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New septic regulations could affect home sellers

Homeowners planning to sell later this year may want to mark Sept. 1 on their calendars — that’s the date new on-site sewage regulations could affect their ability to sell their homes.

The Kitsap County Health District recently adopted Health Ordinance 2008-01, the first update of on-site sewage sanitation regulations in more than a decade. While most of the new regulations will only be of concern to those in the on-site sewage industry, homeowners with on-site septic systems are on the hook for at least one required inspection.

“Most typical people will not see any difference,” Health District Deputy Director Keith Grellner said.

But homeowners who are selling or transferring ownership of their property after Sept. 1, 2008 will be required to undergo an inspection and assessment of their system by the health district.

It’s an idea Grellner admits may be unpopular, but represents a compromise after months worth of meetings to determine how to bring Kitsap County into compliance with state on-site sewage requirements.

“This is the option that came out on top,” Grellner said. “It may not be the one that everyone likes ... (but) this was the option that was the most appealing to the most amount of people.”

Washington state developed new on-site sewage regulations in 2005 that went into effect last year. Kitsap County has been looking for ways to get up to speed with those regulations ever since.

“The reason it’s required is to help us meet the frequency requirements for inspections by the state,” Grellner said of the new rule.

The state regulations changed largely because of environmental concerns.

“We do have marine areas that are being affected by fecal coliform bacteria,” Grellner said.

The health district currently inspects about 5,000 to 6,000 standard systems every year. That’s well below what the state would like — somewhere between 17,000 and 18,000, by Grellner’s estimation.

He also estimates the new regulations will allow the county to check about 10,000 standard systems annually.

“We’re gonna be able to account for more of those standard systems every year,” Grellner said. “While we’re not meeting the exact letter of the law, we’re following the intent.”

The health district has been doing voluntary inspections for about 20 years. The only real change in policy is that now inspections are mandatory.

To develop the plan, the health district met with realtors, real estate groups, homeowners associations and held four separate meetings in the county for homeowners.

Sellers aren’t the only ones who stand to be affected.

Those in the on-site sewage industry will want to circle May 1 on their calendars, the day the new regulations go into effect. To prepare for the date and get everyone in line with the changes, the health district has scheduled a meeting for sewage industry professionals from 2 to 4 p.m. April 16 in the Evergreen Room at the Silverdale Community Center.

Even for them, however, changes to previous policies will be relatively minor.

“Most of them (sewage professionals), they won’t notice any real change,” Grellner said.

The new regulations, including a new homeowner’s guide to on-site sewage systems can be accessed via the health district’s Web site at www.kitsapcountyhealth.com.

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