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[Archived] Springdale Council Imposes STEP Moratorium

| News | January 08, 2015

Developers wanting to build homes in Springdale using septic-type sewage collection systems will have to wait at least three months. 

By Bob Caudle
The NW Arkansas Morning News

SPRINGDALE --The Springdale City Council approved a moratorium, not to exceed three months, on any variation of a septic tank effluent pumping, or STEP, system at Tuesday night's meeting.

STEP and "cluster" septic systems are composed of a septic tank at each residence. Each tank has an effluent pump.

The effluent is pumped under pressure to a central filtration plant through a small diameter pipe and flows through a series of circulating filters. After filtration, the effluent flows onto a leach field for irrigation.

"We're not trying to stop development," said Chris Weiser, chairman of the Water and Sewer Commission. "We're trying to make sure development occurs in an orderly fashion."

Weiser said the commission wants time for officials of the Water Utilities Department to look at the systems and decide on a plan for the city to handle them.

"We don't have anything in our codes right now that deals with these kinds of systems," said Mayor Jerre Van Hoose. "The only laws we have are provisions for septic tanks and gravity-flow sewer systems."

Rick Pulvirenti, engineering director of Springdale Water Utilities, said the problems arise when a sewer eventually becomes available to the STEP system homes.
Water utility staff members are afraid that the septic systems, which rely on pumps for effluent flow, will not match up well with gravity-flow systems that the city uses for sanitary sewers.

Pulvirenti said the small diameter pipe system and pumps at each house would force each homeowner to redo individual septic systems when gravity flow sanitary sewer becomes available.

"We're looking at all the economic and environmental considerations," Pulvirenti said. "We want to be able to intercept the flows at the least cost to our customers."

Right now, Pulvirenti said, there are quasi-public systems with no regulations on them.

The proposed legislation has no effect on regular septic tank systems.

"It all runs downhill," Weiser said. "A developer can tell where the low point on his development is going to be. All he has to do is pump it to that point and into a leach field. When the sewer comes by, it hooks on at that point."

The land used for a leach field can later be reclaimed and used for additional construction by the developer, Weiser said.

Noting that the city currently has no provision to deal with septic-type systems, yet is passing a moratorium on them, Alderman Jeff Watson said, "Really, we're not doing anything other than what we already can't do."