Bill would spare costly septic tie-ins

A bill that would relieve some property owners from having to connect to sewer systems installed by private developers could be introduced in the Ohio House in the next two weeks.

The legislation would give certain property owners ”the ability to opt out if they don’t want a forced tie-in,” said state Rep. Sean O’Brien of Bazetta. But those owners’ home sewage treatment systems must get a passing grade from the local health department to allow the opt-out.

If the septic system fails inspection, the owner would be given the option to have it repaired. Yearly inspections would follow to check the status of the system.

”Eventually, we want you to tie in,” said O’Brien, a Democrat. ”We want to get rid of all septic systems, but at the same time, we don’t want to be ogres and say, ‘You have to tie in today.”’

O’Brien put together the proposal with the help of Ohio’s Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Health and the Trumbull County Health Department in response to a Warren Municipal Court judge acquitting a Vienna woman charged with not connecting property she owns in Howland to a privately built sewerline.

Judge Thomas Gysegem’s ruling in December found Barbara George not guilty and called on lawmakers to make a fix, writing, ”The time for remedial legislative action from this intolerable, unmanageable and unconscionable circumstance which confronts scores of innocent property owners in this state is long past due.”

The charge against George – disobeying the orders / regulations of the health department in Trumbull County – stemmed from her failure to connect a home she owns on Henn Hyde Road into a nearby sewer. She faced a similar charge in Girard Municipal Court for a home she owns on Warren Sharon Road in Vienna.

George, who does not live at either address, is facing a $55,000 bill to connect to the sewerline that was put in by Universal Development of Girard to service its property along Warren Sharon Road near state Route 11. Under an agreement with the county, property owners like George who would tap into that line would reimburse the private developer.

In George’s case, the nearly $40,000 for the home on Warren Sharon Road is more than the home is worth.

The bill for the Henn Hyde Road was about $12,000, plus a $3,600 tap-in fee to the county. The total reimbursement cost of the project was $326,002.

George, who could not find a way to pay for the connections, left the county health department with no alternative other than to charge her. Ohio law requires residents to tap into sanitary sewer lines that run past their homes.