Twp. could regulate septic system maintenance


Staff Writer

UPPER FREEHOLD — Septic system issues topped the Board of Health’s concerns at its last meeting.

The Board of Health not only discussed alternative septic systems at its Dec. 13 meeting, but also talked about how important it is for residents to maintain them.

Freehold Area Board of Health Officer Margaret Jahn said New Jersey lags behind other states in establishing newer septic technologies. She called current septic systems “dinosaurs,” saying that alternate ones are “cleaner and better for the environment.”

According to Jahn, alternative systems have been available for 15 to 20 years.

“It is almost laughable [how] we have been so slow to change,” Jahn said.

Jahn alleged that residents fear the use of alternative septic systems would promote township growth, as new systems could enable development to go where it previously could not. However, Jahn said, the state ruled that an alternative septic system cannot be built on a lot that is unable to support a conventional septic system.

According to Jahn, new alternative systems produce a cleaner effluent. She also said they do not require the same setback from streams as do current systems because they don’t harm groundwater.

Jahn said the board could hear a presentation on alternative systems from a manufacturer or an official from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

“I truly believe that environmentally this is where we need to be,” Jahn said. “We would be cutting edge in the state of New Jersey.”

Regulating new septic system technology would require putting a monitoring program in place, according to Jahn. She also said an ordinance regarding alternate systems could not be put in place without having a clause regarding maintenance.

She said in a town like Upper Freehold, where all the residents — excluding those in the Four Seasons and Heritage Green developments on Ellisdale Road — depend on septics, some kind of maintenance program should be in place to protect the environment.

Jahn spoke about a sample township ordinance regarding alternative septic systems. She said the language in that ordinance would need to be simplified.

Jahn said she understands that the town does not want to create an ordinance for everything. However, according to Jahn, it is in the township’s best interest to craft an ordinance that ensures residents will pump their conventional septic systems at least every three years.

“We can’t ignore good maintenance with septics,” Jahn said. “The board should be proactive.”

Committeeman Stephen Alexander, liaison to the Board of Health, said he saw the sample ordinance regarding alternative septic systems, but had not heard of an ordinance requiring residents to maintain their current ones.

Jahn said the development of an alternative septic system ordinance encourages the need for an ordinance pertaining to the maintenance of current septic systems. In addition, she said the state would not approve the use of alternative systems in the township unless the township already has an ordinance in place regarding septic systems.

The township requirements for the use of alternative systems should expand to include all systems, according to Jahn. Although existing septic systems may not immediately fall subject to a new ordinance pertaining to their use, Jahn said they could when houses are resold.

Board member James Rosenbauer said residents with traditional septic systems are “off the hook” when it comes to inspections, while those who opt for alternative systems fall subject to contracts for maintenance and alarms.

The township could send educational material regarding septic system maintenance to residents with traditional systems, according to Jahn.

Board member Nancy Amontis asked if the board is proposing new regulations because it is due to review an application for the use of an alternative septic system. Jahn said that is indeed true.

According to Jahn, the applicant, who wants to put the alternative system on a Meirs Road property, asked to give a presentation to the board next year regarding a drip irrigation system.