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Published on Friday, January 31, 2014

Septics in Urban Growth Areas

On January 27 the House Local Government committee passed an amended version of HB 2186 relating to on-site septic systems in urban growth areas. It included several new provisions helpful to cities. Please provide Carl Schroeder feedback if these amendments address your concerns, or if you have suggestions to further refine this bill.

As a reminder, this bill deals with defining what is considered “cost prohibitive” when cities are exercising their authority to require people to hook up to sewers when septic systems fail. Current WAC authorizes cities to not require sewer hookups if they would be cost prohibitive. In this bill, the ultimate decision would remain with the city, but the bill provides a definition of “cost prohibitive”.

The new amendment made the following changes:

  • Clarifies that this only relates to repairs of existing systems (not new developments)
  • Clarifies that the repaired system would have to be up to current codes and conforming (allowing for consideration of any environmental impacts)
  • Adds a new minimum threshold to the cost prohibitive standard – instead of merely 15% more expensive to hook on to sewer than repair, it is now 15% or $5,000 – whichever is higher.

Finally, it directs the Department of Commerce to issue guidance to cities on how to reconcile the many competing issues associated with sewer hookups – beyond just cost but also service, finance and environmental issues.