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Proposal Drops Septic Deadline

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Bernalillo County homeowners who rely on old septic tanks would no longer face a 2015 deadline to upgrade their systems under a proposal before the County Commission tonight.

Commissioner Wayne Johnson has proposed eliminating the 2015 deadline, which calls for wastewater systems to come into compliance with a code passed in 2000. About 14,000 property owners in the East Mountains, North Valley, South Valley and elsewhere are affected by the deadline, according to county estimates.

“I think it’s a tremendous economic hardship,” Johnson said.

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In some cases, the septic work could cost up to $30,000, he said. Under his proposal, septic systems wouldn’t need upgrading until they are modified, replaced or fail.

It’s unfair “for us to pick an arbitrary date and say ‘you’re going to get rid of a functioning system by that date,'” Johnson said.

Homes connected to the sewer system operated by the city-county Water Utility Authority aren’t affected. But for those who do face the deadline, repairs or replacement can cost anywhere from $3,000 to tens of thousands, the county said. Some properties may be in an area where they can just connect to the city-county sewer system.

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The goal of the 2015 rule was to limit groundwater contamination from leaky septic tanks. Removing the deadline could cost the county about $50,000 a year in lost revenue from wastewater permits, according to county estimates.

Commissioner Michael Wiener announced support for removing the deadline last week. He said he doesn’t believe the “safety of our groundwater” will be compromised by removing the deadline.

The commission meets at 5 p.m. today.

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