Many Columbus property owners with septic tanks are facing thousands of dollars in fees and construction costs for being required to tap into the city's sanitary sewer lines.
Columbus Public Health, which is working with the Department of Public Utilities, said it's simply enforcing city law, which requires the sanitary-sewer hookup for all homeowners.
At present, the city has identified 350 homes that have no obstruction to the sanitary lines, meaning they are the first to be requested to link into the sanitary sewers, Luke Jacobs, section chief of environmental health for CPH, told board members during their April 15 meeting.
About 1,800 properties with septic systems are scattered throughout central Ohio, Jacobs said.
Officials say property owners are on the line for a $3,044 capacity fee and up to $5,000 in contractors' fees. Meanwhile, the city also requires a front footage fee, which is $45 per foot times the width of the lot.
However, the city says it's trying to help homeowners avoid sticker shock by setting up the Septic Tank Elimination Program, or STEP, a no-interest loan program that has $1 million in reserve to assist homeowners with the expenses.
Owners of single-family homes or duplexes that have an existing septic system are eligible for the loans, however, the houses must be valued at less than $250,000 by the Franklin County Auditor's Office.
There is a $2,000 fee to join STEP. For those who qualify for the city's low-income water and sewer discount program, the fee will be waved.
The loan is due when the property is sold, transferred or no longer used as a private residence. No interest is accrued during that time.
The city has started sending out letters to affected property owners, who have 90 days to comply, Jacobs said.
There is an evaluation process and property owners have a right to appeal and apply for a variance, he said.
Property owners also are being given a nine-month extension so they can plan for the work.
Jacobs said the city is trying to keep sanitary runoff out of its lakes and streams.
And there are many benefits to a sanitary sewer connection, such as higher capacity, no septic backups, few odors and no dampness and seepage.
Plus septic tanks are costly to maintain and even more expensive to replace, Jacobs said.
"Septic tanks eventually fail," he said.
Jacobs said current septic tanks would be removed or properly cleaned, crushed on site and filled with gravel.