Union County residents and businesses that own property with a septic system have until the end of the month to renew their operation permit in compliance with statewide sewage regulations that went into effect this year.

Union County residents and businesses that own property with a septic system have until the end of the month to renew their operation permit in compliance with statewide sewage regulations that went into effect this year.

Last month, the Union County Health Department mailed approximately 9,000 septic-system-permit applications, which must be returned by Dec. 31 with a $30 fee in order to have a valid permit for 2017 through 2019, according to health department spokeswoman Jennifer Thrush.

The applications have been generating a lot of phone calls, she said.

"A lot of it stems from the fact that the majority of our septic-tank system owners had previously never received a permit bill like this," Thrush said. "So there are a lot of questions ... like wanting to make sure this isn't a scam and why is this happening."

State and local health officials expect the new rules to help reduce the number of failing home sewage systems, which can send raw sewage into creeks and lakes.

It is estimated that more than 30 percent of 600,000 septic systems are failing in Ohio.

Statewide sewage rules had not been updated since the 1970s. The new regulations will require all owners of septic systems to show they are operating correctly and receiving regular maintenance.

Local health departments must set up an operation and maintenance program and set up a schedule for renewing permit and ensuring regular inspections are completed. Union County permits will need to be renewed every five years at a cost of $10.

The next renewal is scheduled for 2020.

"Renewing the permit of every septic system in Union County is a new process for our staff and residents," said Marcia Dreiseidel, the health department's director of environmental health. "We know everyone has lots of questions, especially since many septic-system owners received their original permit several decades ago."

The health department began sharing information about the new rules five years ago during town-hall and township boards of trustees meetings and other community events.

The permit does not apply to those hooked to a public sewer system.

"If anyone received this bill and is tied to a public sewer system, please call us so we can remove your name from our mailing list," Thrush said.

The department's phone number is 937-642-2053.

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