CHINA — Planning Board members are considering softening a requirement under local shoreland septic rules ahead of a June vote on whether to scrap the whole program.

Board members on Tuesday said they might recommend revisions of the town’s shoreland septic system compliance ordinance. Code Enforcement Officer Scott Pierz, Planning Board members and a majority of selectmen favor keeping the program in some form instead of repealing it.

On Tuesday, board members mulled the possibility of replacing the inspection requirement with a pumping requirement. Regular pumping is important for septic system maintenance and could include a minimal examination that might determine whether further inspection is needed, they said.

The current program requires any shoreland property owner with a septic system either to show that it was approved and installed after Jan. 1, 1998; have it inspected by Dec. 31, 2014; or to replace it with an approved system by the end of 2014.

A system that is inspected and found to be functioning properly and not posing a threat to groundwater must be inspected every four years thereafter until it is replaced. A system that is functioning but threatens groundwater must be replaced within two years, and a malfunctioning system must be replaced as soon as the town plumbing inspector orders, or discontinued.

In June, voters will be asked to repeal the program that they approved in 2009.


The Planning Board is aiming to draft a revised version of the program to offer voters an alternative to having no program at all.

Pierz said the petition to put the repeal question on the June ballot received about 225 signatures. Some signers told him they think the four-year inspections requirement is too strict, while others think the program should apply to all septic systems in lake watersheds or in the town, instead of just to those within 250 feet of lakes.

Pierz said about 750 shoreland properties are covered under the program. Extending the area affected would require adding at least one more town employee, he said.

The codes officer reported receiving 16 inspection reports as of the end of 2011. One system was failing and will be replaced.

Four septic systems and three holding tanks were replaced as of Dec. 31, he said. They were the systems by “people with old systems who wanted to do the right thing” instead of going through the inspection process, Pierz said.

And even the most up-to-date septic systems do not last forever, Pierz said: 15 to 20 years is the normal life expectancy, with regular maintenance.


A new system probably costs a minimum of $6,500 and can be three times as expensive, depending on the setting and the technology, Pierz said.

Pierz referred to a state report that said septic systems account for up to 4 percent of China Lake’s water quality issues.

He and Planning Board members cited examples of other lakes where water quality has improved after septic systems were upgraded, notably Pattee Pond in Winslow. Board member James Wilkens said property values around the pond have risen substantially with better water.

Planning Board members intend to continue educating themselves and interested residents about the issue. They propose inviting to a future meeting local certified site evaluators who design septic systems and the state official who can explain state requirements.

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