• Kendra Milligan, GC Health Council

Guest Column - Got Septage?

Have no idea what it is?

Septage is the concentrated sewage that is pumped out of septic tanks. There are 6,500 permitted septic tanks in Grant County, and many more that are not permitted. A recent regulation change by the New Mexico Environment Department requires that at all real estate transfers a septic system must be inspected and pumped. Click here for a Q&A from NMED. If systems fail inspection they must be replaced. From August 2006 to August 2007 there were 185 residential sales in the MLS that had septic systems. According to a local pumping company they pump on average 48 residential septic systems a month. A residential septic system is generally around 1200 to 2600 gallons. At this time they charge $275 to $325 to inspect the tank and $150 to $185 to pump it out. These are additional costs the home seller pays when selling.

The big issue here is that in the past the pumped septage has been treated by Phelps Dodge. However, the contract expired several years ago and new regulations make it impossible for Phelps Dodge to continue to accept the waste. Grant County lacks facilities that can treat the waste the pumpers are handling. This means that other alternatives have to be found. One suggestion on the table is to haul the septage to Playas, NM. This would greatly increase the costs of pumping the waste, the estimate from the pumping company would be $400 to $500. Not only would a home seller be facing higher costs at closing but the closing could be delayed considerably. Other suggestions are to build sludge beds, the county has the land, however it is my understanding that there may be issues concerning the water table in that area. This is an issue for any home owner in Grant County that has a septic system. The recommendation is that all septic systems should be pumped out every three years. With the ever increasing regulations tied into protecting our groundwater it may come to be that all septic systems will have to be inspected every few years and if found that the tank is leaking it will have to be replaced. Replacement systems start at about $8,000. Some systems closer to the water table or in critical areas have to be replaced with much more expensive systems and have to have monthly monitoring, thereby vastly increasing the costs.

The community needs to come together and discuss solutions to this issue! A Septage Forum is being put together by the Grant County Community Health Council and the Southwest Council of Governments. The fourm will take place at the Grant County Administration office on Friday, August 24th from 9 a.m. to noon.

For more information contact Kendra at the Health Council at 388-1198, ext 10.

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