Governor Signs Wake County Septic Tank Rules Changes Into Law

On Wednesday, the Governor signed into law SB 353 (Amend Cartway Path/Amend Septic Tank Laws). The bill contained a much-needed fix to a problem which recently came to light involving the application of the state’s septic tank rules in Wake County. Absent our legislative fix, this issue would have potentially cost members and landowners millions of dollars in lost land and retrofits to onsite wastewater devices as well as sparking unnecessary and costly litigation.

Like all counties, Wake has a locally-delegated onsite wastewater program which is authorized by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (Department). These locally-delegated programs must meet the minimum requirements of state rules including a rule which requires a 25-foot setback for down-slope stormwater diversions.

As a result of a recent Department audit, it was determined Wake County had, for years, only been requiring a 15-foot setback. The county began enforcing the 25-foot rule prospectively but the dilemma was what to do about lots which had previously been approved which included lots where homes are in various stages of construction. The county made the initial determination that it would not be able to “grandfather” any land or lots where applications or development plans had previously been filed, or approved, thereby leaving the legal status of countless lots in limbo. Thus, the need for a legislative fix.

The amendment provides that “the minimum horizontal distance between every sanitary sewage treatment and disposal system and downslope interceptor drains, foundation drains, and stormwater diversions shall be 15 feet…[the rule] shall only apply to stormwater diversions with cuts of 2 feet or more in vertical height” for any application or development plan submitted prior to August 1, 2019.

This language was added to SB 353 with the full support of Senator Tom McInnis (R-Richmond) who was that bill’s prime sponsor. While NCHBA’s fix would apply statewide, it appears that Wake is the only county in the state where this rule is an issue.

NCHBA’s legislative team received tremendous bipartisan support in an effort to solve this problem and we thank legislators in both chambers and the Governor for enacting this correction.

Since legislators took this week off in honor of Labor Day, no committees or sessions were held. They return next week and their primary focus will be on redistricting. On Tuesday, a three-judge Superior Court panel scrapped North Carolina’s legislative election maps. The court held, in the case of Common Cause v. Lewis, that a large number of current legislative districts were cases of “extreme partisan gerrymandering” which violated provisions of North Carolina’s Constitution.

While GOP legislative leaders stated that they disagreed with the court’s ruling, they declined to appeal. Draw new maps, the court ordered, in its 357-page ruling and do it within two weeks. That process will begin on Monday.