It appears proposed rules governing on-lot sewage disposal may be delayed — at least for a time.
— It appears proposed rules governing on-lot sewage disposal may be delayed — at least for a time.
This issue has been a hot topic of discussion in northeast Pennsylvania and has been the subject of various meetings and on-line webinars.
The issue revolves around proposed new rules from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
The proposed rules focus on nitrate levels in water, something area officials and experts say is not a problem in this part of the country.
Wayne County Commissioner Brian Smith, when he learned about the proposed rules, began a public campaign and led the charge against what he says are rules which could wreck the economy in this region.
That culminated in a big meeting in which experts spoke and the public listened. That meeting has led to more discussions and another meeting held last week.
Smith said that meeting was organized by the governor's office. He said DEP officials, including some from Harrisburg, were on hand for that gathering.
What was learned from that meeting is there is now legislation making its way through the Pennsylvania House of Representatives which could render the new rules moot.
But that is a big if.
Sen. Lisa Baker and Rep. Mike Peifer are both involved in the legislation. Currently, legislation is in the House with a sister bill ready to move in the Senate, said Smith.
The House bill (HB 1325) cleared its first hurdle last week when it passed a key environmental committee with a margin of 17-7. It still must be voted on by the full House.
The Senate has yet to take up the legislation, likely waiting to see the outcome in the House.
The crux of the legislation is to take the rule making out of the hands of the DEP. Smith said Baker told him that DEP officials are "on board" with a legislative fix.
However, Smith said he is "not sure" the DEP officials he spoke with are "on board with the legislation."
During the meeting organized by the governor's office, Smith said experts "gave them facts" about the nitrate levels in northeast Pennsylvania.
"We said we have outcome data that shows what we do in northeast Pennsylvania does work," said Smith.
He said experts and local officials made the case that "one size fits all does not work."
The biggest issue is the fact nearly all of the water in this part of the state is considered high quality or exceptional value. With the proposed rules, Smith said that could greatly stymie development.
The rules call for stringent requirements when constructing septic systems — both for private homes and businesses.
It would require large chunks of land in order to have development and Smith said that would cause a major hit on the region's economy.
"I would rather head down the path of this legislative fix," said Smith.
Late last week, Smith, and other area officials, received word from the DEP which indicates they may be delaying the process — somewhat.
The correspondence indicated the DEP does plan to close the comment period on the rules on June. 3. That has been the plan for more than a month.
DEP officials said they will then be reviewing all of the comments which have been given from the public. Those include written comments sent to DEP as well as comments made during the webinars.
All of that will be taken into consideration and then DEP officials will begin drafting a new policy and then opening comments up to the public once again.
But all of that could change should the legislation make its way through both the House and Senate and then to the desk of the governor.
"Our legislators are working very hard on this," said Smith.
He is hopeful something can happen because otherwise, Smith said it could cause serious damage to the economy of Wayne County and all of northeast Pennsylvania.
"This is a loss of freedom," said Smith.
He said the rules would require a covenant on all property, something he said should not happen.
"This is robbery of our land, the taking of our freedom," said Smith.
Smith still believes there are people in Pennsylvania who do not want development in the Pocono Mountains region and this is a way for them to make that happen.
"I maintain there is an agenda here," said Smith.
He noted that in the committee vote last week, almost all of the no votes came from lawmakers in the Philadelphia area.
"It appears they are trying to shut us down," said Smith.
However, Smith remains hopeful that the lawmakers from this area will be able to sway enough votes statewide in order to make the proposed DEP rules moot.
"I am hoping the legislation gets adopted and all of this can go away," said Smith.