UCHD tackling issue of unreported septic systems


The Union County Board of Health recently reviewed its supplemental sewage rules, but did not come to a consensus on what to do with unknown systems.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the board discussed how frequently “unknown systems,” those with no evidence of failure because there is no evidence of a system, should be inspected.

Of the assessments completed through July, Marcia Dreiseidel, director of environmental health, said almost half of the systems have been categorized as unknown. She estimated that equals between 2,500 and 2,800 of these systems.

The debate revolved around whether these systems should be inspected annually, as recommended by Union County Health Department staff, or every five years, as is practiced in surrounding counties.

Keith Watson, board president, said there are several drawbacks to consider regarding an annual inspection.

First, if a system is deemed “failing” he said it is inspected annually, so there is already a means to enforce more frequent inspections.

Additionally, inspecting annually would make Union County the most stringent in the area compared to the requirements of neighboring counties.

He also said it was necessary to answer the question, “Why inspect a system if there is no evidence of failure?”

Gary Bowman echoed this concern and said he felt annual inspections may not be necessary unless there is evidence that a system is failing.

“It seems like we’d be spending a lot of time looking for something that isn’t there,” Bowman said.

Board member Justin Krueger also voiced concerns regarding the health department’s ability to complete a higher number of inspections annually.

Dreiseidel said if the unknown systems were to be inspected annually, it is unlikely that the current staff could manage the workload in addition to the other necessary inspections.

“Staff-wise… I may need some more staff,” she said.

Following the discussion, board members did not reach an agreement, so they moved to table the decision until next month’s meeting. A decision must be made then to allow enough time for the policy to be enacted by next year.

The supplemental sewage rules were created by the Board of Health in 2015, with an initial five-year timeline.

As the end of that period is approaching, several key changes have been made to the supplement. These include changing the time frame so the general inspection requirement will be implemented in 2025 and changing inspection cycles to be either annual or once every five years.

The inspection timeline for unknown systems will be added to the rules once decided upon.

In other business, the board:

– Approved a contract with Blessings in a Backpack, a weekend nutrition program, to provide meals to 150 North Union elementary and middle school students. The contract will paid for with a mix of grants and general revenue funds, not to exceed $16,500.

Shawn Sech, director of health promotions and planning, said Bridges Community Action Partnership has committed $5,000 to the program, while other community partners will likely contribute as well.

– Accepted a $56,000 Indoor Radon Grant from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH).

The funds will be used to provide education on radon testing and mitigation to the western region of Ohio.

Sech said UCHD previously received $60,000 from the grant and, although the amount has decreased, ODH maintains the expectation that the grant will be used throughout 27 counties.

In order to cover these counties, the board also approved contracts with Seneca County General Health District, Public Health Dayton and Montgomery County, Mercer County Health Department, Madison County Health Department and Kenton Hardin County Health Department.

– Accepted a $150,000 Injury Prevention-Falls Among Older Adults Grant from ODH. The funds will be used to implement policy, systems and environmental change, as well as coordinating the state falls coalition.

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