Five-year plan set for septic pump-outs

Published 11:01 pm Wednesday, November 19, 2008

More than 6,000 property owners in Suffolk must go on a five-year cycle of pumping out their septic tanks, the City Council learned during a work session on Wednesday.

According to both the Virginia code and Suffolk’s Unified Development Ordinance, septic tanks have to be pumped out at least once every five years.

In June, the Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance Board said it was time Suffolk began to implement the septic tank pump-out provisions in order to be consistent with the requirements of the Chesapeake Bay Act.

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Scott Mills, planning director for the city of Suffolk, said in his presentation that research has shown failing septic systems contribute considerable amounts of pollution to groundwater, the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

Mills said all property owners who have property in the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area (which includes about 6,453 parcels in Suffolk) would be responsible for pumping out their septic tanks at least once every five years.

Pumping out a septic tank can cost anywhere from $250 to $350, and the property owner would be responsible for paying the costs. The city will require proof of the work in the form of a receipt from the company that did the work.

City officials are hoping to take the next five years to complete the process. They have divided Suffolk’s Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area into five zones and will be sending notification letters to one zone each year.

Mayor Linda T. Johnson said it was “very important” to communicate the need of pumping septic tanks with the public.

“There is a perception by a lot of people that the tanks don’t need to be pumped,” she said.

Mills said that in addition to the letters, the department of planning and community development would also hold a public meeting for residents to further explain the matter.

Also during the work session, Council heard two more presentations, one from Director of Public Works Eric Nielson and one from Director of Public Utilities Al Moor.

Nielson spoke about the Total Maximum Daily Load – or the maximum amount of pollutants a water body can take without harming the productivity of the water. Nielson outlined plans to study further Suffolk’s TMDL and the city’s potential future actions.

Moor briefed Council on the Fat, Oil and Grease Program. He presented council with the city’s current ways of cutting down on grease in its pipes, as well as ideas for lowering the amounts of fats and oils that make their way into Suffolk’s stormwater system.