Planning board votes to extend sewer service

Published 6:42 pm Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Tyrrell County Planning Board on May 9 recommended extending the reach of the county’s Sewer Use Ordinance adopted in 2012.

The county operates a sanitary sewer service west of the Scuppernong River, and it is preparing to extend similar service to Goat Neck and Sound Side communities.

The planning board proposed that “failed” septic tank systems be required to connect to the county’s sewer service if within 500 feet of county sewer lines. The present maximum distance for mandatory hookup is 200 feet.

The ordinance defines “failed” septic systems as “those on-site systems that exhibit the following characteristics: straight piping, surfacing septic tank effluent, insufficient construction, and inadequately-sized repair areas.”

Martin-Tyrrell-Washington District Health Department is charged with determining the existence of failed systems.

Failed systems beyond the 500-foot limit will be required to “install facilities acceptable to and approved by the Health Department.”

During debate on the motion to recommend, it was pointed out that the county commissioners are committed to expanding — perhaps ultimately to every household — Tyrrell’s sanitary sewer system, which by state law is an enterprise that must operate and pay its debts from its own revenues and without appropriations from taxes.

Another reason put forward to connect more users is the threat, based on events over the past decade, of greater portions of the county becoming susceptible to flooding.

And it was stated that the purchase price of smaller subdivision lots tend to be lower than for larger ones, a significant consideration in North Carolina’s most economically distressed county.

The Subdivision Ordinance states that lots served by public water and sewer may be as small as 12,000 square feet; those with county water but no county sewer must be not less than 15,000 square feet; while those without either county water or county sewer must be at least 20,000 square feet.

If the 500-foot amendment passes, the Sewer Use Ordinance would then conform to a similar utility policy requirement that was added to the Subdivision Ordinance in 2002.

The recommendation is to be forwarded to the county commissioners, who may ignore it or schedule a public hearing on the question of adoption. If a hearing is held, the commissioners afterward may take no action or may vote on the recommendation to amend the ordinance.

Planning board members are Gail Lewis (chairman), Roger Hudson, Butch Kirkman (who was absent May 9), Ray McClees, and Tony Sawyer.

County utilities director Johnny Spencer and inspections director Joie Spencer, along with board clerk Sheryl Reynolds, were present and were consulted during the planning board debate on recommending the 500-foot limit.