On November 4, York voters will have the opportunity to enact a new ordinance that will require homeowners or buyers to have a septic system inspection done at the time of property sale or transfer. Some real estate brokers have objected to the ordinance, claiming that most buyers already get the septic inspected prior to buying a house.
However, according to a recent York Weekly article (Sept.10, 2014), “Town officials said what’s currently missing is having a report sent to the town for them to know which septic systems are failing. The ordinance would require a Maine Licensed Site Evaluator or Certified Septic Inspector to send a report to the local plumbing inspector within 30 days of the completion of an inspection.”
Below are more arguments in favor of the ordinance:
- Article 3 protects our wells, our fishing industry, and tourism, the base of our economy here in York.
- The impact from failing septic systems is a town-wide issue. We all live on a watershed. Every property in York drains into the York River, Cape Neddick River and all our beaches. A 2011 study showed human fecal bacteria in multiple sites on Long Sands and Short Sands Beaches on multiple occasions. It is very possible that this contamination traveled from failing septic systems miles away from the coast.
- Water pollution from failing septic systems is DEVASTATING to York property values. Who wants to live on or near a polluted beach?
- Article 3 protects our local economy. Beach related spending in Maine is estimated at $500 million per year.
- Article 3 is about Personal Responsibility. We ALL pay for failing septic systems by funding clean up with tax dollars. Residents need to ensure their septic systems are not polluting the environment.
- There are already 386 Certified Septic System Inspectors in the State of Maine (dozens in York County alone).
- Septic system replacement grants are available through the State of Maine.
Update [Oct. 18, 2014]: Here is a link to a report with the lengthy title, Maine Healthy Beaches Program Microbial Source Tracking Pilot Study 2011; Technical Report: Microbial Source Tracking to Identify Human Sources of Fecal Contamination in Coastal York County in Summer 2011. MHBP Final_Technical_Report_3-26-12
The 27-page scientific study goes into great detail about the methods used to monitor a number of sites where runoff flowed into Cape Neddick Beach, Short Sands Beach, and Long Sands Beach.
Among the admittedly preliminary findings was that “96 % of the water samples evaluated in this study exceeded the Maine single sample advisory limit of 104 MPN Enterococcus per 100 mL of water, and 12.5 % were over 130 times higher than this threshold.”
The study found signs of “serious potential human fecal problems” where fresh water entered all three beaches. Although the author of the study could not identify the actual sources of the fecal contamination, it is unlikely to be from the sewer district’s outflow because all sampling was done at either storm water discharge areas or at fresh water tributaries.
Also noted in the document was the conclusion that “fecal contamination is a serious public health concern, because wastes from humans and other animals often carry pathogenic organisms that can infect people who use the water for recreational purposes such as fishing and swimming.”