Public hearing on proposed Cook County Septic System ordinance

Community members who have disagreed over how stringent the county’s new septic ordinance should be may want to weigh in at a public hearing on the issue that has been scheduled for 6:00 p.m. Wednesday, September 25 in the courthouse commissioners’ room.  The proposed ordinance was drafted by the Cook County Planning & Zoning Department with input from county commissioners, septic contractors, and community members. 

The state is requiring counties to have ordinances in place by February 1, 2014. 

At the August 27, 2013 county board meeting, Planning & Zoning Director Tim Nelson said the first draft of the document was more restrictive than state statute, but this one is less restrictive whenever the county has any leeway.  “It takes the more flexible route,” he said.

The proposed ordinance requires management plans for all new or replacement systems that include operation and maintenance agreements with licensed contractors.  Systems not requiring management plans must be inspected or pumped out at least once every three years.  Property owners installing their own outhouses must get an approved design from a state-licensed designer, a permit, and an inspection.

Commissioner Sue Hakes said some people are worried that asking questions about existing systems might result in inspections and having to spend a lot of money to remedy failing systems.  Planning & Zoning Director Tim Nelson said his department does not have the time or resources to track down systems for policing purposes.  Certain “triggers,” such as application for a land use permit for a bedroom addition, would automatically result in an inspection.

“We don’t want people to be afraid to come and have the discussion,” said Commissioner Hakes.

A copy of the proposed ordinance will be available on the county’s website. 

A second hearing may be held in October.

In other Planning & Zoning Department news, the board approved a revision to the county’s septic loan ordinance that will expand loan eligibility to include plumbing work necessary to hook a system up to a municipal wastewater treatment system after abandonment of a failing septic system.