Planners hear latest from health department
The Morgan County Planning Commission had their first meeting in the new courthouse Tuesday evening, July 27.
Commission President Jack Soronen introduced Morgan County Health Administrator Lee Fowler as the guest speaker and asked him to update the commission on health issues.
Fowler spoke about the new flood plain regulations
instituted by the state, well and septic system regulations, health department staffing and answered related questions from planners.
Fowler said he had expected a rush of people seeking permits for wells and septic systems prior to the new flood plain regulations taking effect on
July 1, but only had three people come in applying for
The new regulations prohibit placing well or septic systems in the 100 year flood plain.
Fowler said he did help one landowner in Cacapon River Rapids locate a well and septic system. The landowner had a 600 foot lot and Fowler determined 400 feet were in the flood plain which left 200 feet available for placement of the well and septic system.
“The idea that this was affecting a lot of lots and a lot of people I think is proving not to be the case,” Fowler said.
Fowler said most of the lots in the 100 year flood plain were already permitted prior to the new regulations taking effect.
Wells and Septic systems
Soronen asked how the requirement for a two acre minimum lot size was working out in regard to septic systems.
“Actually, the two acre minimum is one of the best ideas the commission has come up with,” Fowler said.
He went on to explain that a septic system that fails on a one acre lot in many cases has no room left to relocate the system.
Answering a question from Commissioner Sue Parker, Fowler said a septic field is required to be 10,000 square feet.
If you have to move a septic system, all the other
regulations come into play.
The drain field has to be 100 feet from the well, 50 feet away from the septic tank and 20 feet away from a creek or stream, Fowler said.
Soronen asked if there were any areas of the county where septic systems and wells proved to be a problem.
Fowler said the Timber Ridge area had a lot of problems because rock layers underground tend to hold water near the surface instead of letting it run downhill. He also said the U.S. 522 corridor was problematic because of the runoff coming from Cacapon Mountain.
Both areas were prone to septic system failures, Fowler said.
Soronen asked if the health department has seen an increase in the number of people asking for permits to dig new wells or deepen existing wells due to the drought this summer.
Fowler said he has not seen a noticeable increase. He said a permit is not needed to deepen or modify an existing well but the department does require a well completion report from the well driller.
Reasons for system failures
Asked the definition of a failed septic system, Fowler said any system that has effluent on top of the ground.
He said the main reasons for a system to fail are high ground water and homeowner abuse.
Asked for examples of homeowner abuse, Fowler said a prime example is a homeowner using a lot of bleach. Bleach kills the bacteria in the tank that breaks down the effluent.
The same problem occurs when people use a lot of anti-bacterial hand or body wash. Another example is having your water softener system piped so it backwashes into the septic tank, releasing many unwanted chemicals into the tank.
A common problem Fowler noted is people driving heavy equipment over the drain field breaking the feeder lines.
He also cautioned about using a product such as Riddextm that also kills beneficial bacteria.
Health Department staffing
Fowler said the department now has eight full time employees including two sanitarians, two nurses – one a registered nurse and the other a practical nurse – three secretaries and one administrator.
In addition, Fowler said, Dr. Cameron Duffy and Dr. Kevin McLaughlin work part time. Duffy is the county health officer and McLaughlin is the department’s clinical doctor.
The two sanitarians are Brian Carter, a nationally registered sanitarian who can work in any state, and Bruce Ullom who has completed seven of eight weeks of sanitarian training. Fowler is also a sanitarian as well as the department administrator.
“Diplomacy is certainly our main objective when we go out into any given situation. We are not there to try to be the total authority. We are not there to dictate this is how it is going to be.
“We are there to work with people, we are there to help people and we are certainly there to find a solution to the problems,” Fowler told planners.