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Town Questions DEP on New Septic Regulations

Residents can't afford to get their systems fixed, officials say.

Christa Doherty said she was one of the lucky ones, if there’s anything lucky about having to have major work done on a septic system. Her Lake Hopatcong home, built in the 1940s, had three seepage pits, one of which backed up, causing water to seep into her basement.

“We came in at around the $15,000 mark, but we had a huge part of that paid for by a Morris County Housing Rehabilitation grant. But we did have to shell out $2,000 for an engineer to come and design the system and inspect it.”

It is those engineering fees that have Jefferson Township officials unhappy with the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Business administrator James Leach had a conference call with DEP officials this week to discuss the new regulations that went into effect in April. Based on the conversation, the council plans to draft a letter to send to the DEP noting their complaints about the regulations.

“The DEP is requiring engineers to design new systems now because of new codes,” Leach said. “That’s a huge expense to homeowners.”

Leach also said there are some new regulations in place that, he feels, don’t make much sense. For example, new septic systems are required to have identifying information marked on the cover or on a riser immediately below the cover, as opposed to near the tank, or on paperwork in the homeowner’s possession.

“The problem is that all these new regulations are costing people money,” Leach said. “If people are trying to sell their homes and they can’t afford to get the septic fixed, they will, and in some cases they have, abandoned the home. That doesn’t do the homeowner or the municipality any good.”

Doherty understands the issue of expense.

“We would have had a real problem if we didn’t get that grant,” she said. “As it is, there’s a 10-year lien on our house. We can’t sell the house for 10 years. After that, the lien is considered to be paid in full.”

The full New Jersey Septic Code can be found here. Information on the county’s housing rehabilitation grant can be found here.

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