Alameda County will be starting to implement a State law that requires all residential septic systems (onsite wastewater treatment systems known as OWTS) comply with new standards to protect groundwater discharges. These regulations will affect almost 1/3 of the homes in the HEIA area, principally from Weaver to Hansom, on the west side of Skyline, and a few properties on the east side of Skyline.

In order to facilitate our ability to act together, we need to be able to communicate with affected households as a group. We have set up a separate mailing group to accomplish this HEIASepticCoalition@ hillcrestestates.org. Contact Shanee Martin directly at shanefmartin@hillcrestestates.org to ensure you are informed and join the coalition.

Alameda County Environmental Health Department updates information on their website - CLICK HERE

Background 

- By Shanee Martin, HEIA Board Member lead for Septic to Sewer

Due to the new standards, it is likely that most of the existing septic systems would not pass inspection, and will be considered "failed” systems due to requirements on topography, slope, soils, proximity to streams etc. Even though many systems may be "grandfathered in”, they would still be required to pass routine annual inspections, which they would not pass.

Until a "failed” system is connected to the sewer system, it is understood that the City of Oakland would be unlikely to approve any permits for home improvement projects or additions.  Also the sewer connection would have to be completed or disclosed before sale of the property. Failure to connect to the sewer system could possibly also lead to the property to be considered "uninhabitable" or red tagged.

The main problem is that the City of Oakland Public Works says that there is no funding to extend the sewer system, and there are significant areas within HEIA where there are no sewers to connect to. This puts the connection problem on the individual homeowners, and due to the distance to the sewer, the cost of a standard connection is prohibitively expensive.

We are trying to mount a joint effort to connect to the Oakland sewer system as a community, rather than as individuals, as a means of minimizing the cost to the individual homeowners. What we envision is the formation of a Special Assessment District that would also spread the cost over a period of several years, and a plan for the whole community rather than the focus on individual solutions.

Many of us have voiced the desire to develop a cohesive, concerted and combined effort to deal with this problem as a group, so that we can better address this issue with the relevant government organizations. Approval of a special assessment district requires at least 50% + 1, of the affected households.

- by Kent Grisemer, Castle Drive homeowner in Piedmont Pines

I wanted to let all neighbors in the Oakland Hills know about an issue many are having with the City of Oakland. This issue effects all properties that are currently on a septic system with no City sewer fronting their house. 

Current law states that no additions (an addition is considered to be either any project over $100,000, an added bathroom, or an added bedroom) may be made to any house that is on a septic system unless they connect to the City sewer. Another law states that no new or replacement septic systems may be built, but instead the properties that are connected to said failing septic system will have to connect to the City sewer. These laws are being pushed by the Alameda County Health Department for the good of all residents, helping to reduce ground and water pollution caused by septic systems.

Unfortunately, there is an added regulation that makes this conversion to City Sewer unattainable by the average resident: If the house that is required to connect to the City sewer does not currently have a City sewer adjacent to their property, the owners must extend said sewer themselves. Due to the nature of extending the City Sewer in the Hills and having to follow all City infrastructure codes and regulations, this runs on the magnitude of ~$500/ft (this number is the lowest estimate I received for looking into extending the City sewer 200' up the hill to my residence).

Obviously this exorbitant cost is unattainable by the average Oakland Hills resident. I discovered this issue after considerable time and expense was spent on designing my combined septic and house renovation. I was informed by the city that I would have to extend the sewer in order to get the required permits for construction. After getting the above mentioned estimates, we have stopped all work as we cannot afford the $100,000 cost to extend the sewer. 

As a result I have, along with several other residents experiencing the same problems, been actively working with the Alameda Health Department to persuade the City of Oakland to come up with an affordable way for the average homeowner to convert to the City Sewer. Options include the City sewer extensions be built by the City and assessed into our property taxes or allow simpler, much cheaper systems to be utilized to extend the City system.

Unfortunately, there has been no headway with the City. If we can get more residents with concerns or who are currently effected by these rules to express their issues, hopefully we can get the City of Oakland to take notice and move on this issue. Please message me if you are interested and I can forward you an e-mail I have sent to our City Council member and the Mayor that will expand on this issue, its effects, and affordable solutions. I can also add signatures to future e-mails on the subject. The more people who express dissatisfaction with these rules, the more apt the City of Oakland is to take notice and do something to remedy the situation.