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City, residents talk septic tanks

About half a dozen residents attended a meeting last week to learn more about the city’s septic tank pump-out program.

The program, mandated by state law, requires residents who have septic tanks and live within a Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area to have their tanks pumped out or inspected every five years. Roughly 6,400 properties in Suffolk are affected, in an area stretching from just south of the Suffolk airport northward.

The city has divided the preservation area into five zones, the first of which must certify compliance with the program by June 30. Those in the second zone must certify their compliance by June 30, 2011.

Residents are required either to have their tank pumped or inspected, meaning that if a certified hauler inspects the tank and finds it does not need to be pumped, the hauler does not have to pump it, but must certify that it was inspected. If a tank has been pumped within the last five years, it does not need to be done again, but the owner must provide the receipt to the city. If a septic system is fewer than 5 years old, the owner must provide the date of construction to the city.

Households the city plans to connect to sanitary sewer within the next five years do not have to take any action to comply with the program, and therefore will not receive a letter.

“We want this to be as easy as it can be,” Cindy Taylor, who works in the city’s planning and community development department, said in Tuesday’s meeting.

The estimated cost of having a septic tank pumped is between $250 and $350, depending on the size of the tank, Taylor said. The city received federal dollars to assist homeowners who have legitimate trouble paying for the service. Those who need to apply for assistance should go through the Department of Social Services, Taylor said.

Resident George Warren came to the meeting to find out whether he would have to pump the tank if it was not full.

“Shouldn’t there be a distinction between a house with eight or nine people and a house with just a couple?” Warren asked.

Warren was satisfied when he learned he needed only to have his tank inspected; pumping would be required only if necessary.

“I’m all in favor of having the tanks pumped out,” he said. “Once the damage is done, if it damages the drainfield, then there’s nothing you can do.”

Zone 1, which is required for which certifications must be submitted by June 30, includes all of Crittenden and Ferry Point roads, the northernmost part of Bridge Road and other roads in the Chuckatuck and Crittenden areas.

Zone 2, for which certifications are due by June 30, 2011, includes all of Milners Road, includes Moore Farm Lane, Everets Road, Milners Road, King’s Fork Road, Pruden Boulevard, Lake Prince Drive and other roads in that area.