ADEQ proposed phased implementation for new septic system standards<BR>

In response to concerns raised by Mohave County officials, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has proposed a phased-in plan for carrying out new rules for regulating septic tanks in the state.

ADEQ officials also said it is likely few property owners in the Kingman area would need to worry about having to install more extensive nitrogen-removing systems to reduce the threat of groundwater contamination.

"We believe it isn't going to be an issue for most of you," ADEQ Water Quality Director Karen L.

Smith told a gathering of about 100 people Monday night at the Kingman campus of Mohave Community College.

The proposed rule probably will not apply because the groundwater is at least 250 feet deep in the Kingman area, Deputy Water Quality Director Chuck Graf said.

The nitrogen-reducing systems would be required beginning July 1, 2001, for existing underdeveloped lots under an acre and all undeveloped lots split before that date if the groundwater is less than 250 feet deep in either case.

The groundwater level in most of the city wells, located in the Butler area, is at least 500 feet deep, said city Utilities Superintendent Scott Yocum, who did not attend the meeting on septic tanks.

The nitrate presence is too small to be detected.

By contrast, the groundwater level is much shallower in the Bullhead City area, said Mary Ettinger, county environmental health supervisor in the Bullhead City office.

The groundwater level is as low as 3.5 to 16 feet deep in Mohave Valley.

Ettinger did not attend the meeting, but said she planned to show up at a similar meeting Tuesday morning at Bullhead City Hall.

ADEQ officials have said they proposed the more stringent rules in response to groundwater contamination in Bullhead City, Lake Havasu City and elsewhere in the state.

The Governor's Regulatory Review Council is scheduled to consider the rules when it meets Dec.

5.

The officials agreed to revise the rules after meeting with Mohave County Supervisor Carol Anderson and other county officials, Smith said.

The supervisors also discussed the rule changes at their meeting earlier on Monday and voted not to oppose the changes provided they are not all carried out at once.

Contacted after the two-hour meeting at MCC, Smith said, "I thought it was a positive meeting.

I think that people who had existing systems who thought they had to replace them with alternative systems found out they did not have to do it."

However, Dave Hollingsworth, a Kingman real estate broker and president of the Arizona Association of Realtors, remained skeptical.

"It's a rush to judgment," he said after leaving the meeting.

"This whole meeting evidenced that."

Hollingsworth was one of several people who peppered ADEQ officials with questions, challenged the need for the nitrogen-reducing systems and said they were too costly.

Several people who attended also criticized ADEQ for not conducting any meetings on the proposed rule changes and not involving Realtors in the rule-writing process.

ADEQ worked closely from representatives from mines, industry, homeowners, cities and towns, urban and rural areas, engineers, contractors and other "stakeholders" before presenting the proposal in April and issuing a final draft in September.

Smith apologized, saying, "We did not think of the Realtors.

They were not part of the initial stakeholder group.

That was a mistake."

Smith said afterward that ADEQ plans to conduct workshops in Mohave County and throughout the state in December on the proposed revisions.

Phased-in schedule explained

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has revised a schedule for carrying out a proposed rule change for on-site septic systems.

Under the previous proposal, all new homes built after Jan.

1, 2001, would have to install nitrogen-removing septic systems if the homes are built on under and acre.

The provisions would have applied for homes and other housing developments that are not connected to a municipal-style sewer treatment system.

Under the revision, all residential lots on subdivisions approved by ADEQ on or after Jan.

1 would require the new systems, said Chuck Graf, deputy director for water quality for ADEQ.

Motels, recreational vehicle parks, campgrounds, apartment complexes and other housing developments apart from single-family homes would have to meet that deadline if they generate under 24,000 gallons of sewage a day, Graf said.

The second phase kicks in July 1, 2001, with the requirement for the nitrogen-reducing systems on all residential lot splits created on or after that day if the new lots are under an acre.

The requirement also applies for existing undeveloped subdivision lots less than an acre and on all lots split before that day, in both cases if the groundwater depth is less than 250 feet.

The third phase, which starts Jan.

1, 2002, requires the systems for all undeveloped lots of under an acre if they were created by lots split before July 1, 2001, and on other undeveloped lots.

Four exceptions apply, according to an ADEQ fact sheet.

The exceptions are:

• The applicant demonstrates that there is no existing or reasonably foreseeable use of groundwater that might be adversely affected.

• The applicant demonstrates that conditions will prevent nitrogen reaching the groundwater from exceeding 0.15 pounds per day per acre per day.

• ADEQ has approved a master plan for a development within which lots prove that the nitrogen loading does not exceed the 0.15 pounds limit over the entire area covered by the development and water quality standards for nitrates would not be violated.

• ADEQ has declared that nitrogen loading exceeding the 0.15-pound threshold does not contaminate groundwater.