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County board to consider revising septic ordinance

Proposed changes to the countywide septic ordinance are moving forward for consideration next week by the Mower County Board of Commissioners.

Members of the Mower County Planning Commission heard from staff in late December about proposed changes or amendments to the county’s ordinance for subsurface sewage treatment systems (SSTS). The commission voted to forward the proposed changes for adoption by the county board, which launched a septic initiative a year ago to complete the final phase of the county’s long-running initiative to achieve septic compliance countywide.

“Poorly functioning septic systems are threats to human health and the environment,” said Mower County Environmental Services Supervisor Angela Lipelt. “These proposed revisions will better help us find and fix systems that likely are not removing pathogens, nutrients and other chemicals from wastewater before it enters our groundwater, lakes and streams.”

Mower County made record progress during the 2020 construction year working with property owners to get their septic systems into compliance. Overall, 128 new systems were installed, topping a previous record of 125 systems a decade ago.

Another eight septic systems already have approval for construction in 2021, Lipelt said.

County commissioners will hear the proposed SSTS ordinance revisions during a regular meeting at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 12, in the county board room in the Mower County Government Center’s lower level, 201 First St. NE.

Proposed changes to the SSTS ordinance are a continuation of those county staff previously presented to the Planning Commission in February 2020 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic as part of an effort by the county to make SSTS progress.

Some of the major changes proposed for the SSTS ordinance include additional compliance-inspection prompts; commercial and industrial septic systems needing to maintain constant compliance either through inspections or operating permits; and septic systems (if not compliant) needing to be upgraded before transferring property or an escrow will need to be established to transfer the property.

In January 2020, the county board launched a septic initiative to complete the final phase of the county’s long-running initiative to achieve septic compliance countywide. That same month, the county offered a free workshop in Austin on septic systems and drinking water wells for homeowners as part of the county’s effort to increase septic education and outreach.

Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, those who wish to attend the meeting in person are urged to notify Mower County Public Works staff in advance of the meeting. Social distancing and wearing facial masks are required for attendees.

Copies of the proposed changes are available for review in the Mower County Auditor’s Office or an electronic copy can be provided at no cost by contacting the Mower County Environmental Services Office by emailing zoning@.co.mower.mn.us.

County staff encourage public participation by attending the public hearing, providing comments or submitting written comments to Public Works at 1105 Eighth Ave. NE in Austin. Written comments can be emailed to zoning@co.mower.mn.us.

Mower County Environmental Services, 1105 Eighth Ave. NE in Austin, can assist with low-interest loans for septic replacements and other septic questions at (507) 437-7718 and online at www.co.mower.mn.us/public-works-main.html.