Why Won't My Town Let Me Worry About My Own Crap?

Terri writes that when the homes in her neighborhood were built more than 60 years ago, they were built with septic tanks instead of being part of a municipal sewer system. Instead of maintaining their own tanks, some residents want to be part of the sewer system, and the neighborhood is about to become one with the sewer system. Terri wonders: what can she do to stop this? She’d welcome input from any readers who have had similar experiences.

We live in the suburbs of [a city in the Northeast] on a quiet residential street with homes that were built with septic systems in the 1940s. Many of us maintain our systems and they work just fine. But, those who do not take care of their crap (literally) are whining for someone else to fix their problems. Now we’ve been told that the County Health Department has been involved and according to our township’s sanitary authority, the only solution is to run sewage to 37 homes along the street with an estimated price tag of $850,000.

We met with the sanitary authority board a few days ago to hear specifics as we were told in a letter that there would be an open discussion as to “whether or not” the project would proceed. However, at the meeting the board members simply stated that the project is moving forward and they just needed the formal vote. Based on the $850,000 proposal submitted to the county, the township has received a grant for $100,000, but they have yet to complete a finance plan and to find the additional funds. We’ve been told that “on average, tap in fees range from $10,000 – $12,000”, but when I further questioned the board members regarding the $850,000 cost, we were told that we could also be responsible for a portion of this overall cost.

My questions:

1. Can we fight this in any way?

2. Are we, the residents, required to pay additional fees if the township cannot fund the $850,000 estimated project cost?

3. The “on average” fees are extremely high from what I’ve read of neighboring municipalities, is this the norm?

4. Are there any lending programs available which may help us?

Thanks in advance for any advice and/or suggestions.

Start by taking these questions to your elected representatives, any that you might have depending on the structure of government: mayor, county or state legislatures, county executive, and so on.

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