Assemblyman’s septic bill slips down the drain

Gaines pledges to fight state’s mandatory inspection program
By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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Assemblyman Ted Gaines’ attempt to save many of his constituents hundreds of dollars in state-mandated septic-system inspection fees hit a committee roadblock Tuesday. The Roseville Republican tried to convince the Democrat-dominated environmental safety and toxic materials committee to support his bill to repeal the fee proposal and leave inspections in local government hands. Despite backing by a coalition of government and organizations that includes Placer County, the City of Auburn, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors of California, the Gaines bill failed to make it out of the committee. The bill was meant to repeal a state law enacted nine years ago. The law initiated an inspection program for all septic tanks and wells. The inspection program has yet to be implemented. The committee did approve a bill Tuesday by Assemblywoman Alyson Huber, D-Lodi, that didn’t call for a repeal of the fee but, instead supported modification of provisions of 2000’s Assembly Bill 885 that would allow local agencies to oversee onsite septic-system requirements. The committee also turned down a bill being proposed by Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Chico, that would make the inspections mere recommendations instead of requirements. While the Huber bill is making a move in the Assembly, groups such as the Association of Rural Counties are working on their own with the state Water Resources Control Board to modify AB 885 provisions. Revision efforts follow a wellspring of negative public reaction earlier this year to plans calling for inspections on septic systems and wells. Those inspections are expected to cost users at least $320 each every five years. The revisions are expected to be completed in August. Gaines said he’ll continue to press for changes. In the past two months, the assemblyman said he had gained support for his bill from Alpine, Shasta, Trinity and El Dorado counties, as well as Placer County and Auburn. “I got a chance to state my case,” Gaines said. “We had testimony from folks around the state.” The initial vote at the hearing was 3-1, with no chance of it going out of committee. With 1.3 million septic-system users in the state, Gaines said he’ll continue to represent the concerns of many of those people. “This is still a very real concern and I’ll continue to represent the interests of my constituents on removing the fee and keeping local control,” he said. Huber’s bill has language that Gaines said he’s not comfortable with. “I’m not seeing clarity in the language that the fee will not be changed,” he said. Instead of mandatory inspections, Gaines said the state should have a program that is complaint-driven and centering around local control of inspections. Currently, county inspections take place at the construction stage and inspections follow complaints. Penryn’s Muriel Davis said she’ll continue to support efforts by Gaines and others to fight inspection plans. Her rural home has both a well and septic system, which could mean inspections costing more than $600. “The plans are too drastic,” Davis said. “The impact on everybody is going to be tremendous.” The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at