Owners of septic systems within Blaine city limits now have more time to connect to city sewer, Blaine City Council members decided last month.
In their regular meeting Monday, September 27, council members approved an amendment to relax a requirement that septic system owners connect to city sewer within five years, regardless of whether their systems were functioning correctly.
The amendment also removed a requirement for septic system owners – many of whom were annexed into the city in 1996 – to pay regular monthly sewer fees, half of which previously went into a fund that would help pay for their connection.
Blaine public works director Steve Banham said with recent city and county code amendments such as the removal of city sewer connection fees and increased countywide septic system regulations, several code revisions were needed.
Banham said this was important considering costly new inspection requirements imposed by the Whatcom County Health Department, which regulates all on-site septic systems, regardless of what jurisdiction they are in.
Several council members, such as Paul Greenough, expressed concern about failing septic systems and the impact those could have on water quality. Some, such as Harry Robinson, also expressed concerns as to whether the regulations were swift enough to get people connected and help pay for the cost of the new facility.
Council member Charlie Hawkins, meanwhile, expressed concerns about the county’s ability to ensure such systems were working properly.
Blaine council member Bonnie Onyon agreed the idea is to eventually get people connected to city sewer but said she didn’t want to penalize them for being in the city, either.
“Eventually they will all come on because septic systems do wear out,” she said. “But we erred on the side of being lenient because we don’t want to impose a financial hardship on people more than we have to.”
The East Blaine area was annexed to the city in 1996. About 100 property owners are still served by private septic systems in that area, Banham said.