MOUNT GILEAD — The Morrow County Health Department has been given 45 days to comply with recommendations of the Ohio Department of Health. They must make corrections to deficiencies in their sewage treatment program in order to keep the program in the county.
That requirement came from the Ohio Department of Health after a survey of the Morrow County Health Department’s Sewage Treatment Systems program. If deficiencies in the programs are not corrected, the Ohio Department of Health may take away the program, which would then be administered by another county or the state.
Morrow County Health Commissioner Pam Butler said the survey was conducted by Ohio Department of Health personnel on June 26 and 27. It is a survey review done for every county in the state every three to four years.
Findings of the state’s survey are that “due to major deficiencies in the Morrow County Sewage Treatment Systems (STS) program” the STS “program will be classified as provisional until major deficiencies identified in the survey report have been corrected.”
Several sewage treatment contractors were present at the July 19 Board of Health meeting. They had questions and concerns for the health commissioner and the sanitarians that approve permits for sewage and septic tank systems.
Contractor Tim Hack said, “What will we do since the Ohio Department of Health laid down the law? We don’t know what to tell our customers.”
Hack added that the notes from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) don’t always address the problems they have. Other contractors said they are also waiting to have directions on how to go forward with new septic systems, repairs and alterations.
Forty-one permits were reviewed for the administrative portion of the survey. One additional permit was chosen as the field portion where the permit location was visited and the system evaluated to determine overall compliance with ODH rules.
The survey report from the ODH addresses several deficiencies in the Morrow County Treatment Program that must be corrected. They recommend “action plans” for 27 separate sections in the report.
Some of the deficiencies found included: lack of soil evaluation for properties, incomplete permit applications, alteration permits that should have been listed as replacement permits, insufficient designs and system components that don’t conform to the rules.
NEW RULES IN 2015
Butler, who has been Health Commissioner in Morrow County for two and a half years, talked about the state survey after the meeting. She noted that the Sewage Treatment Systems program is the state’s program, administered by the counties.
She said that changes were made in the state guidelines and rules for sewage treatment in 2007 and 2015. In 2007 the ODH set requirements that all the counties had to follow.
The 2007 rules were rescinded and new rules came out in 2015.
Butler said all counties will be going through surveys. Morrow County may be scrutinized more carefully because it has the Health Sewage Treatment System Program grants and the county receives money for homeowners to have work done on their systems through this funding source.
Butler said that she has gotten much good information from Delaware County. They went through the survey last year and are sharing the format they used for checklists that the state requested. Butler said that Morrow County has good relations with surrounding counties and they share information and experiences.
“How we fix the program,” Butler said is the department’s focus. “Our goal is quality performance. To me, what public health stands for is protecting the health and safety of people in the county.”
“When there is raw sewage seeping into water, the people downstream and our own neighbors and family may get sick.”
“We need to get things done the right way from the beginning. Then it will last,” said Butler who realizes that “doing things right” will be at more cost for the homeowner. She would like homeowners to see it as an investment for health and the value of their property.
Butler said the Health Department team has already begun to take action on recommendations from the state. Several of the actions required have already been implemented. They are waiting on directions and clarification from the state on other questions they have.
It is the health department’s goal to take each point one-by-one and make sure required actions are in place by mid-August. The ODH staff will conduct a follow-up review by December 31, 2018 to determine if progress is being made to correct deficiencies.
Morrow County Board of Health President, Dr. Martha Mooney DVM, said at the July 19 meeting, “It’s the Ohio Department of Health program (referring to the Sewage Treatment Systems program). We need to go by Ohio Department of Health rules.”