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HOUSING INDUSTRY SAYS TIME TO UNCLOG STATE'S SEWAGE SYSTEM

 HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- More than 500 members of the state's housing industry today rallied in Harrisburg to tell state lawmakers Pennsylvania is far behind neighboring states when it comes to sewage technology and that the present permitting system is so full of inconsistencies it is creating nightmares for Pennsylvania residents.
 Members of the Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS(R) (PAR) and the Pennsylvania Builders Association (PBA) were in Harrisburg to urge state lawmakers to pass two pieces of legislation aimed at updating the state's Sewage Facilities Law. That law governs all on-lot sewage systems, such as septic systems, all community and public sewage systems and tap-ins, and the planning process municipalities must follow relative to sewage and water quality. The groups said the act has not had a comprehensive update for more than 20 years, putting Pennsylvania far behind neighboring states in sewage technology.
 Richard J. Stampahar, president of the PAR, said, "Pennsylvanians face a permitting process which does not recognize nor acknowledge the technical and scientific advancements made in the field of on-lot sewage septic systems. While neighboring states have approved and provided safe, alternative septic systems, Pennsylvania remains behind the times."
 The groups said Pennsylvania presently allows Sewage Enforcement Officers (SEOs) to permit just two types of on-lot septic systems. Such limitations, the groups said, mean some Pennsylvania residents may find themselves with a piece of land where no sewer system would be permitted. Other states offer a variety of sewage options, but Pennsylvania has not yet adopted the technology currently being used in other states.
 John J. Maleno, president of the 10,300-employer-member PBA, said the problems have grown worse in the past few years. He said SEOs, the people responsible for determining whether or not permits should be issued, are not properly trained to make those decisions and that the high turnover rate among SEOs ends up costing property owners a lot of extra money.
 "It's time to be logical. The legislation pending in the House of Representatives would update the present Sewage Enforcement Officer system. Under the current law, if one SEO leaves his job and another one is hired, the new SEO does not have to accept the test results of the former SEO. This forces Pennsylvania's property owners to perform some tests twice. This is an unjust and illogical process. We need to provide better training for SEOs to provide a skilled workforce to make sewage permit decisions, and we need time limits on those decisions."
 The legislation, presently in the House Conservation Committee, would update the act by establishing time frames under which permit decisions are made, would mandate training for SEOs, would encourage research into other acceptable sewage alternatives, and would require the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources to tell a permit applicant why a permit is denied. Negotiations on the legislation are currently being held with the DER, and the Pennsylvania Township Supervisors Association. The housing industry said it has already accepted a number of compromises on the legislation in an attempt to move the legislation as quickly as possible.
 One of the key areas of the proposed legislation deals with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Under current law, the Historical and Museum Commission can hold up a sewage permit if it has a reason to suspect the land in question might have archaeological significance. Maleno said some property owners are forced to pay between $2,500 to $10,000 for archaeological studies. "What we have here," Maleno said, "is a gross misuse of the law. There is nothing in the law which says the Historical and Museum Commission can require a consumer to pay. If your property is listed as historically significant you can be forced to conduct one of these studies. If you fail to conduct the study, your sewage permit can be withheld. We don't have a problem with protecting historically significant land, but where's the reason in this system? Can you really expect a property owner to shoulder such costs?"
 The housing industry said it would favor a system whereby the state would be required to pay for archaeological studies if it had a valid reason for thinking the land in question held some historical significance. The industry said, however, that the Commission and the DER's use of the present system is just another example of government over-regulation.
 The groups said they will continue to push legislative leaders for a solution to Pennsylvania's sewage permitting problems. They said their concern over the present system and the number of complaints they hear from consumers should send a strong message to state lawmakers that an update is needed.
 Stampahar said, "We face a permitting system which seems to encourage delay after delay after delays. These delays lead to higher housing costs for all Pennsylvanians. In addition to all the problems with the on-lot systems, we have municipalities who delay or refuse to update their sewage plans. This has led to DER imposing sewage permit moratoriums. It's time to bring Pennsylvania into the realm of modern sewage facilities treatment without sacrificing the need to protect the environment and our groundwater quality."
 "It's time to do the right thing," Maleno said. "Twenty years is a long time to go with no serious legislative review of the Sewage Facilities Act. Times have changed. Pennsylvania needs to move forward technologically and logically. Updating the Sewage Facilities Act is the right thing to do. Our elected officials need to get busy."
 /delval/
 -0- 10/12/93
 /CONTACT: Debra S. Tingley, APR, director of public relations/ public affairs, of the Pennsylvania Builders Association, 717-234-6209, ext. 3010, or at home, 717-921-8687, or Ty L. Smith, communications coordinator, of the Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS, 717-561-1303/


CO: Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS; Pennsylvania Builders
 Association ST: Pennsylvania IN: CST SU: LEG


MK-CC -- PH006 -- 0988 10/12/93 10:07 EDT
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Date:Oct 12, 1993
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