Centre County is encouraging local municipalities to become part of the “On Lot Septic Program,” which requires residents who use septic tanks to have their systems checked every three to six years to prevent system malfunctions that pollute the water table and harm the environment.
The program is part of the Phase 2 implementation strategies of the Wastewater Treatment Facilities and On Lot Septic Management Chapter of the Centre County Comprehensive Plan. More than half of Centre County municipalities are already a part of the program and receive funding from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Septic systems that malfunction can cause a problem for the environment and the landowners who often rely upon a well for drinking water, said county senior planner Liz Lose, as she presented the strategies of the plan to the county commissioners at the Nov. 27 meeting.
Lose said that with a large part of the rural population in the county, many people use septic systems and wells for drinking water, and when there is a malfunction of the septic system it often times can affect the well, causing the homeowner the expense of drilling a new water source. She said that requiring a system check every so often can help prevent this costly problem.
“When a malfunction occurs with the septic system, it can be very detrimental to the groundwater resources and in many cases, having to go in and replace both the septic system and drill a new well. It can be very expensive for rural residents,” said Lose.
She said the program has been in place for many years and that about half of the county municipalities are involved and can provide input for new communities looking to implement the program. Some of these municipalities have extended the established cycle from three years to five or six, which is less of a cost to homeowners.
The premise for the program is an established cycle that requires residents using a septic tank to periodically visually inspect it.
“One of the selling points to the program with the municipalities is that it may be between $200 and $300 to have your septic tank pumped and serviced, where a complete failure of a septic system, it can be tens of thousands of dollars,” said Lose. “With the groundwater contamination, of course, we have a few municipalities that have issues with finding water sources, so we try to explain to them that any kind of contamination, especially to a private source, can be very detrimental,” said Lose.
“I am happy to see that we are proceeding with this to protect our surface water and our groundwater,” said commissioner Mark Higgins.