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Septic waste action put off Ordinance awaits decision on measurement


The county commissioners have delayed action on a proposed septic waste ordinance until they can determine how to accurately measure the substance.

The board had been poised to act Monday on the proposed ordinance, which would regulate the use of facilities for the disposal and pretreatment of septic waste. A $1.9 million treatment facility had also been slated to open Monday at the Westminster plant, but the opening has been delayed.

Commissioner President Donald I. Dell said the board should delay action until "we get a little more information" on the cost of installing scales at the treatment facility. He also wanted to personally evaluate some of the gauges used to measure septic waste.

Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said he had no objections to delaying action on the ordinance, but he cautioned against waiting too long.

"The state has already been patient with us," he said. "Let's hope their patience doesn't run out. When it does, they can be real nasty."

State law now requires that all raw sewage be treated, and Carroll, like other counties, is working to comply with that law.

Helen Spinelli, a county comprehensive planner for sewer and water, said state officials and a gauge maker had recommended against using gauges because they are not precise. She told the commissioners that scales would provide more accurate measurements of septic waste.

Commissioners asked the planning staff to determine the cost of buying and installing scales, whether Westminster would allow a scale at the facility and the time frame for the project.

The cost of a 40-foot scale was estimated at under $50,000, Spinelli said. On a scale, the weight of the truck would be deducted from its weight with the septic waste. Haulers would pay a fee based on the difference.

Commissioners have proposed charging a 9-cents-per-gallon dumping fee. The cost would be passed from haulers to owners of private septic tanks.

Dell noted that the fee could rise with the cost of installing a scale. The fees would not be set in the ordinance but through a resolution.

Haulers have balked at the proposed fee, saying the cost will be prohibitive to customers, who, they said, will opt not to have their septic tanks pumped out regularly.

B6 "I wish they would reconsider the fee," said Karen

Deal, a secretary at Arnold's Septic Tank Service in Woodbine. "They're soaking the public. I wish homeowners were aware of that."

She said the firm's customers, who now pay about $90 to have their septic tanks pumped, would see their bills rise to about $160.

She said commissioners would be better off to charge an across-the-board tax for waste treatment. There are 27,000 residents who have permits to use septic waste systems in the county, Spinelli said.

She said the county plans to review the fee after six months. The fee is needed to offset the costs of operating the treatment facility.

"That's not to say we would change the fee," she said. "It's one of the big unknowns -- how much it's going to cost."

The county has an agreement with Westminster to treat the septic waste. The city will operate the facility and bill the county for the costs.

Once treated, the solid septic waste can be used as fertilizer and applied to land. The liquid will be turned over to a sewage treatment plant.

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