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  • Septic system rules may go in the tank

    Three-year study proposes sweeping change

    The state is going to scrap current regulations governing septic tanks/leach field systems and start anew, San Juan Basin Health Department board members were told Thursday.

    Greg Brand, the department’s newly hired director of environmental health, characterized the changes as sweeping.

    They will apply to all new dwellings not covered by a municipality or independent metro district, Brand said. The health department will have a year to bring its regulations into conformity.

    “My reading is that the new regulations will apply more to site evaluation – soil quality and size – than to installation,” Brand said. “Installers will be following a plan.”

    Steve Gunderson, director of the Water Quality Control Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said by telephone that the new regulations will constitute a complete overhaul, a major revision.

    “We’ve been working on this for three years, with involvement of environmental health officials, health departments, developers and system installers,” Gunderson said.

    “We were being hammered by local officials because current regulations are too rigid,” Gunderson said. “What applies in the Eastern Plains may not fit in the mountains.

    Gunderson said the new regulations will be more flexible.

    “But they will allow counties to be more restrictive if they want,” he said.

    Gunderson doesn’t expect much opposition at a March 12 public hearing on the new regulations scheduled by the state Water Quality Control Board.

    Brand wouldn’t say how extensive the septic tank/leach fields changes could be. Too much could change between initial proposals and an approved set of regulations, he said.

    “But the old guidelines are outdated,” Brand said. “A lot of new technology exists.”

    He estimated that San Juan Basin Health Department will have a new set of regulations in the spring of 2014.

    The health department issues permits for and inspects septic systems in La Plata and Archuleta counties and does the same under agreements in San Juan and Hinsdale counties.

    Current state regulations require the health department to issue a septic-system permit before the county approves a building permit and make a final inspection before the county approves occupancy, Brand said.

    San Juan Basin Health Department’s septic system program began in 1967, Brand said. It is one of two main environmental health focuses, the other being food safety in schools and commercial outlets.

    daler@durangoherald.com