Ordinance 2008-109 adopted by the Board of County Commissioners requires the use of groundwater protection for new construction and major repairs and alterations. The information provided below identifies reasons why onsite wastewater treatment systems are a focus of county action.
RULES: Existing state rules (Statewide Land Use Planning Goal 11) limit new or expanded sewer systems outside of city limits or unincorporated community boundaries unless there is an existing or imminent health hazard and there is no practicable alternative to sewer.
The definition of "no practicable alternative" specifies that using onsite systems to correct a public health hazard is the preferred alternative under state rule. Data from the La Pine National Demonstration Project shows that onsite systems are available that can fix the problem now, in other words, that there is a practicable alternative to sewer systems. There may be specific circumstances where this is not true, however, those areas have not been identified at this time. More information on the process related to creating or expanding sewer systems is available here.
EXPENSE: In 1997, the cost of sewering south Deschutes County was about $200 million.
This estimate included land, materials and construction but not the long term interest payments on loans or ongoing operation and maintenance costs for the system. Today, the cost of sewering has increased substantially because of increases in the cost of both land and materials. In 1997 dollars, the cost per household for creating or extending sewers ranged between $19,000 and $28,000. The range was developed for sewering the entire area versus smaller subdivision or community systems. Nitrogen reducing onsite systems available today range from approximately $7,000 for an upgrade to an existing system to $18,000 for an entirely new system. Detailed groundwater modeling produced for the La Pine sub-basin shows that we can save a significant amount of money by focusing on onsite wastewater treatment systems instead of centralized sewers.
NATIONAL APPROACH: In 1997, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) responded to questions posed by the US Congress about the viability of using onsite systems as long-term solutions for wastewater treatment.
The US EPA response to Congress (see column on the right) found that onsite wastewater treatment systems are viable long-term solutions as long as they are properly located, installed and maintained. Additional research since that time, including the La Pine National Decentralized Wastewater Treatment Demonstration Project, has produced additional data and other information in support of this finding.