EDITORIAL: Septic rules too costsly

New rules under consideration by the Washington State Board of Health could prove costly to homeowners in Island County who are not served by a sewer system.

The board is considering requiring mandatory annual septic system inspections, with a more complicated system evaluation every three years. Estimates are the inspections would cost $75 and up, with the evaluations costing much more.

The state is correct in thinking that septic systems pose an environmental risk and that we need a better handle on how they are operating. But an expensive new fee system is not the right way to begin.

Before considering punitive fees, the Department of Health should design an informational campaign to keep homeowners informed on the importance of maintaining their septic systems in good working order. Not only it is important to the health of everyone in the household, itÂ’s also important to keeping the waters of Puget Sound clean.

The information should include maintenance tips, how to reach local septic system contractors and a Web site and a toll-free number for more information. Meanwhile, the state could launch a limited, on-site testing program to determine how widespread is the problem of failing septic systems. It might also be a good idea to keep a central log of septic tank pumping information, so that after a few years homeowners who have not had their septics pumped can by politely notified by mail. At that point, perhaps, more heavy-handed enforcement could begin.

Government should first try to help the people, and only when that fails should they consider ways to punish them.

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