Cook County revising septic ordinance to meet February 2014 deadline

At the county commissioner’s meeting on April 16, Planning & Zoning Director Tim Nelson said that the state of Minnesota changed its rules regarding septic systems in 2008, 2010, and 2011, with the new rules placing more responsibility on counties without more funding.  Nelson testified before legislators in St. Paul regarding a bill that would have given counties more flexibility in determining their own septic standards.  The state finally allowed counties to keep their old standards, adopt new ones, or adopt a combination of old and new.
Each county now has until February 2014 to get its own septic ordinance in place.  In the meantime, counties must enforce the state’s rules. Cook County Planning & Zoning Department has revised a septic ordinance it drafted several years ago in accordance with state law and will be seeking comment on it from the county board and the public.
Cook County’s previous draft ordinance would have required property owners to have their septics pumped every three years whether they needed it or not.  The currently proposed ordinance allows people to postpone pumping as long as their septic tanks pass an inspection, which must be done every three years.
Commissioner Bruce Martinson asked if the county could extend the inspection period to four or five years instead of three.  Nelson said the state allows only inspections to remain valid for three years, except for newly installed systems, which can remain valid for five years before requiring another inspection.  After that, they would need their tanks inspected every three years.
County Attorney Tim Scannell wondered if the proposed ordinance includes any standards more stringent than the state’s.  Nelson said no, although it outlines the process of working with contractors more specifically than state rules do.
Scannell said he would like to see the ordinance deal with violators through the process of civil action rather than prosecution for misdemeanors.
The board will discuss the proposed ordinance in a work session Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 2:30 p.m. at the courthouse.  The public will have time to comment on the ordinance before the board takes action to adopt it.