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Septic rules put in place

September 15, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Nearly 1,000 Washington Township residents with septic tanks will have to get them pumped out once every three years, under new regulations put in place this year, township officials said.

Gerald Zeigler, township zoning code enforcement officer, said the state Department of Environmental Protection ordered the new regulations in March following the upgrade of the township's public sewer system. The township has the job of enforcing the new rules.

"From an environmental standpoint the (state) experts feel that in the long term it's in the best interest of the homeowner to pump the tanks on a regular basis. Consequently, that's good for the environment," said Michael Christopher, township administrator.

Zeigler said homeowners cannot always tell if their septic systems are overflowing since the effluent goes into the ground. He said many private systems have failed over the years, resulting in contaminated drinking water wells.

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A random check of wells in 1990 showed a significant number of wells were polluted with coliform bacteria from human waste, he said.

People who drink such contaminated water over a long period build up an immunity to the bacteria and don't get sick.

"Then they sell their house to someone who has been drinking safe city water and they get sick right away," Zeigler said.

Well water can be made safe with expensive chlorine or ultraviolet filter systems, but most owners don't install them, he said.

Zeigler said 975 of the township's 4,300 residences have septic systems. The rest are hooked up to the township's public sewer system.

He divided the township into three districts and programmed his computer to keep track of which residents fail to comply with the new rules.

In March he sent notices to 366 west-end residents informing them of the new law and their duty to comply with it, along with a list of licensed septic tank cleaners.

The operators send confirmation of every tank they clean to Zeigler's office. So far 100 homeowners have complied, he said.

Second notices are going out to west-end homeowners this week. The third notice will be sent by certified mail informing residents that legal action will follow if they don't comply. Fines can run $300 a day.

It costs $100 to clean an average tank, Zeigler said.

"We want to work with people, but some have said they have never pumped out their septic tanks and say they never will," he said.

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