A proposed state policy on septic system management is an improvement on initial draft rules, according to city officials, real estate agents and property owners, but they also told state water officials Monday that they still have concerns about its cost and possible restrictions.
Officials with the State Water Resources Control Board held two public hearings in San Luis Obispo to outline the proposed rules, get public feedback and answer questions. The new policy replaces one proposed in 2008, which was criticized as too restrictive and expensive.
Darin Polhemus, who heads the team that drafted the policy, said the new policy eliminates several unpopular provisions from the original. These include mandatory domestic water well testing and mandatory solids testing for septic tanks.
The new draft also allows regional water quality control boards to adopt local programs tailored to meet local conditions. This is important to Atascadero because the city has more than 5,000 septic systems.
“Flexibility is a big component,” said Russ Thompson, the city’s public works director.
Polhemus said the new policy would affect only about 5 percent of septic system owners. That would include systems that are not functioning properly or are located near water bodies that the state has identified as having high levels of bacteria and nitrates.
A five-minute video about the proposed policy features Los Osos as an example of the environmental problems that can be caused by improperly functioning septic systems. Morro Bay has high bacteria levels, and underground aquifers in the community have high nitrate levels.
State water officials have placed a building moratorium on most of Los Osos, called a prohibition zone, and the county is set to start installing a sewer system. The new policy would not change the prohibition zone, Polhemus said.