State officials’ plan to crackdown on septic tank owners is about what
we would expect. Safe in their silos, lawmakers and the folks at the
Water Resources Control Board imagined what would be necessary to
achieve perfection – without regard to cost, common sense or fairness.

The
outrage that followed was predictable. More than 1,600 people showed up
for hearings in Santa Rosa on Monday, eager to tell state officials to
stuff it.

For city residents, this is familiar territory. For a
long time, they have been paying higher and higher sewer rates in
response to evolving state standards for water quality. Now the focus
of state regulation has moved to rural residents.

People in
Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Cotati and Sebastopol will remember that many
rural, west-county residents demanded that state officials crackdown on
the cities. Some of those same rural residents, living near the Russian
River, weren’t so eager to talk about what happened when they flushed
their toilets. Even then, it was known that rural septic tanks also
contribute to pollution in the river.

City residents and rural
residents alike should not pretend that they don’t bear responsibility
for curbing pollution, whether in streams, rivers or the neighbors’
groundwater supply. This is, after all, a matter of public health.

The
problem is, government is not good at bringing a sensible approach to
these concerns. Instead, Sacramento proposes to punish every septic
tank owner with a costly and unnecessary testing regimen. Devising
rules that would force thousands of people from their rural homes isn’t
a good way to start.

What’s needed here are rules that identify polluters and figure out ways to help them stop polluting.