The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department on Monday will consider stricter standards for septic tank sewage handling at its monthly meeting, and an area septic tank serviceman is not happy about it.
The health department is proposing that sewage be disposed only into a public or community sewerage system or by another method and with the site approved by the health department. The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the health department, 336 Mo.
Virgil Wright, of Virg's Septic Service, Tonganoxie, said the changes possibly could double the cost of pumping septic tanks in the county. He said this proposal would end the common practice of dumping sewage in a farmer's field as a fertilizer, which is done at no cost.
Wright said that using Lawrence's wastewater treatment plant as a disposal site is costly and time consuming. He said the Lawrence facility charges $32 to dispose a tank of sewage transported from a septic tank, regardless of the amount dumped. The cost does not compare to nearby counties, Wright said, such as the $5 charge in Leavenworth County.
ANOTHER problem with the Lawrence plant, he said, is that it only is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Wright said the majority of his business was of an emergency nature, including after-hour and weekend calls. He said he may lose out on business without having the plant open so he can empty his tank truck.
Another of his concerns is a proposal that reads in part, "All pumps, hose lines, valves and fittings shall be maintained so as to prevent leakage." Wright said the valves on his truck can't be maintained not to drip a little, and that new valves cost from $150 to $550.
"They're picking on us (haulers)," he said. Wright said most of sewage pollution problem stems from septic tank owners who wait until their tanks overfill before having them serviced.
Greg Olmsted, health department director of environmental health, said the department and sewage haulers met in October to discuss some of the proposals. At the time, he said, some were changed on the basis of the hauler's opinions. Wright was one of the haulers who attended the meeting.
OLMSTED SAID the estimated 750,000 gallons pumped by haulers warranted the proposal for disposal at the treatment plant. He said the health department was concerned about possible groundwater contamination from the sewage, which can cause diseases such as salmonella and hepatitis.
"The department feels it's the best place for it to go," Olmsted said of the treatment plant.
The proposals, which would become part of the county's sanitary code, aren't new concepts, he said. Johnson, Shawnee and Wyandotte counties all have similar sanitary codes, Olmsted said.
"It's necessary to prevent a problem," he said.
In answering Wright's concerns about leaky valves, Olmsted said the county was trying to prevent larger-scale leakage than the occasional dripping described by Wright. Olmsted said the county would be "reasonable" in its inspections.
WRIGHT SAID he also took exception to the health department's survey on wastewater treatment plants in Kansas. The survey analyzed the operations of nine treatment plants, including ones in Sedgwick, Saline, Johnson, Wyandotte, Reno and Franklin counties. Wright said the survey should have included plants in nearby, less-populous counties, especially for rate comparisons.
Olmsted replied that the department did not intend to leave anyone out of the survey, and that the survey showed that the Lawrence plant "compares favorably with other plants."