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Murrysville council to update 'draconian' septic ordinance

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By Daveen Rae Kurutz
Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

A decade after approving septic-tank regulations that have never been enforced, Murrysville officials plan to revise a controversial ordinance that requires 1,500 homeowners to have their septic tanks inspected and cleaned every three to five years.

In 2002, Murrysville Council established septic-tank regulations that include how frequently tanks should be emptied and dictate which facilities can receive the waste. The ordinance identifies the Franklin Township Municipal Sanitary Authority as an option for hauling away the waste.

In December, officials with the sanitary authority asked Murrysville to remove it from the regulation. The request gives the municipality reason to revise the ordinance, said Jim Morrison, Murrysville chief administrator.

That's not a bad thing, said Council President Joan Kearns, who voted in favor of the ordinance in 2002 but now says it's too intrusive.

“We need to have regulations that don't come across making us look like the septage police,” Kearns said.

“As it is crafted, it's not going to work. Hopefully, we can get rid of these draconian measures,” she said.

Morrison agrees that the ordinance should be revised.

“There are issues of our responsibility on private property,” Morrison said. “We need to begin discussions with (the state Department of Environmental Protection) to come up with something less onerous.”

DEP spokesman John Poister said Murrysville is the only community in the state that requires municipalitywide pumping and inspections of residential septic tanks.

Kearns isn't the only one who lost faith in the ordinance.

Helge Skreppen has had a septic tank on his property for 39 years. When his children lived at home, he had crews pump the tank every five or six years. Now, he waits a year or two longer.

“Every time I have it serviced, they tell me there is no need to,” Skreppen said. “It's filled again two weeks after it's pumped, but with dishwater.”

Floyd Messalle said the municipality has no right to come onto his property without a warrant.

“You're supposed to take care of my needs, and you do a pretty good job of that,” Messalle said. “But this ordinance is way, way out of line.”

The state requires municipalities with on-lot residential disposal systems, such as septic tanks, to provide a procedure for maintaining those systems. DEP and municipal officials in the late 1990s developed the plan to make sure septic tanks didn't back up or break because of waste buildup.

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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