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Web letter by Joseph W. Baker: Only state-registered testers can be trusted for soil sampling

State Rep. Matt Lehman is a co-sponsor of House Bill 1480.

HB1480 has been introduced to remove the requirement for soil sampling for onsite sewage system site evaluations to be conducted by a state-certified soil scientist.

I am absolutely opposed to HB 1480. I believe that allowing a person who is not an Indiana registered soil scientist to conduct onsite soil investigations would be detrimental to the state of Indiana.

The Indiana Registry of Soil Scientists is in place to protect both homeowners and the environment.

The homeowner is protected by being assured that the registered soil scientist conducting an onsite soil investigation has the knowledge and experience to properly identify soil characteristics. With the soil properly identified and described, an appropriate onsite septic system can be utilized.

With a system appropriate to the soils on a home’s lot, septic system failure is less likely to occur and a homeowner will not have sewage in his yard.

The environment is protected with a septic system appropriate to the soils on a home lot as well. With a properly working onsite septic system, sewage is neither leaking onto the surface of the ground nor being discharged into a stream or creek.

With a non-IRSS person conducting an onsite soil investigation, there is no assurance that the investigation will be conducted properly or correctly.

With an Indiana registered soil scientist, a homeowner is assured that the soil scientist:

•has had proper education and experience to conduct an onsite soil investigation.

•participates in continuing education.

•participates in field exercises to keep his or her skills sharp.

•is subject to oversight of an ethics committee.

In a three-year education cycle, a registered soil scientist must complete at least 45 hours of continuing education participate in at least one field exercise.

In a field exercise, a soil scientist is tested in three areas:

•Landscapes, landforms and landform components.

•Soil texture.

•Soil morphology (describing the physical features of a soil profile).

This is not a written exam but is done in the field.

The field exercise takes three hours; time is taken at the end of the exercise to discuss and evaluate the exam.

Results are sent to the soil scientist after the exam has been graded. The soil scientist is given his or her score from each of the areas. High, low and mean scores are also noted. If a soil scientist scores low in any or all areas, he or she knows they need to study to sharpen their field skills.

A non-IRSS person conducting a soil investigation is subject to no continuing education, no ethics oversight and certainly no field exercises. There is simply no assurance that a non-IRSS person is qualified to describe a soil profile.

This is potentially disastrous, particularly on our recessional moraine soils.

If soil is improperly described and a septic system fails because of it, a homeowner has a grievous disaster in his or yard.