Starting next year, Union County homeowners with private or residential sewage treatment systems will need to join an operations and maintenance program that will require regular inspections.
The Ohio Department of Health's new rules will become effective Jan. 1, 2015, and the Union County Health Department is getting the word out to residents.
"Right now, there is a hodgepodge of local sewage rules in the state of Ohio," Union County Health Commissioner Jason Orcena said. "Some are more effective than others. Some rules have been around for 30 years and haven't changed with technology."
The county health department will hold information meetings about the new state regulations from 6 to 7 p.m. Aug. 27 at the Union County Services Building, 233 W. Sixth St., and Sept. 3 at the Richwood Public Library, 4 E. Ottawa St., Richwood.
Some state rules governing local sewage haven't been updated since 1977. The new regulations set a minimum standard for Ohio homeowners and address prevention measures for sewage problems.
According to the county's website, two main changes may affect homeowners:
* Any homeowner with a private sewage system must join an operating and maintenance program, which will require regular system inspections by the county or private contractors.
* Any homeowner looking to install a new or replacement sewage system may be affected by the new rules.
Homeowners who are part of a public sewer system will not be affected by these rule changes.
Orcena estimates that 7,000 Union County residents have private sewage treatment systems. About 1,400 of them are on an operating and maintenance program, but another 5,500 homes need to join a program.
He said the goal is to have all private sewage system homeowners on an operation and maintenance program in order to prevent serious sewage damage that could result in contaminated waterways.
"There shouldn't be a feeling like they should run out and put in new systems," he said. "It is to find systems that are failing and get those systems up to date and prevent them from entering a water system."
Union County has had situations where homeowners have had to deal with leaking sewage systems, but it is not a regular issue, Orcena said. The new rules require regular equipment inspections that will help identify and prevent leaks.
Homeowners have the choice of allowing county officials to inspect their equipment or use a private contractor. The county will inspect for a $50 fee, but won't do any maintenance.
Once the county inspects a system, homeowners will be part of the operations and maintenance program and receive regular inspections. The county health department will create an inspection cycle, ranging from one to five years, for private systems in its jurisdiction.
"Inspections see if it appears the system is working as designed and all functions and features are where they are supposed to be," Orcena said.
"The more complex system you have, the more likely you will want to go with a private contractor to take that worry away from you."
Private contractors will submit reports about homeowners' systems to the health department.
The new rules do not require homeowners to replace current systems, unless there are parts missing or there is a backup into a home or if there is sewage on top of the ground. Traditional septic tanks and leach fields are permitted under these new rules.
There is a $50 fee for homeowners to be on the operating and maintenance program through the health department. The fee is paid per inspection cycle, which varies from one to five years based on the system.
Residents who install a new sewage system will pay a one-time permit fee of $450, though that amount could rise as much as $75 to cover the state’s portion per the new rules.
Alterations to an existing system have a $325 permit fee, which could increase as much as $34 to cover the state’s portion.