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Health board to discuss controversial septic tank ordinance

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No changes expected; public comment session not on agenda

By Ben Carlson

The Anderson County Board of Health is scheduled to discuss its controversial septic tank pumping ordinance when it meets Wednesday night.

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The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 in the lower level of the Anthony D. Stratton building in the county park.

The ordinance drew substantial criticism at a board meeting earlier this year when about 50 people attended, most voicing their displeasure and saying the ordinance needs to be overturned.

Public Health Director Brandon Hurley said the board isn’t likely to alter the ordinance during Wednesday’s meeting. Instead, he expects board members will consider public comments from their last meeting.

“My suggestion is that we form a subcommittee that will take into account the comments we’ve already received, research and then make a recommendation to the board,” Hurley said.

Hurley said he doesn’t suspect the board will open the meeting for more public comments.

“That will be up to the chairman,” he said. “In fairness, the board spent two hours at the last meeting getting those comments. We got a lot of feedback that was really good, but we can’t spend every meeting doing that.”

Hurley said he and the board still welcome comments, though, and that those wishing to do so need only contact him by phone or e-mail. “That would be my preferred method,” he said. “If people will give me their comments, I will share them with the committee.”

Adopted in 2004 and reaffirmed in 2007, the ordinance requires those with homes three years old or newer to have their tank pumped and inspected every three years. The pumping costs about $250, on top of a $25 fee to the health department.

There are about 400 tanks subject to the ordinance, and about 3,600 older tanks that are not.

That, and the idea that tanks don’t need to be pumped that often, were the crux of the arguments against the ordinance.

“I’m opposed to paying an ignorance tax,” said Randal Rock, who argued during that meeting that such an ordinance is in place in case someone isn’t responsible enough to maintain their own septic tank.

Others argued that the $250 fee is difficult for those with low incomes to pay every three years.

“The board is cognizant of the indigent,” board chairman Andrew Bustin said while defending the ordinance as something necessary to protect public health. “All we are asking is $7 a month.”

Judge-Executive Steve Cornish, who also serves on the health board, said he is opposed to the ordinance, which was created before he joined the board in 2006.

Other items on the agenda include board member appointments, department reports and training for a food handler and manager.

E-mail Ben Carlson at bcarlson@theandersonnews.com.