Starkey considers new septic law
STARKEY--The town of Starkey will be holding a public hearing on a proposed new wastewater treatment system law, Thursday, Nov. 4. The regulations, which are posted online in draft form, have 19 pages of definitions, regulations and remediates for septic systems under the jurisdiction of the town.
The stated purpose of the new rules is to, "preserve and protect public health and the quality of surface and groundwater in the town of Starkey by mandating the adequate performance of on-site wastewater treatment systems to prevent health hazards and adverse impacts to the environment."
However, some residents have expressed their concerns about the new law through a Facebook group online and have circulated petitions at local businesses. Some of the sections of the law that have been noted are the monetary fine schedule of up to $250 per week or not more than 15 days of imprisonment for violations. The law also explains how a search warrant can be used in the case of a parcel owner failing to complete an inspection and denying access.
Town Supervisor George Lawson said the threat to public safety makes the law necessary.
"At the end of this process, people will at least know what they have for a septic system...Sometimes problems can be remedied without complete replacement...If what you have isn't going to daylight it might not be a failure," Lawson said.
The new law, if enacted, makes a distinction between properties located within 200 feet of Seneca Lake or DEC classified streams and those that are not. If within the 200 feet, a five-year inspection schedule will be required. Other properties will primarily get inspections when they are sold or a large expansion or change of use is made at the location.
Key to the inspection would be an examination of a property's distribution box.
"This all started from septic inspections from short-term rentals when we enacted those regulations," said Lawson. "Those inspections, which were mostly lakefront property, had about a 25 percent failure rate. The systems were not functioning in a safe manner so that brought it to the forefront that this is a concern."
Much of the work on designing the law, which is based around a Canandaigua watershed law already in place, took place before COVID struck.
"We made some modifications, but that initial work was done over two years ago," Lawson added. "COVID came along and interrupted the process on this law so there is a gap as to when most of the work was done and now."
If the law is passed, property owners within the affected zone would have two years to get their systems inspected and upgraded as needed before the town inspections would begin.
"The reason for the two-year period is for people to plan or find out, and I think most people will find they don't have a system that needs work," Lawson said. "But at the end of this process, people will at least know what they have for a septic system."
Lawson added that he expects some consternation over the proposed law as it has the ability to cost some Starkey residents money in septic upgrades, but that the public safety aspect requires it.
"During the short-term rental inspections we found a septic tank with a pipe heading east towards the lake (with no distribution box) that eventually went below groundwater but kept heading for the lake," Lawson stated.
One thing the new law would not require is for existing systems that are working correctly to be brought up to current code.
"We know we are going to run into systems not built to current standards, but if functioning properly, there is no reason to remediate them," Lawson said. "I think that is one thing people are concerned with that you would have to bring [the system] up to current design standards. That is not the case."
Instead, the town will be looking for systems that are either in failure or do not have a distribution box.
"I would encourage people to read the law, and we have set up a special email for residents who have concerns," Lawson added.
The proposed law can be read at https://tinyurl.com/ytf8sda6.
The town's email address for concerns on this project is email@example.com.