SB 384, the Waterfront Septic Failure Notification Bill, passed the N.H. House of Representatives by a vote of 176-122. Starting in January 2009, failed septic tests for developed waterfront properties that are being sold must be reported to DES and local officials.
The new law creates a method of accounting for septic systems that endager public waters, according to the N.H. Lakes Association, which initiated the bill. At present, septic system site assessments are required to be performed at the time of sale but are reported only to the property’s buyer.
Since the bill passed on what is known as a divisional, or voice, vote, State records do not show how local legislators voted. Representatives Howard Cunningham and Virginia Heard did not respond to several requests to comment.
State Representative Harry Merrow, who is a member of the Resources, Recreation and Development Committee, told the Alliance by email that he voted against the bill, but not because he opposed it. He said he wanted the Committee to work on it over the summer to address what he said were unresolved issues, including establishing criteria for qualified septic inspectors.
Merrow also pointed out that the law would require the seller of a waterfront home to pay a fee to inspect the existing sepic system even if the buyer planned to demolish the home and replace it, which would require a new septic plan.
The bill now goes to the Senate Energy, Environment and Economic Development Committee, which must agree to a House amendment that eliminated a delay in applying the law to developed properties on 4th order streams and larger. The amendment was made to allow DES to combine public education efforts for the new law with education on recent changes in the Comprehensive Shoreland Protection Act (CSPA).
The CSPA changes went into effect on April 1 with an asterisk noting that the effective date could change – and it did. Last week Governor Lynch signed a bill making the new effective date July 1, 2008. Until then the State is operating under the pre-existing rules, and new projects and activities conducted within the protected shoreland do not require a permit until July 1st – with another asterisk.
A provision of the April 1st changes requiring a 50 ft. minimum primary structure setback from protected waters is in effect in all towns, even if local laws specify a lesser primary setback.
Fortunately, failed off waterfront septic systems don’t in anyway endanger public waters and thousands of day boaters “hold it” till they get to the nearest out of state rest stops.