Stevenson Ranch fountain.

Public Health raises septic tank costs in unincorporated areas, sends ‘confusing’ letter

In a letter recently distributed to a number of residents in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, the Department of Public Health announced a new fee on septic tank users, leaving some confused and others surprised. 

“Recently, the Department of Public Health sent out a confusing letter to residents about a new ordinance concerning septic systems,” said Tony Bell, 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s assistant chief deputy and communications director. “However, many residents without septic systems also received the letter.”

In the letter to residents dated June 20, those whose homes are newer and have always been hooked up to a sewer system were told to “please provide proof of a sewer connection, such as a sewer bill or an approved building permit to have your property removed” from DPH’s database. 

According to officials, the widespread sending of the letter caused a number of people to become confused and upset with DPH’s direction because they’ve always been on the sewer system and not had to prove it to county officials before. 

“At this time we do not know how many people this letter went to,” said Erick Matos, a health and legislative affairs deputy for Barger. “It went to several communities that have not been on septic, or were on septic over 70 years ago, and the letter put the burden on the residents to prove that they’re on sewer and not on septic.” 

There are about 47,000 septic systems, plus an additional 900 non-conventional on-site wastewater treatment systems in the county and a majority of them are in the 5th district.

In order to address this issue, Bell said, Barger’s office was directing the Department of Public Health to immediately correct the list and ensure only those impacted will receive the letter with the relevant information.

“We have a motion for the board on Tuesday asking the Department of Public Health how widespread these letters were sent and how we could rectify the problem to make sure the residents who received the letter will have no more further inconveniences,” Bell said.  

However, for those residents in Stevenson Ranch, Val Verde, Agua Dulce and Castaic who had received the letter and actually run on a septic system, there was a total fee increase of $5 per year for conventional septic tanks and $43 per year for unconventional systems, according to the letter.

“I would imagine anybody who has a recorded septic tank is going to be surprised,” said Sandia Ennis, the representative for Castaic’s 3rd Region on the Castaic Town Council. “It’s from the director of public health, and nobody knew about this and it’s new to us.”

Sandia said those who would actually be affected by this in Castaic are largely in her region and region 2, which are Hasley Canyon and Val Verde, respectively. 

Bell said the ordinance in question was adopted by the county in order to prevent the state from imposing fees of more than $1,000 a year on residences and $2,000 a year on businesses.

“Our office worked closely with the Department of Public Health and other stakeholders to ensure fees were as low as possible, and were successful in minimizing these fees,” said Bell.

In terms of those who received the letter in error, and are hooked into the sewer system, Bell said the supervisor’s office is working to correct this issue.

“Supervisor Barger wants to make sure that only the people who are impacted by this are the ones to receive the letter and notification,” said Bell.

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