AUSTINTOWN – The county health department will begin rolling out new requirements for all sewage plant owners in Mahoning County on January 1.
Colton Masters of Mahoning County Public Health, formerly known as the Mahoning County Board of Health, knows the news potentially affects the 17,000 homeowners in the county with a septic system that accepts and treats
Household sewage in areas without sewers.
“I know people won’t all be happy,” he said.
The program has a cost of between $ 30 and $ 125 per year. Other costs, such as septic tank pumping, are also possible.
But Masters told Mahoning County Public Health members last week that septic owners should also be aware that the new operation and maintenance program for the home septic treatment system could keep them from paying much more.
“Yes, there is a fee associated with that. That is what people will focus on in the first place, but they have to look beyond that, ”he said. “I need her to see more than just this fee. There are real benefits not only for the community but also for the people who are involved. “
One advantage for the user is that the system “lasts longer if you take care of it. A lot of people don’t know what kind of system they have, much less how to take care of it, ”he said.
Community benefits include fewer failing wastewater treatment plants with each owner under the program. He said that wastewater treatment plant failures “can be a bit of a problem for us, not just here in Mahoning County but across Ohio because of the age of the systems.
“They don’t last forever. That way we will find more of them, which means cleaner surface water. We will clarify that so that not so many pollutants get into the surface water. “
Because of the costs involved, the district charges fees for the new program.
For example, the cost of just sending all notifications to septic owners will be about $ 100,000 a year, Masters said. Additional costs for the county include hiring a clerk to send out the mailings and adding staff to perform tasks such as inspections, testing, and answering questions.
CAN BE A BATTLE
In a presentation, Masters showed the courtyard of a house with a fancy sewage treatment plant. The ground showed dark, damp areas in which “septage”, ie wastewater from the sewage treatment plant, was not treated adequately and came to the surface.
It is the same substance that sometimes gets from the septic tank into streams, ditches, and other water sources, causing contamination.
“Sometimes this partition is washed into a stream, a stream. It will work its way into a water source, ”he said.
Masters scheduled two public hearings last week, one in Springfield Township and one at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center in Canfield – but no one attended both sessions. Masters said additional public relations work will be carried out to promote the program that is required by Ohio law for each county in the state.
“The health committee is mandated to do this,” Mahoning County’s health commissioner Ryan Tekac told the board during the Masters presentation. “It has to be in place.” Tekac was involved in planning the launch of the new program when he was environmental health director before becoming health commissioner two years ago. Masters is now the environmental health director.
The new program will roll out in four phases in 2022, beginning with the four northern townships – Austintown, Jackson, Milton and Coitsville – and for a small number of septic tank owners in Youngstown, Struthers and Campbell. You will receive notifications from the health department regarding the program in the mail soon after January 1st.
Each homeowner has 30 days to respond to the mailing and submit payment. There are other measures such as certified letters and late payment fees.
The rollout begins on April 1st for the townships Boardman, Canfield, Poland and Ellsworth. On July 1st, it will be rolled out in the townships of Berlin, Smith, Goshen and Green. The last two townships on October 1st will be Beaver and Springfield, the two townships with the most sewage treatment plants, 2,018 and 2,072 respectively.
Canfield Township has the third most at 1,826; Smith is fourth with 1,474; and Austintown is fifth with 1,442. Youngstown only has 26, but the health department also manages these systems in consultation with the city. Boardman Township has only 59, according to Masters presentation.
There are three types of sewage treatment plants under the rules, and the cost is $ 30 per year for the typical type of septic tank-to-caustic field system, which is the most common type. This type of system costs $ 90 every three years, plus the cost of pumping a tank, which is recommended every three to five years and costs about $ 300 each time, Masters said.
The second tier is for systems with more mechanical parts and costs $ 40 per year and requires routine maintenance by the owner.
The third level is for more sophisticated systems that divert sewage from owners’ property, such as into a trench. These already require an annual inspection to ensure that no contaminated water is discharged into streams and other water sources. When they work properly, the diverted water is “as clean or cleaner than rainwater,” Masters said.
The cost of this type of system is $ 125 per year. The cost is higher because annual testing is required. The county is running the tests as part of the $ 125 fee. District sanitation workers collect the sample, run the tests, and provide the results.
Masters said a big part of implementing the O&M program is educating wastewater treatment plant owners about how their system is working and what is required to maintain it.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of people, even in my own family, who have no idea where their Laugenfeld is,” said Masters. “I grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere, so you drove all over the yard,” he said.
“So where is your lye field? I do not know. That’s a problem, ”he said.
As part of the operations and maintenance program, owners have an opportunity to speak with septic tanks to discuss what steps the owner should take to extend the life of their treatment plant and help it run better. “This will help the homeowner in the long run,” said Masters.
“The systems are not cheap. So if you can get an extra five or six years out of the system, that is a sizeable investment, ”said Masters. The lifespan of a “general septic tank to leachate” is about 20 to 30 years “if you wait for it,” Masters said.
He said the health department receives calls from people who are upset when they find out their 10-year-old septic tank is not working properly. He said one of the keys to avoiding this is having the septic tanks pumped out regularly.
Tekac said his grandparents lived on a farm in Coitsville Township and hadn’t pumped it in a while, so he convinced his grandparents to let them do it. He said the system was clogged with solids in the tank. His aunt and uncle later moved into his grandparents’ home – and they still use the same system today.
“But they pump it every year,” he said. “This system is probably well over 30 years old. If you maintain the system, it will last. “
The law requires every system in the county to participate in the system, Masters said. The county has files that document most of the systems in the county, so they will be part of the mailings straight away.
“That doesn’t mean we know every system in the county,” Masters said. “That means if we find them and inventory them or inspect them or check them, they have to be included.”
When a home is sold, it triggers a sewage plant inspection, he said.
“Mahoning County has just over 17,000 systems that we are aware of,” said Masters. “With this program we will find systems that we never knew existed. If you go back 40 to 50 years, there weren’t any prescriptions for that. We know a lot of people have just run pipes straight to a trench or straight to a waterway, and we will continue to find that. At the moment she finds the engineering office regularly. They call us about it all the time, ”he said.
Masters said one way to look at the cost of the new program is to compare it to a sewer system.
The cost of the sewer system is around $ 1,600 per year, but he estimates the total cost of running the most common type of septic tank in the county under the new program to be $ 146 per year. Part of that calculation is the cost of pumping the tanks.
He said the cost of replacing the clarification system if it fails because it is not serviced could be $ 20,000, so servicing it now could be a big saving.
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