Don’t Be a Skeptic on Septic

New Septic laws are making their way into Ohio. The Ohio Department of Health or ODH was required to adopt new rules after January 1st 2012 and is evaluating an effective date for the rules of January 1st, 2015. So what does this mean for homeowners? To NOT be fooled by the rumors. The new sewage rules are going into place for many different reasons.  One reason is septic rules have not been updated since 1977, enough said. Another big reason is for the health of it.  While some counties have modernized their own rules since then, other counties have not. These rules will set a minimum standard for Ohio homeowners so you can be assured that your neighbor’s system is not leaking sewage into your yard- or the ponds, lakes and other waterways that you and your family enjoy.

Most sewage systems will fail sometimes. Just like the roof on your house, a septic system is designed to have a lifetime of about 20-30 years, under the best conditions. Eventually, the soil around the absorption field becomes clogged with organic material, making the system unusable. But by far the most common reason for early failure is improper maintenance by homeowners. When a system is poorly maintained and not pumped out on a regular basis, sludge (solid material) builds up inside the septic tank, and then flows into the absorption field, clogging it beyond repair. The most obvious effect is the direct expense of replacing your septic system. This could cost $8,000 to $10,000. Systems with motors and parts will need to be serviced over the years, too. Just like you would with any other service professional, be sure to shop around for quotes and references. Your local health department can also tell you which septic system contractors are registered and bonded.

Without proper maintenance and good system design, your sewage could go into your neighbor’s yard (and their sewage could come into your yard) contaminating the ground water with disease-causing germs like E.coli, Salmonella, Shigella, polio, hepatitis, Cryptosporidium. In addition to the diseases themselves, mosquitoes and flies that spread some illnesses can breed in areas where liquid waste reaches the surface. The problems of a failing septic system don’t stop at your property line. Sewage and disease can impact the health of your neighbors and your community. In addition to creeping into the yard next door, contaminates such as E.coli can get into our beaches. The Ohio Department of Health has identified home sewage system discharge as a contributing factor to unhealthy bacteria levels at Ohio’s beaches. When the levels reach a certain point, the beach must issue an advisory and the beach manager can even close it to the public.

Your septic system won’t last forever, but you can extend the life of it and delay expensive replacement with maintenance and replacement of broken parts. Ohio’s new sewage system rules DO NOT require everyone to automatically replace their system with new technology. You will have to replace your system WHEN it fails- but that’s been the law in Ohio since 1977. These new septic system rules give you more options to fix it before it fails and more ways to prevent sewage from making you, your family, your neighbors and your community sick from the germs of septic waste.

The Rumors and the Truth

No septic systems will be grandfathered in –or- If your system was installed before 1974 you will have to replace it

For nearly all systems, you can keep your system as-is as long as there’s not sewage on the top of the ground, missing parts/pieces or backup in your home. If your system is failing, the law allows an opportunity to repair the system.

The Ohio Department of Health Report says nearly 1/3 (31%) of all septic systems in Ohio are failing.

If a system is “failing” it could indicate a number of problems, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have to replace the entire system to meet the standards in the new rules or the existing state laws. This could just mean replacing missing or broken parts or adding treatment.

This will cost you hundreds of dollars in fees every year

The state will charge up to $75 to install a new system, $34 dollars to alter a system and $0 to get an operation permit. Local health departments also need to charge local fees to run these programs (staff, training, etc.). Getting your operation permit could be as easy as taking a receipt to your local health department that shows you hired a registered company to pump your septic tank. Local health districts set the amount and length of the operation permit, which can vary between one and ten years.

You’ll have to use new, expensive technology instead of traditional septic systems.

The new rules offer a wide range of technology WHEN it is time to install, replace or alter.

Leach fields are no longer an option.

Septic tank/leach field systems are still allowed under the new rules and are the preferred system where soil conditions are good.



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