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Repeal septic system inspection legislation: Ted Gaines

Town-hall meeting in Auburn draws 150
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The furor over mandatory septic system inspections and an estimated $325 fee that will have to be paid was evident at a town-hall meeting Thursday in Auburn. But there was also a glimmer of hope for angered rural residents. Assemblyman Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, offered to take Placer County residents’ concerns to the state Capitol and propose repealing Assembly Bill 885 – the legislation whose implementation is raising hackles throughout the state among septic system users. While some audience members questioned whether changes could be better formulated during the current public discussion stage before fees and inspections are to be adopted, Gaines said he believes a repeal will ensure water quality around local septic fields can be ensured more efficiently and with more accountability on the local-government level. And in an apparent indication of how strong opposition has been – not just in Placer County but around the state – the State Water Quality Control Board has put off a Feb. 9 public hearing on the fee and inspections. Gaines also reported that the state board has extended the public comment period – due to end Feb. 9 – “for an indeterminable amount of time.” Gaines’ town-hall meeting drew an estimated 150 people to the Board of Supervisors chambers in Auburn. It was standing-room-only for the meeting, which was also held to provide a forum for the public on regional wastewater treatment issues concerning Auburn. About 20 speakers aired concerns Thursday about the inspection proposal. No speaker supported it. The septic-fee controversy has extended to other areas of the state. Jill Pahl, County environmental health director, said 500 people showed up for a meeting Tuesday in Santa Rosa. Gregory Marks, field representative for 3rd District Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Chico, said concern is being fielded in his office from several counties, including Lassen, Plumas, Butte and Yuba. As in previous meetings in the area over the past month, residents blistered the proposal as unfair and unsound. In recent days, the Placer County Board of Supervisors and Placer County Water Agency board have also come out against the septic system inspection plan. Sue Hall, who lives on 15 acres in the rural Bell Road area of North Auburn, asked when the hand being extended from government for more of her money would stop. “I’m taxed to death and tired of it,” Hall said. “We all have to budget and pay our bills. Why doesn’t our government?” After a parade of speakers questioning the septic system inspection and fee plan, Hall said the meeting was a good idea. “It showed the conservative nature of the area,” Hall said. Rural Newcastle’s Wendy Reid said that with the mood of the current Legislature, she would like to see an attempt to negotiate, using bargaining points like density issues and a focus on inspecting troubled areas. “It probably doesn’t stand a good chance of repeal,” Reid said. The state Water Code says the intent of the legislation is to assist private property owners with costs by encouraging loans but Pahl has said that is unrealistic that a loan process would be available in the current economic climate. There are 1.2 million septic systems in the state, including 26,000 in Placer County. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com.