- Area lawmakers were pleased last week when legislation from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) dealing with the use of septic systems in "High Quality (HQ) and Exceptional Value (EV) watersheds," was met with push back from many residents in rural areas.
The proposed rules were introduced in February of this year and sent shockwaves through rural communities. These regulations add additional rules that look to preserve HQ and EV watersheds. According to Pennsylvania Chapter 93, "anti-degradation regulations provide special protection for HQ and EV watersheds as part of DEP's federally-approved water quality standards."
According to a release from the Pennsylvania Association of Sewage Enforcement Officers (PASEO), this draft was intended to "address the issue of siting on-lot septic systems in these special protection watersheds."
In May, legislation was working its way through the Pennsylvania House of Representatives that would make the DEP regulations moot.
At the time the regulation was proposed, Wayne County Commissioner Brian Smith said this legislation "literally shuts down economic development."
With nearly all of Wayne County falling into either a High Quality or Exceptional Value Watershed, a main concern for local representatives is the sheer cost of the regulations.
For example, for a person to build a home in a High Quality or Exceptional Value Watershed, an extra $15,000 would need to be added to finance just the septic system. The rules also require much larger tracts of land for both homes and businesses.
Smith has said that areas like Wayne County "have done a phenomenal job in this area as stewards of our property and stewards of our water." When looked at on a map, nearly all of Wayne and Pike Counties are part of the high quality watershed.
With a devastating economic impact potentially on the horizon, Smith and other local government officials urged residents to speak out about the proposed new rules.
House bill (HB 1325) garnered local support from Representative Sandra Major and Mike Peifer, and hoped to amended the Pennsylvania Sewage Facilities Act of January 24, 1966.
This legislation passed in the General Assembly last week and ensures "a balance is maintained in enabling community growth and rural homeownership while protecting Pennsylvania's specially designated watershed," stated a joint release from Senator lisa Baker, Representative Sandra Major, Representative Rosemary Brown, Mike Peifer and Mario Scavello, all supporters of the bill.
Page 2 of 2 - The bill "would sanction on-lot septic systems," approved by DEP as having met anti-degredation requirements" to comply with the state's Clean Streams Law.
The lawmakers expressed that rather than setting new guidelines, HB 1325 would "make the planning and permitting process" under the current regulations "the same" for systems located in a high quality and exceptional value watershed.
The lawmakers also noted in a release that the state has 6,090 stream miles of "designated high quality and exceptional value waters," with many of those miles in rural counties with "increased use of on-lot septic systems."
The lawmakers close with the following joint statement: "We are pleased to have this legislation garner such strong support in both the House and Senate and look forward to House Bill 1325 being signed into law by the governor in the coming days. We also appreciated the work of our local elected officials, conservation districts, planning boards and sewage enforcement officers, who take great strides to maintain and protect our waterways. Their hard work and successful track record is what helped this legislation ultimately pass."
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett as 10 days to sign the bill into law once it is received.