County amends septic regulations

Published on Wed, Feb 24, 2010 by Jake Lunden

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Whatcom County Council voted 5-2 Tuesday to approve amended regulations allowing for homeowner inspections of on-site sewage disposal systems. The amendment to Whatcom County Code 24.05 replaces legislation that mandated periodic inspections of septic systems by certified professionals, occurring yearly for proprietary pump systems and every three years for gravity systems.

Under the amended code, homeowners who take a four-hour course offered by Whatcom County will be able to inspect their own septic systems. The class was previously offered and is free to Whatcom County residents. The health department has not yet come up with a schedule of future classes or decided if the course content will change. Some community members have questioned whether the class provides competency levels equal to that achieved by licensed inspectors.

Council member Barbara Brenner was a prime instigator behind the amended ordinance, pointing out that it was unfair to require homeowners to undertake expensive repairs without having a low-cost loan program similar to other jurisdictions in Washington state. She had also questioned the need for a shotgun approach to the problem of failing OSS systems when failure rates were minimal. The amendment was proposed by both Brenner and Sam Crawford.

Council members Barbara Brenner, Sam Crawford, Kathy Kershner, Bill Knutzen and Ward Nelson voted in favor, with Carl Weimer and Ken Mann opposed.