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Warren County still tweaking proposed septic inspection law

Warren County still tweaking proposed septic inspection law

A Stone Installations employee works to install a new septic system in 2014 at a home on Diamond Point Road in Lake George. A Warren County committee is continuing its discussion of a law requiring septic systems to be inspected when properties change hands.

Warren County’s proposed septic inspection law is not quite ready for prime time.

The special committee studying the issue has scheduled a meeting for Tuesday at 3 p.m. to make some final tweaks to the law, which would require people to have their septic systems inspected upon transfer of the property.

The law would apply to properties within 250 feet of the high water mark of the following water bodies: Lake George, Schroon Lake, Schroon River, Brant Lake, Loon Lake, Lake Luzerne and the Hudson River.

The county is not making it applicable to properties that are near tributaries — at least not yet.

Although there had been some talk about dropping the provision that allows local municipalities to opt out of the septic inspection program, that provision is still in the proposed law. Communities that have their own laws on the books are exempt.

Horicon Supervisor Sylvia Smith said she believes the towns should have the ability to opt out of the law. Her town is in the process of drafting its own law and is working with Zoning Administrator Jim Stein.

Stein said one issue is that are a lot of older systems and there is no way they are going to be compliant.

One of the sticking points is determining what constitutes a failing septic system. The issue is there are systems that are nonconforming to current state code, but the county board is more concerned about making sure the systems are not failing.

Glens Falls 3rd Ward Supervisor Claudia Braymer, the chairwoman of the special committee, said compliance would be at the discretion of the inspector. Officials are not asking a person with a septic system built in the 1970s to bring it up to the latest code.

“The whole point is to make sure they are still functioning,” she said.

The committee said that property owners who want to appeal the determination that the system is failing and must be replaced could go before the county committee that oversees building and codes.

Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Brad Magowan said he would rather see a system that is working at 75% to 80% of effectiveness over a system that is at 10 or 20% effective.

“The hard part is trying to do this without re-creating the wheel again,” he said.

Stein said what constitutes a failing system should be spelled out more specifically instead of leaving it up to the individual inspector. Otherwise, people would hire a certain inspector “because he lets it slide.”

The committee discussed the possibility that if the septic system is still functioning, but nonconforming, the matter be referred back to the local municipality for its review.

Chester Supervisor Craig Leggett pointed out that the local planning boards refer projects to the county for review.

“The whole intent of this is not to hold up transfer of properties. It’s just to catch a problem before it continues,” he said.

Smith had suggested asking for an extension of time.

Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Rachel Seeber said the board had passed a resolution asking for the committee to report to the full board at a special meeting on Sept. 29 at 5 p.m.

Braymer said she believes the committee can iron out the remaining differences.

Michael Goot covers politics, crime and courts, Warren County, education and business. Reach him at 518-742-3320 or mgoot@poststar.com.

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