Three Rivers septic systems: Out of sight, out of mind

For Three Rivers business owners, especially with river frontage, they must monitor wastewater disposal constantly. Buckeye Tree Lodge, Gateway Restaurant and Lodge, River View, Buckaroo Diner, and other Three Rivers dining and lodging establishments all are in process of a state-mandated watershed sanitary survey. There rivers septic systems

Homeowners and property managers who maintain septic systems face different challenges. Some property owners aren’t even aware of where their septic tank is located until they do maintenance or have a problem. There rivers septic systems

How do you know when you have a failure? Your nose is usually the first to know or you might notice a green patch of grass where you don’t water. In extreme cases, the plumbing backs up and overflows. There rivers septic systems

The ensuing work can be costly and impact you, your neighbors, and guests; in extreme cases, the entire community. There rivers septic systems

Septic systems are a key reason why the County of Tulare planners are drafting a short-term rental ordinance. The proposed one-time fee ($500) and inspection is aimed at verifying the carrying capacity of the septic system and checking the building permit. There rivers septic systems

When the number of local vacation rentals exploded in 2016, some property owners rushed to remodel, adding more bedrooms or structures. There have been reported septic failures because the number of occupants have exceeded the septic system capacity. There rivers septic systems

Septic systems can work fine and with minimal maintenance if properly designed and cared for.

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Three Rivers Community Services District: Septic savvy

The local Community Services District is a good place to start to be proactive about septic systems. If you notice a failure, inform Cindy Howell, the CSD’s general manager (559-561-3480). 

All residents should pay attention to the health of their septic system. The discharge of sewage could be disastrous for the river and is illegal.

The Backstory—

The CSD was organized in 1973 when voters approved an official public agency (today — “certified local government”) to receive federal grants to research a community sewer system. The entire region would see a substantial increase in residents, visitor, and tourism dollars if the then-proposed ski resort was built in Mineral King. The development needed to support a Mammoth-like project and would be the engine of unprecedented growth in Tulare County.

The topography in Three Rivers made a sewer system expensive and impractical; the community eventually voted against the sewer project. It was one nail in the coffin of the Disney Company’s proposed Mineral King development. There rivers septic systems

In connection with the local studies, the inadequacy of existing septic systems was deemed “questionable” and posed a health hazard. The California State Water Resources Control Board placed a moratorium on new septic systems and ordered “cease and desist” on existing systems under the threat of heavy fines and penalty.

The CSD filed suit against CSWRCB on behalf of the community to have these restrictions set aside. In 1979, following a settlement, an “On-Site Wastewater Disposal Zone” was created to provide for local control and regulation of the community’s septic systems.

Next time: Think before you flush: Tips to best maintain a septic system. And local ordinances that regulate wastewater disposal. There rivers septic systems

Little can go wrong in a properly installed septic tank. More often, problems occur in sluggish or clogged plumbing or the failure of the absorption field. There rivers septic systems


A well-designed leachfield can work properly for generations if the gray water and solid waste are kept within the carrying capacity of the system.

7 thoughts on “Three Rivers septic systems: Out of sight, out of mind

  • September 25, 2019 at 1:14 pm

    There needs to be a direct correlation between the occupancy allowed in a VRBO/Airbnb and the septic design approved & installed on the property. People need to understand that it’s not just the size of the septic tank but the leach field in place plays a big part. We need to keep our Rivers, streams and wells free from bacteria. Leach fields designed for a 2 bdrm home (4 people) will not accommodate 8 people. On-site laundry is a big issue and I have personally seen a leach field fail with effluent spilling onto the road below. I am not against vacation rentals but my priorities begin with our Rivers, streams & Wells. If owners want to increase their bedroom size to increase their income, then they should have to bear the cost of business & update their septic designs. Another concern is the commercial buildings that have been and are in the process of being turned into vacation rentals. Normally, a septic design for a commercial septic is a 1/2 bathroom with no consideration for bedrooms. Have they updated their septic designs to include bedrooms? They will now have kitchens, full bathrooms & laundry. These buildings are on the river. Any overflow will run right into the Main Fork. Now that’s of great concern to me!!

  • September 27, 2019 at 10:31 am

    Speaking of sewage, I’m sure everyone who drives past the vicinity of the former Ann Lang’s Emporium to the Brewing Co have noticed a horrible stench that emanates from this area. Where is this coming from and why is nothing being done to fix this. I was getting fuel one day at the Shell gas station and I overheard some tourists talking about how it smelled like TJ and didn’t want to stay and get something to eat because of the stench. I know I don’t like shopping in this area because of this. Wow like TJ, is this how we want Three Rivers to be remembered.

    • October 11, 2019 at 7:19 am

      FYI. , The odor at that site is caused by a natural sulphur spring across the highway..

  • September 28, 2019 at 12:04 pm

    According to the draft, the $500 fee is per UNIT. This is an unfair hardship, and who’s to say it’s “one-time”? This is not declared in the draft either. We all agree that septic is important, but for people like me, with one-room 2-person max occupancy STR cabins, that already surrender 10% of gross to the county, which leaves 3R, this is unfair. I’m furious about this being hoisted on me when I have literally no issues at all. I’m also interested in knowing exactly how many septic issues w/STRs there have actually been reported (as well as all complaints).

    • September 28, 2019 at 5:16 pm

      The septic design of your home was designed based on the original plans of your home. If you want to increase the number of bedrooms, (or sleeping areas) as a business owner you should be responsible for making sure your septic design is adequate to keep from polluting our groundwater. & Rivers. Hard for me to imagine any Three Rivers resident would argue with that.

  • October 12, 2019 at 9:37 am

    The $500.00 fee seems to be a disgusting money-grab by the county and should be reduced significantly.

  • October 14, 2019 at 1:49 pm

    If I understand correctly, the proposed $500 fee is not a money grab by the county. It is intended to partially recover the county’s cost to conduct an inspection aimed at verifying the carrying capacity of the septic system and checking the building permit. I imagine the actual cost of conducting those two tasks will typically exceed $500.


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