Story County septic tank ordinance to enter final consideration
Editor's note: An article that appeared in the Dec. 1 print edition of the Ames Tribune titled, "Ordinance to set new requirements for septic tanks" contained outdated information. The Story County Board of Supervisors will have their third consideration of the ordinance Tuesday, Dec. 8.
A septic tank ordinance that could require routine pumping — costing $260 to $400 —could be passed tomorrow.
The Story County Board of Supervisors will have the third and potentially final consideration on the ordinance Tuesday at 10 a.m. virtually due to COVID-19. A new item may delay the vote to the following Tuesday, according to the agenda.
Story County Environmental Health Department director Margarette Jaynes wrote in an email the most controversial proposed change is homeowners would be required to pump their septic tanks every five years.
The supervisors held a public hearing on the proposed changes Nov. 28. The ordinance passed on first consideration that evening — though Supervisor Lauris Olson said it was lukewarm in regards to addressing septic tanks without permits in the county.
The county has 3,120 active permitted septic tank systems and 22% of rural properties, or 900 properties, don't have a septic tank permit, according to the Story County Environmental Health Department.
A small study found of the septic tanks without a permit inspected, 100% did not have a secondary treatment. Septic tanks without secondary treatment discharge into field tiles, ditches or creeks, according to the Environmental Health Department.
Other proposed changes in the current ordinance include limits to shared septic tanks and required soil protection.
Pumping a septic tank is necessary as not all solids are broken down in the system, and pumping will avoid clogs or backups in the system, according to the Story County Environmental Health Department. While replacing an old system is not required in the ordinance, pumping may reveal a septic tank is not working.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources recommends a septic tank be pumped every three to five years. Malfunctions could lead to bacteria, nitrate, phosphorous, pharmaceuticals and human pathogens entering the water systems.
If passed, the changes will go into effect Jan. 1, 2021. For more information on the ordinance and how to join Tuesday's meeting, visit storycountyiowa.gov.