Summit County Health Department considers new wastewater ordinance
November 5, 2017
The Summit County Health Department is considering a new wastewater ordinance that will discourage large-scale developers from building infrastructure that requires individual septic sewer systems.
The new ordinance would require developers to investigate the possibility of hooking up to an existing sewer line rather than using individual septic systems. Phil Bondurant, environmental health director, said the idea is not new. He said three other health departments in Utah have included similar language in their codes.
"The idea behind the changes is not to actually impose any difficulties or challenges to lot owners or individuals in any portion of our county," Bondurant said. "But, instead, to begin conversations about dealing with wastewater for large-scale developments of subdivision and other types of developments."
Bondurant said the proposed ordinance would unify county and state codes, while providing clarifications. He added, "It is meant to ensure the responsibility of development lies with the developer and not the county."
Through environmental studies, the Health Department recently discovered that large-scale individual septic systems can fail and, oftentimes, the county is on the hook for making the repairs and bringing sewer infrastructure into the area, Bondurant said. He highlighted the recently created Silver Creek Sewer Assessment District as an example.
The county formed the voluntary assessment area with the help of the Utah Division of Drinking Water and property owners in lower Silver Creek because of septic system failures. The roughly $1 million project was financed through an assessment bond and a matching grant from the county.
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"The county had to do the footwork to get sewer," Bondurant said. "The county took a significant risk, but it shouldn't be that difficult."
For nearly a month, the Health Department has accepted input on the proposed ordinance to govern on-site wastewater in Summit County. Bondurant said little interest has been shown in the proposed changes.
"We have not had but maybe a handful of calls coming in," he said. "A few were in support and a few had questions what the real intent is. It has been eerily silent."
The Board of Health is scheduled to hold a public hearing at 4:15 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 6, at the Health Department, located at 650 Round Valley Drive. The item is listed on the agenda as a hearing with the possibility of approval.
However, not everyone agrees that the changes won't impose unnecessary hardships on landowners and developers. Board of Health member Chris Ure, a Kamas resident, said he has major concerns with the proposal.
"I don't think it is right that a county tells people that they have to go to an existing system when there is not the infrastructure in place on the county level," Ure said. "Yes, we need to protect the water systems and aquafers, but this isn't the way to do it."
The Health Department is at risk of creating an ordinance that landowners and developers can not adhere to, Ure said. He called it poor legislation.
"We have to protect our water," he said. "I'm not arguing with that one and developers need to be held accountable. I don't think putting a septic system on every property is the answer, but we have the technology to put in these self-contained systems. It's just there are better ways to resolve. We are creating a bigger problem than what we are trying to fix.
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