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Sewer customers want to retain their septic systems

Following an advertised public hearing on Nov. 5, the Westmoreland County Planning Commission delivered a 4-0 vote that asks the board of supervisors to amend the zoning ordinance in order to allow new public sewer customers to maintain their septic systems after connecting to the county’s public waste water collection lines.
In addition to keeping existing septic systems in place for emergency use during electric power outages, the planning commissioners approved a measure that tasks Westmoreland Land Use Office staff with investigating and possibly developing protocols for converting septic tanks and drain fields into storm water management facilities. A sanitized septic tank would become a cistern that would hold gray water collected during heavy rain events.
The converted septic facilities envisioned by Planning Commission Chair John Felt would hold storm water that would otherwise flow directly into tidal waterways and would expand land use alternatives in waterfront communities that adhere to Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act land use regulations.
Westmoreland County Planning Director Robert Fink explained this Monday that his office had been asked to develop amended zoning ordinance language that would enable public sewer customers to retain their septic tanks and drain fields after connecting to the county’s public waste water collection system.
“[Sewer customers] are currently required to disable or remove their septic systems when they connect to public sewer,” he related, additionally advising that prospective sewer customers had expressed concern about the costs they would incur in order to destroy septic facilities.
Robert Fink also related that prospective sewer customers have expressed a wish to retain existing septic systems for back-up purposes when electric power fails. He explained that the sewer customers currently must purchase generators to power the system’s individual grinder pumps or indoor plumbing facilities will be unusable during power outages.
During the commission’s Nov. 5 public hearing, prospective Drum Bay, Tidwells and Glebe Harbor sewer customer James Denny spoke in favor of the proposed amendment, explaining that not having to abandon previously working septic facilities would benefit the sewer customers.
“I see no merit in abandoning a functional septic system,” the Glebe Creek resident remarked. Commission Chairman Felt concurred with Denny. “I had a call from somebody and your point is well taken,” Felt commented. “If everyone is compelled to buy a generator [to operate the grinder], that’s an additional expense. It also makes sense to have the septic system in place as backup when the power fails.”
The commissioners voted unanimously to move the amended language forward. Final action by the board of supervisors is scheduled for the evening of Nov. 14 in A.T. Johnson auditorium. The meeting will begin at 6:00 p.m.
County government established Nov. 16 as the last date Drum Bay, Tidwells and Cabin Point sewer connections will be available at the discounted $3,000 fee. On Nov. 17 the connection cost will rise to $4,800. Other sewer projects will follow in Cabin Point, King Copsico, Bushfield, Mount Holly Road and surrounding areas where interest has already been expressed.

Betsy Ficklin

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