8,700 Delaware Township homeowners have to check septic tanks
Some 8,700 homeowners in Delaware Township will be required to have septic tanks checked for capacity and possibly pumped every three years under a proposed township ordinance.
"It's another government intrusion into our lives," Delaware Supervisor Tom Ryan said at a recent workshop meeting. Supervisors are not thrilled about imposing the new rule, but they must address the condition of aging septic systems in the township.
Part of the Pennsylvania Sewage Facilities Act, known as Act 537, requires municipalities to have an inspection plan for on-lot systems.
The township will be mapped into three sections. Each year, homeowners in one rotating section will receive notice that they must contact a septic hauler that is licensed with the township. The septic hauler will do a "sludge judge" test. That is, a special stick that measures the fullness of the septic tank.
If the tank is at more than one third of its capacity, the homeowner must have the tank pumped.
Failure to comply could result in a $1,000 fine.
Homeowners who can show they have pumped or replaced the tank in the previous three years will be exempt for that round of testing.
A township representative will perform spot checks during some sludge judge tests to assure haulers are reading the test properly.
Septic haulers representing five local businesses attended the Delaware supervisors workshop this week to discuss the plan. Some cautioned against using the word "inspection" to describe this action. A sludge judge alone is not an inspection and many of the hauler staff are not certified inspectors. That is a different expertise than hauling and pumping.
The fear is that homeowners will believe their tank passed an inspection when other problems in the system besides fullness could exist. It could lead to liability issues down the road.
It was not clear what haulers would charge for a sludge judge test or if the cost of the test would be waived if it turns out that a pump is needed.
Supervisors are still fine tuning the details of this ordinance. Once that is done, public hearings will be held to get feedback from homeowners.