Letter: Wastewater rules are intransigent

A foreboding specter is haunting owners of residences in the Flintridge area and other communities that do not have public sewers available. The Los Angeles County Environmental Health Department regulates new private sewage-disposal systems, also known as on-site wastewater treatment systems, and their regulations have over the years become increasingly complicated and difficult to comply with. Their most recent version of the guidelines is 38 pages long. Due to the intransigence of the bureaucrats who review feasibility studies, the review process alone can take up to two years and several tens of thousands of dollars, after which approvals are not guaranteed. Their obstinacy extends beyond private homeowners and even affects county-owned projects, such that even officials from other departments within the county are fed up with the process.

The end result is that homeowners who plan additions to their homes and who are willing and able to spend the money to upgrade outdated septic systems may not be able to do so under the current guidelines. When taken to the extreme, this policy will adversely affect values of properties without public sewer, since making additions or changes to existing homes will increasingly not be feasible under the current requirements.

Their intractable practices do not serve anyone, not homeowners, not other agencies, not the economy, and certainly not the environment, since a policy of discouraging or not approving the installation of new systems in effect keeps old outdated systems in place, which continue to pollute the ground with untreated sewage.

It is important for property owners affected by this to communicate their grievances to the officials who review feasibility reports and new septic-system plans. Only with a significant public outcry will they revise and roll back the most egregious of their policies. Remember, your fees and taxes pay their salaries and operating costs, so they have a public duty and responsibility to be responsive to your inquiries and concerns.

The department in question is L.A. Environmental Health, Eric Edwards, Chief, Land Use Program. His phone number is (626) 430-5390, email is eedwards@ph.lacounty.gov.

Shant Minas

Editor's Note: The writer is an engineering geologist with Applied Earth Sciences in Glendale.

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