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Utah County health board approves the return of outhouses

By Braley Dodson daily Herald - | May 23, 2017

Outhouse regulation has returned to Utah County in a step to allow the facilities once again.

The Utah County Board of Health met Monday afternoon to hold a public hearing on the regulation and to vote to adopt it. The policy will take effect July 1. The county commission still needs to strike its ordinance banning outhouses.

The future outhouses, or vaulted privies, as the regulation refers to them, will not allow earthen privies, which are essentially just holes in the ground. Outhouses with a fiberglass or cement vault are allowed.

An outhouse is different from a portable toilet or a bathroom hooked up to plumbing. The outhouses would be permanent, seasonal, can be cleaned out and will have to be pumped and cleared at the end of the season.

The regulation states that a construction permit would have to be obtained from the Utah County Health Department before an outhouse can be built. The builder would need to have a site evaluation from the department and have an agreement on the outhouse’s maintenance before the permit could be acquired.

Builder will also need to post a $2,500 cash bond in case they don’t maintain the outhouses. That way, the county has funds to pay for immediate expenses for containment, mitigation or cleaning the outhouses. The bond will be returned when the outhouse is destroyed or removed.

The first violation of the policy is a fine of up to $5,000. A second violation could cost $10,000.

The board also set a $400 fee for outhouse review and inspections.

The bond amount was originally set at $10,000 but was lowered to $2,500 after board member and City Commissioner Greg Graves expressed that the amount was too high. Graves argued that in a catastrophic case, like a leak into Utah Lake, the county will fund what’s needed for an emergency response and then turn to a lawsuit. If there’s not a reason to use the bond, then Graves said the bond is essentially a $10,000 fee to get an outhouse.

“Taking somebody and holding $10,000 to do nothing is not what we should be doing,” Graves said.

Representatives from American Fork attended the public hearing to request the ability for cities to impose more stringent rules on outhouses, like in American Fork Canyon. After discussion, the board agreed to add items in the regulation making it clear the builder still has to abide by city rules, and that by getting the county permit it doesn’t mean the builder is in line with city laws.

Outhouses were banned in Utah County in the 1950s. The state later adopted a policy allowing for outhouses, and the county’s policy was grandfathered in. The county-level board of health can regulate outhouses if there is a health need.

Outhouses might be built at Sandy Beach on Utah Lake, along the Provo River and in American Fork Canyon.

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