A one-year fee costs the homeowner $40 and a three-year permit is available for $120 and is due by April 30.

Adams maintains that the new mandate is not a plan to force people to replace their septic systems.

However, if a problem is discovered, it is the homeowner’s responsibility to correct the problem, he said.

Homeowners who have abandoned septic tank systems on their property are required by law to report it to the health department.

The Health Department’s goal is to have every system inspected and cataloged, Adams said.

In addition, the health department will test waterways around each wastewater treatment plant as part of another phase of the project, he said.

While financial assistance is available to those eligible, the health department only has $100,000 to work with so far, Adams said.

The health department estimates there are 20,000 residential wastewater treatment systems throughout the county.

The Board of Health meets on the second Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m. at Lorain County Public Health, 9880 Murray Ridge Road in Elyria.

Lorain County Public Health can also be contacted by email at [email protected] or by telephone at 440-322-6367.

An employee has been assigned to each designated area in Lorain County. (Courtesy of Lorain County Health Department)

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