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TO: HONORABLE MAYOR AND MEMBERS OF THE CITY COUNCIL
FROM: DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC WORKS
DATE: AUGUST 3, 2004
SUBJECT: REGULATION OF SEPTIC SYSTEMS ON SINGLE FAMILY LOTS
The California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Los Angeles Region (Board) is responsible for regulating the discharge of pollutants to ground and surface waters within the State of California. Since a septic system could leak and discharge pollutants into water bodies, they are regulated by the Board. In 1952 the Board granted a waiver for septic systems on single-family lots, however, that waiver will expire on October 8, 2004.
The Board is currently taking steps to impose stronger regulations on septic systems for both cities and homeowners. For example the Board feels that cities must prepare a detailed database of septic systems in their jurisdiction. The database must include details about the location of systems, as well as any nearby water bodies, canyons, or groundwater. From this new database system each system would be categorized by risk of contamination based upon the proximity of the system to a water body, canyon, or groundwater. In addition based upon risk, property owners will need to periodically submit a monitoring report to the Board along with a fee that the Board currently estimates at $800 – $1,800 per property per year. In some cases the Board could require the construction of wells to monitor groundwater.
The Board has told cities that they have three options to carry out these new regulations. Option One is for cities to adopt the necessary ordinances and assume the role of regulating septic systems in accordance with Board guidelines. Option Two is for cities to leave the regulations of septic systems to the Board. Option Three is for cities to delegate their authority to the County Los Angeles, who has indicated they would be willing to assume this role. The Board is requesting cities to give notice by August 20, 2004 of their intentions.
Staff estimates that approximately 750 properties in the City utilize septic systems.
Representatives of the County of Los Angeles have told cities that they are willing and able to regulate septic systems in accordance with board guidelines. They have indicated that they believe their fees for property owners would be significantly less that the $800 - $1,800 per property per year quoted by the Board. This option appears to be the most promising solution, since there is not adequate resources or expertise on City staff to manage such a program. The one concern with this option is that the County has not guaranteed its fees in writing.
There is no fiscal impact to the staff recommendations. However, in the future there will be a fiscal impact of this new program for property owners with septic systems as well as the City.
Dean E. Allison
Director of Public Works