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The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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The Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments (TMACOG), the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department, and the City of Oregon are urging 400 homeowners in Oregon and Jerusalem Township who live within the Wolf Creek Watershed to take advantage of a $75 discount to have their septic tanks cleaned out before the offer expires on June 30.
 
Septic systems in the Wolf Creek watershed are particularly important to water quality because the creek empties into Lake Erie at the Maumee Bay State Park and tests have shown its waters have contributed to bacteria at the beaches of the park. Years ago, after the beach opened at Maumee Bay State Park, there were reports of high bacteria levels, said Kurt Erichsen, vice president of water quality planning at TMACOG.
 
“TMACOG and other environmental agencies heard from elected officials who asked where it was coming from, and how could they fix it,” he said. “After an extensive study of bacteria in the bay, we found there was a smoking gun at Wolf Creek. The bacteria levels coming out of that one particular ditch were substantially higher than smaller creeks that drain into the bay. That outlet is a couple hundred yards from the beaches at Maumee Bay State Park. So we concluded that Wolf Creek is really the problem.”
 
Oregon had responded by constructing a number of sewer lines and replacing 600 septic systems with public sewers, he said.“We have seen somewhat better numbers at the beaches ever since. But the problem is not completely solved,” said Erichsen. “There are 400 houses in that watershed that have a quick route out to the beach that are still on septic systems. We believe those houses are part of the continuing problem. So that’s why we’re emphasizing this one particular watershed. That’s where we’re offering the special discounts to have the septic tanks cleaned out.”
 
The cost of the $75 per 1,000 gallons discount is being covered by Oregon and Lucas County. “So it’s a pretty good deal for homeowners who live in the watershed. The lesson we’re learning is that an incentive never hurts,” he said. “This is just a one-time deal. It’s not an offer we expect to repeat. We want people in the watershed to know this is an option. It is not an inspection of their system. It’s simply an opportunity for them to save a little bit of money to do something that has to be done to their septic tanks.”
 
Two companies that pump out septic systems, ACE Diversified Services, and C&L Sanitation, have agreed to participate in the program. There are 310 addresses in Oregon, and 90 in Jerusalem Township that are eligible for the discount. Letters with the coupons have already been mailed to eligible property owners. The companies also have a copy of the list of addresses that are eligible for the discount. ACE Diversified Services can be contacted at 419-865-4830, and C&L Sanitation can be reached at 419-874-4653.
 
"Area partners have made great strides in improving water here, including installing miles of sewers in recent years. But we can do better and we know that septic systems are part of our problem. We’re trying to get the attention of the people in the watershed to help them understand that what they do has an effect on Lake Erie. We stress that clean water starts in your backyard.”
 
Turned away
County officials have attempted to determine how many septic systems in the watershed area are leaking by meeting with homeowners to provide them with information on maintaining their systems, but some have been reluctant to talk out of fear they will be fined or forced to install a new system, said Erichsen. 
 
“It’s the old line, `I’m from the government and I’m here to help,’” said Erichsen. “Sometimes the government really is there to help and some people don’t believe it. Some people are afraid that if the health department comes to inspect your septic system, and finds there’s something wrong, then they’re faced with a $20,000 bill for a new-styled septic system. It’s true that if something is wrong with the system, they may suggest you have it upgraded, but this is not a big enforcement program that the health department is doing. They’re interested in trying to get the systems to work, and, above all, help residents to understand these systems and how to maintain them.”
 
Officials are buying print ads and billboards in an effort to persuade people to have their systems cleaned and inspected. “As we wrap up the program, we want to give one more try to reach out to people in the watershed to help them understand that if they do one thing to get their septic systems to work better and more reliably, it is to have their septic tanks pumped out,” said Erichsen.
 
A septic system serving a family of four with a thousand gallon tank should be emptied every 24 to 30 months. Signs that a system needs attention include a damp spot on the lawn over the tank, odor, and backup into the house. However, some septic systems have been modified to redirect effluent to a nearby ditch. Homeowners with these systems will never see a problem, but they are polluting nearby waterways every day. Septic service providers can evaluate a system when they empty the tank. Homeowners should not attempt to investigate a septic tank on their own.
 
Guidelines
Tips to keeping a home sewage treatment system in good repair include:
• Do not drive over or park vehicles on any part of the septic system;
• Do not build or dig in your drain field;
• Do not use a garbage disposal with a septic system. It will fill your tank with solids 50 percent faster;
• Flush only waste and toilet paper. Do not flush the following into your toilet and/or drain: grease or oil, condoms, cat litter, cigarette butts, coffee grounds, feminine hygiene items, paper towels, baby wipes or diapers, harsh chemicals, paints. These items will clog your system and lead to costly repairs;
• Limit the use and amount of water going into your septic system;
• Do not connect ground water sumps into your septic system. These should be connected to a ditch or storm sewer;
• Do not plant trees and shrubs over the sewage treatment area;
• Direct surface water away from the leach field. Look at downspouts, patios, and driveways.
 
Even in the best soil conditions and with the best maintenance schedule, home sewage systems are only designed to last 25 years. “A septic system in good repair works efficiently to manage a family’s household waste. But a system that has not been maintained or emptied regularly may be distributing disease-causing pathogens into area waters and could be contributing to harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie,” said Erichsen.
 
 
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