Failing to get a license or a permit when septic systems are installed could soon land homeowners and system installers in jail.
Under a proposed set of Cape Girardeau County septic systems rules, those who install septic tanks without a state license and homeowners who fail to obtain a permit could be facing a year in county jail or up to $1,000 fine.
The punishments were suggested by the county health department, which recently submitted a draft of the septic tank regulations to the county commission. A public hearing will be held Oct. 9, and local installers will be invited to attend.
The new ordinance is needed to give local authorities more control in regulating septic systems, which -- if not properly installed or maintained -- could lead to sewage runoff. In other words, it could lead to polluted creeks and streams. That creates a health hazard.
The new ordinance would also close a loophole that allows builders to sidestep state regulations. State laws require septic systems to meet certain requirements, but only if the property is less than three acres.
The county ordinance would force anyone who is building or repairing a system with less than a 3,000-gallon output -- which includes all residences and some small businesses -- to comply with septic-related health standards.
It may sound like a serious punishment, but it is needed to help remedy a serious problem.