June 29, 2019 by Cindy Alia, photo credit Mai Moeslund
State Board of Health Significant Rule-making has been embarked upon on several topics. CAPR is working to provide oversight of the rule-making process regarding rules changes that will impact property owners' rights. Two areas of concern are the ongoing indepth rule changes for septic system (OSS) permitting and management. Another topic that can impact property owners negatively is "Animal Waste Management". CAPR has gained a seat at the stakeholder meetings on both of these topics with the intention of protecting property rights as rules review takes place.
The OSS rule-making process has been happening for several months and has been reviewing many pages of already burdensome rules.
Septic System Regulations
While CAPR was instrumental in passing legislation to protect owners of Onsite Sewage Systems (OSS), the new law was a hard-won battle. The war has yet to be won!
The State Department of Health, which oversees OSS, is reviewing their Rules (WACs). For the last year, meetings have been held with Stakeholders, including CAPR, COOMWA (Citizens Optimizing OSS Management Washington), and Realtors. Those stakeholder groups have specific interest in protecting property owners. But other “Stakeholders” include Local Health Jurisdictions, OSS designers, OSS service companies and Environmentalists. Their interests have had great influence in regulations over the years leading to greater government control and costly system upgrades. Bringing reason to the table and pushing back against that influence has been our goal throughout the stakeholder meetings.
Some recommendations for Rule changes would cause County Health Departments to consider nitrogen levels in the ground before approving a new (or replacement) OSS. Before using an over-the-counter OSS treatment, owners would be required to notify their local Health Department. Before selling a property with OSS, owners would have to provide their County Health Department with a growing list of documents and tests that slow the sales process. We will review the final draft of the proposed new rules, and inform you of how the changes made by the State Department of Health will impact you.
You may be asked to send your own comments on aspects of the Rules changes during the public comment period. CAPR will keep you informed! The Stakeholder meetings will conclude in August. Then the Department of Health Officials will make their rule recommendations … keeping in mind the comments from a full year of Stakeholder input, but not obligated to using them. The cost/benefit and other studies must be done by DoH staff with this significant rule-making. CAPR is concerned the proposed rules may not be in keeping with the intent of recently passed and enacted legislation we worked and was passed last session https://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=5503&Year=2019&Initiative=false The proposed draft of the new rule will be published for public input. It is anticipated that public meetings will be held in 4 local areas in the State, with conference-calling hook ups available. The final phase is a recommendation regarding the draft rule from the DoH staff to the State Board of Health. That body is appointed by the Governor and has final say on the Rules governing OSS.
The Rules Revisions process requires scientific justification and studies to determine cost/benefit analysis and other significant criteria required with significant rule changes. CAPR will continue to represent property owners in this process. While we will take care to represent property owners in the rulemaking process, and we have had some success in pushing back against over-reaching regulatory proposals, it appears it will be inevitable that some recommendations will not represent the best interests of property owners. CAPR will make clear opposition to any recommendations that do not reflect the best interests of private property owners and their rights both in public meetings and in media form to represent and inform our members and supporters.
Animal Waste Regulations
The State Board of Health has determined to rule-make in revising current WACs regulating the management of animal waste. There have been two stakeholder meetings and will possibly be a third meeting. Various interests are included in the stakeholder group, and CAPR has asked to be a stakeholer on this rule-making as well with a view to protect property owners and to prevent duplicative rules as other agencies also regulate animal waste management. Because other agencies do regulate animal waste CAPR will work to prevent duplicative rules which confuse and at times may become contradictory. This is important because the BOH may include enforcement into the rule making so it is all the more important to oversee the process of rule-making. CAPR will follow the progess of meetings and the process of revising the WAC rule and report on the proposed draft rule to inform our members. A public comment period is a mandated part of the process and we will again provide information so our members may make informed comments on the draft rule.