OVID — In a split vote Tuesday, the Seneca County Board of Supervisors approved a new local law mandating periodic inspections of private septic systems on properties within 250 feet of lakes and canals.

The law also applies to properties being sold that have septic systems.

The law, called the Seneca County Watershed Protection Law, takes effect April 1, 2022.

The vote was 9-4 to adopt. The weighted vote was 535-157.

The Seneca Falls trio of Paul Kronenwetter, Ralph Lott and Mike Ferrara, Lodi’s Kyle Barnhart, Fayette’s Cindy Lorenzetti, Ovid’s Joseph Borst, Varick’s Bob Hayssen, and the Waterloo duo of Don Trout and James Cleere voted in favor. Junius’ Ernie Brownell, Covert’s Michael Reynolds, Romulus’ David Hayes, and Tyre’s Ron McGreevy were opposed.

Waterloo’s Michael Enslow was absent.

That vote followed Brownell’s motion to refer the local law back to the board’s Environmental Affairs Committee for possible revisions. While the motion received seven yes votes and six nays, the weighted vote tally fell short of the 376 needed for approval. The motion received 334 weighted votes.

During a public hearing on the proposed law at the start of the meeting, former county Health Department sanitarian Tom Scoles expressed concerns about some aspects of the law, although he agreed with the concept of protecting lake and canal water quality.

“Rather than cut and paste a law from another county, maybe you should make it specific to Seneca County,” Scoles said. “I don’t see any administrative support, and I think it needs revisions, even though it has merit.”

County resident Karen Birch also cited several problems she sees with the law as it’s written. She mentioned the cost to administer the inspections, to the county and property owners. She called the measure an “overreach” and “heavy-handed,” asking that it be tabled for further review.

Kronenwetter, the law’s main proponent, said the bill already was compromised by only including properties within 250 feet of the shoreline of any water body. He cited the growing presence of algal blooms and noted the two lakes are primary sources of drinking water, and tourism attractions, that need to be protected. Lorenzetti agreed.

“Thank you,” Kronenwetter said after the vote. “This is a very important step.”

The law requires inspections by certified individuals. Deficiencies would be corrected by contractors approved by the county Health Department. Property owners would pay a fee for inspections.

Inspections would be done every five years, based on a rotation of two towns per year, starting with Fayette and Ovid in 2022 and followed by Lodi and Seneca Falls in 2023, Covert and Waterloo in 2024, Varick and Romulus in 2025, and Junius and Tyre in 2026.

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