Proposed sewer rules change draws critics
WINDHAM — Proposed changes in the town’s sewer regulations led to a heated discussion during Monday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting, where many voiced concerns that the changes would prove too costly to residents.
Following a two-hour debate, the board opted to postpone any final decisions until an upcoming meeting, giving them time to consider this week’s input.
A motion by Selectman Bruce Breton to strike down the changes altogether wasn’t supported by fellow board members.
Selectman Roger Hohenberger said that “there are changes he’d like to see made,” though he wasn’t in favor of the proposed ordinance changes as written.
Town Administrator David Sullivan said the four-page document outlining the potential changes was posted on the town website about a week ago.
The new ordinance would govern the design and installation of home and commercial septic systems and would require property owners to obtain approval from both the N.H. Department of Environmental Services and the town.
Replacement systems would not be permitted within 75 feet of any water supply source or well.
As of Monday night’s meeting, no one had contacted the town offices with concerns, according to Sullivan.
However, several residents, local tradesmen and others showed up at the meeting to air some concerns in person.
Community Development Director Laura Scott said she felt “the proposed changes would put an undue burden on property owners.”
Scott said since the new rules would require all sewer waivers to go before the town’s health board in a public hearing forum, the process would give the applicant just about two weeks to obtain all the required paperwork and permits.
“There would also be a timing issue with someone having to come before the board before they can seek state approval,” she said.
Septic system designer Ken Walsh, who has worked in Windham since 1982, said the proposed changes concern him as they appear to “outlaw serial distribution in town.”
Walsh said he also took issue with a proposed change requiring the removal of all soil and its replacement with sand.
“I’ve been doing these for over 30 years and have never dug down to the water table to replace all the soil with sand,” he told selectmen. “You don’t dig out soil that doesn’t need to be dug up.”Walsh said state law no longer permits septic system replacements-in-kind, but contractors are allowed to seek a waiver if the existing system is within 24 inches of the water table.
He said the proposed town changes would cost property owners an additional $5,000 to replace their septic systems.
Windham Building Inspector Michael McGuire advised selectmen to stick with the current DES regulations, which he said allows opportunities for innovative technology.
Bill Evans, former administrator of the state DES’ septic program, said he came to the meeting “to help the town avoid going backwards.”
Evans said only 24 inches of unsaturated soil is needed “to accomplish aerobic biological treatment.”
Resident Shane Gendron said he felt the changes would be a waste of town resources and posed environmental concerns.
“I see no proof that by raising the soil levels by four feet means better treatment,” he said.