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County commissioners change septic system regulations

“The idea is to catch those failing systems and protect the health of citizens”

by Kristy Acuff

The Gunnison Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to approve changes to the county’s septic system regulations at its June 19 board meeting. Starting in June 2019, property owners of buildings with septic systems in unincorporated Gunnison County must have an inspection performed prior to the transfer of title of the property. The inspection must show that the system is functioning as designed before the county will issue a transfer of title acceptance document. The inspection would be valid for two years to allow time for title transfers.

“This regulation is designed to locate failing septic systems in our county which currently are not subject to inspection requirements unless they are in a special area like the Crested Butte Watershed district, for example,” explained Crystal Lambert, building and environmental health official with Gunnison County. “Essentially, this is a way to protect the health and safety of citizens by keeping our septic systems in good working order and protecting our ground and surface waters.”

Properties with septic systems in the Crested Butte watershed are currently required to have inspections every two years, with some exceptions for new or recently repaired systems, according to Lambert.

If an inspection reveals needed repairs, the county can issue a conditional acceptance document if the buyer acquiring the title agrees to obtain the needed repairs within 90 days of closing.

If the property’s septic system is inaccessible due to snow or frozen ground, the county can grant a conditional acceptance document if the buyer acquiring title prepays for an inspection and agrees to have the inspection completed as soon as the property is accessible.

When asked whether the new regulation could have a negative impact on property transfers, Brieonna Aljets, CEO of the Gunnison Country Association of Realtors, indicated that most likely would not be the case. “Overall there are a number of buyers that already get a septic inspection if purchasing a home that has one; it’s not a bad practice for the buyer to ensure the septic is in good working condition,” said Aljets.

“Mortgage companies require building inspections prior to lending and I would contend that septic inspections are equally important,” explained Lambert. “The buyer needs to know what they’re purchasing because if it needs repair, that can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.”

Any newly repaired or newly built system (within four years) would be exempt from the inspection requirement. In addition, property transfers as a result of death or foreclosure would also be exempt.

Last year, 80 properties with septic systems underwent property transfers, according to Lambert.

In addition to the transfer of title requirements, the county is requiring that currently licensed septic professionals, including installers and cleaners, enroll in certified education courses to have their licenses renewed, starting in 2020. Lambert says there are options for courses around the state and hopes to have one offered in Gunnison next winter.

“If the owner of a septic operation takes the course and passes the test, could their employees work under the owner’s certification? Or would each employee have to pass the exam as well?” asked county commissioner Phil Chamberland.

“The employees would have to obtain a vacuum truck certification but not necessarily the longer installer’s course,” replied Lambert. “All of our current license holders will have until 2020 to obtain their national certification and any new applicant for a license will have to have this in order to be issued a license for our county.”

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