Virginia Acts on Nitrogen Reduction

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The Virginia state EPA-approved Watershed Implementation Plan includes nitrogen-reducing onsite systems and pumping of septic tanks every five years. Implementation would require legislation approved by the General Assembly.

Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech called the plan the most far-reaching and ambitious ever devised to clean up state rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. Clarke County supervisors said such legislation would open the floodgates for alternative onsite systems without regard to local hydrology and other concerns. They hope to gain oversight and control of systems where local environmental conditions are not favorable.



The Mille Lacs County board adopted an onsite ordinance that requires a point-of-sale compliance inspection before selling properties with septic systems. Previously, only those installed along lakes or rivers required an inspection. The county has about 600 onsite systems.



The Lewis and Clark City-County Health Department proposed two options on how homeowners with onsite systems could meet county maintenance standards. They could file paperwork detailing household water use and septic system pumping history to help determine how often the system should be pumped.

Or, they could hire county-certified inspectors to check their systems every four years and base a pumping schedule on the results. The guidelines would take effect over the next three to five years, targeting more vulnerable groundwater areas first. The guidelines would be the first of their kind in the state. Visit



As of last January, non-agricultural source material to be land-applied must be evaluated for pathogen content, odor potential, nutrient value and metals content. Applying treated septage based on nutrient requirements for crop growth instead of hydraulic loading rates will require significantly more land, according to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.



John S. Young, the court-appointed receiver operating Jefferson County’s sewer department, proposed a monthly cleanwater tax on residences and businesses with onsite systems to help reduce the county’s $3.2 billion sewer debt. About 142,000 households are sewered and 105,000 have septic tanks, the environmental services department says.



The Bay Restoration Fund Advisory Committee proposed doubling the annual flush tax from $30 to $60 per household. House Environmental Matters Committee chair Maggie McIntosh said she would introduce the legislation. The revenue is needed because the estimated cost to upgrade the state’s 67 wastewater treatment plants doubled from $750 million in 2004 to almost $1.5 billion in 2010, and to meet stricter U.S. EPA guidelines. The increase would apply to households with sewers or onsite systems.



While the Office of Fiscal Accountability and Regulatory Reform allowed new standards for septic tanks in the Florida Keys to advance, the governor signed legislation delaying implementation of a law requiring septic tanks to be inspected every five years.

The law, which went into effect on Jan. 1, is delayed until July 1. Two legislators filed a bill to repeal it.



Athens-Clarke commissioners will not start a utility to regulate septic tanks but instead launch an education program urging homeowners to have their systems pumped more often. The program, recommended by the Legislative Review Committee, will notify property owners and real estate agents that tanks should be pumped every three to five years. It will record where the tanks are, who owns them, and how old they are.



The Geauga County Residential Infrastructure Revolving Loan Fund Program will help residents with low or moderate incomes pay for onsite system repairs. The loan requires consumers to pay 25 percent of the cost, then make monthly payments for the balance — about $50 a month.


Rhode Island

Portsmouth answered the state Department of Environmental Management insistence upon a $40 million sewer system by creating a Wastewater Management Ordinance requiring inspection of onsite systems. The inspections, begun in March, will help the Wastewater Management Commission plan the replacement of failed systems with technologies tailored to properties or suitable for cluster systems. The ordinance requires cesspools to be replaced within five years or within six months of sale.



An ordinance passed by the Lake of Egypt Water District gave residents 60 days to pay their sewer bills or the district would remove their leased septic tanks and place a lien on the property. Customers pay a monthly $25 sewer fee. Once tanks are removed, customers will have to pay up to $5,700 to have them reinstalled.



A lottery in Carver decided who had the first shot at $400,000 in Community Development Block Grant money for homes with structural or septic system deficiencies. Numbers were assigned to homes, then selected in a random drawing to determine the order of review. Projects and applicants must meet certain criteria.



During the latest legislation session, the Texas Onsite Wastewater Association helped defeat a bill requiring onsite sewage facility authorized agents to purchase a $2 million liability insurance policy before renewing their licenses. The association has received word that the legislature will reintroduce the bill or one like it.


South Dakota

The state budget would eliminate programs in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources that oversee septic tank regulations and other water issues if legislators cannot find federal money to offset the loss of state money.



The New Year brought new septic regulations. Besides changes in definitions, the section covering the size and makeup of a dispersal area has been rewritten. Polyethylene is now an approved material for a septic tank, but cast-in-place and concrete block are now prohibited materials for tanks.

Scum storage capacity must be 12.5 percent of the liquid depth of the tank, instead of 15 percent. Concrete distribution boxes must be made of material with a compressive strength of 4,000 psi, up from 3,000 psi. The text of the rule with changes highlighted is available on the Indiana State Department of Health website.



The Division of Environmental Health changed rules governing septic systems. The changes are available on the department’s website.

The new Subsurface Wastewater Disposal Training Center in Maine hosted its first training session in October. Developed by the Maine Association of Site Evaluators and Maine Rural Water Association, the center includes five scaled down installations. The training center was built on MRWA property in Richmond.


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