Madison, Millcreek and Northwest township residents will soon receive information packets about the county’s new residential septic sewer operations and maintenance program.

Residents should receive the informational packets in plain white 11- by 14-inch envelopes from the Williams County Health Department within the next few weeks, according to Jacob Ziegler, environmental health specialist with the Williams County Health District.

“It’s not junk mail. Please don’t throw it out,” Ziegler said.

The mailing contains information on the plan — dubbed the Williams County Septic System Operation and Maintenance Program — to develop a countywide monitoring system to track maintenance of residential sewage treatment systems

County Health Commissioner Jim Watkins said the new requirements come from the state, driven by newly authorized provisions in the Ohio Revised Code that require local health departments to develop, implement and administer maintenance requirements of sewage treatment systems.

Ziegler said the focus of the law is to make homeowners responsible for the maintenance of their septic systems, which the state views as a major component of a residential dwelling, the same as a heating/air conditioning system.

“This is not from (the county), this is state-created. Some counties — like Allen or Auglaize — have had something similar to this in place already, and some counties around the state have had it dating back a number of years, but it’s new to a number of counties,” including, locally, Williams, Henry and Defiance counties, Watkins explained.

The plan will be implemented in stages over a five-year period. Ziegler said the county has been divided into five areas, with homeowners within each area contacted by mail when they are required to obtain their septic system permit. Thus, one-fifth of the county — beginning with Madison, Millcreek and Northwest townships — will receive notifications this year, one-fifth in 2020 (Springfield and Jefferson townships) and so on through the five-year period.

In the mailing, residents will receive an explanatory cover letter, a permit application, a registration form (if a property owner wants to be registered as a service provider) and a list of local sewer system service providers.

Renters are advised to contact their property owner on how to proceed.

Ziegler advises Madison, Millcreek and Northwest township residents to either begin the process to become their own service provider or contact a service provider as soon as possible. Three local service providers currently are signed up for the program.

Brad Price, director of environmental health for the county health department, said evaluations of residential sewer systems will determine if the system is creating a nuisance and in need of repair, or is in good working order.

He said evaluations can be made by a registered septic service provider, a property owner who meets qualifications or, as a last resort, the health department.

Once a septic system is deemed operational, property owners are required to obtain an operation permit for a $50 fee, and the permit application is due to the health department’s Montpelier office by June 30. Per state mandates, applications not received or postmarked by June 30 will be accessed a 25 percent late fee.

Funds collected will be kept by the county health department to help fund the program, Price said.

Every residential septic system must have the required permit. “There are no exceptions for the permit,” Price said.

The health department will be logging all septic systems as they receive their necessary operating permits, creating a database that will eventually be publicly viewable, Price said. Having that information available can help when buying or selling a home, he added.

Generally in Williams County, towns, villages and incorporated areas are served by sewer systems maintained by the county or local municipality. Residences located in unincorporated areas outside the area serviced by the local sewer system will generally use a septic system to handle wastewater.

Large public sewer systems usually charge a monthly fee for their use. For private septic systems, the costs of their operation and maintenance is the responsibility of the homeowner.

The good news is, funding assistance is available to qualified property owners. The county health department has more than $200,000 in grant money available through the Ohio Water Pollution Control Loan Fund (WPCLF).

Homeowners who qualify (income-based) may be eligible to receive 100 percent, 85 percent or 50 percent financial assistance to repair or replace qualified septic systems.

For more information or to see if you qualify, contact Kailea Holbrook, health department sanitarian, at 419-485-3141, ext. 105.

There are an estimated 30 million homes in the U.S. with septic tanks and septic systems, which is about 25 percent of all homes in the country, according to SepticSystem.com.

Price estimates there are about 5,000 homes with septic systems in Williams County.

This sewer operations and maintenance plan is separate from efforts to create a sewer system for Alvordton and Kunkle. Those residents still need to make repairs to their individual septic systems if they are failing. But the good news is, they may still qualify for financial assistance, Price said.

For more information about the county’s new residential septic sewer operations and maintenance program, call Ziegler at 419-485-3141, ext. 125.

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