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County passes septic ordinance update

The Mower County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved a motion to update the county’s existing septic system ordinance.

The updated ordinance is the continuation of a push by the county to ensure septic system compliance. The changes not only put the county into the final faces of the year-long initiative, but will also expedite the process to make it easier to reach that full compliance of the county.

“Poorly functioning septic systems are threats to human health and the environment,” said Mower County Environmental Services Supervisor Angela Lipelt in a press release issued last week. “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.”

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.

One of the major components to this update is the requirement that the septic system on a property is updated before a transfer or an escrow is in place to transfer the property.

“One of the challenges in current property transfers is that sometimes sellers are leaving the state and going to other locations,” Lipelt explained. “They didn’t know they had to do anything and it’s difficult to find them.”

During Tuesday’s board meeting, Lipelt reported that two-thirds of the county are in compliance. In hopes of getting to the point of full-compliance quicker, one of the changes will cut down on the number compliance inspections.

“Across the county … not every permit is going to require a compliance inspection,” Lipelt told the board. “(A system) 20 years of age or older, that would trigger a compliance inspection of an older system.”

Lipelt also told the board that the age expectancy for a septic system is around 20 years.

During 2020, the county updated 128 systems with another eight scheduled for this year.

In other news

• The county finance committee is continuing to discuss how best to award COVID-19 relief money to ailing small businesses. The county has $775,000 dollars it will distribute through grants, but is still in the process of clarifying who is eligible for the money. Trish Harren, Mower County administrator, said they are hoping to have information to the public by Monday.