Rules and Regs - November 2020

Decentralized Disposal of Winery Wastewater Faces New Regulation Hurdles in California

The California Water Resources Control Board is working on an update to its winery wastewater rules. The order will affect more than 2,000 wineries that discharge wastewater for disposal or reuse, news reports said.

Among other actions, the draft order would prohibit: the discharge of high-strength saline waste, any discharge to surface water, discharge to land not controlled by the winery doing the discharging, discharge of solids to a subsurface disposal area, discharge of wastewater to an unlined pond or to a rapid-infiltration pond, and any discharge of domestic wastewater to a system handling winery process wastewater.

Wineries producing more than 1 million gallons per year (Tier 4 wineries) will be required to monitor water quality at the land application area. Tier 3 wineries (which produce 300,000 to 1 million gallons per year) may be required to monitor if their area is environmentally sensitive. For Tier 2, 3 and 4 wineries, the draft order sets weekly monitoring requirements for BOD, TSS and total nitrogen. The order also requires wineries discharging to subsurface systems to meet a maximum hydraulic load of 1 gallon per square foot of discharge trench per day.

A report by the online trade publication Wine Industry Advisor says every Tier 4 winery would have to install at least groundwater monitoring wells to comply with the order if it is adopted.

Adoption of the order is scheduled for the water board’s Nov. 17 meeting.

New Mexico

Although concerns about increased water use and septic system density came up, the Taos County Board of Commissioners voted to reduce the minimum lot size for subdivisions.

Recently the board voted to drop the minimum lot size from 2 acres to 1. Commissioner Jim Fambro raised concerns about the increased water use and septic density that could accompany such a change, but he told the Taos News that his concerns were eased when Edward Vigil, the county planning director, talked about a cap on the number of acre-feet of water that each household will be able to use.

The new lot size applies only to land where the average natural slope is no greater than 10%.


The Waco Plan Commission is recommending an increase in the minimum lot size required for onsite system installation. Changing the minimum size lot from 1/2 acre to 1 acre would primarily affect future subdivisions on the outskirts of the city, reported the Waco Tribune-Herald. The city’s concern is the quality of Lake Waco, its source of drinking water.

For some decades, subdivisions of about 20 lots were the largest developments around the city.

“We’re starting to see larger subdivisions that come in with 40, 50, 60 lots,” says Planning Director Clint Peters. “To have across-the-board maintenance on a 50-lot subdivision of half-acre (lots), over time, is almost impossible.”


Sheriff’s deputies in Fayette County found something much more profitable than septage in the tank of a vacuum truck they stopped on Interstate 10 about 90 miles east of San Antonio.

Both the driver and passenger seemed nervous when deputies talked to them, reported KXAN News of Austin. Deputies received permission to search the truck, and when they opened the lid of the tank, they found a number of bundles wrapped in cellophane, tape and axle grease. In the bundles were 350 pounds of marijuana.

Driver Stephanie Navejar, 45, and passenger Jorge Sanchez, 53, both of Cotulla, Texas, face charges of felony possession of marijuana.

New Hampshire

A 49-year-old man faces criminal charges for taking $1,500 from a 69-year-old woman and then never installing the septic system he said he could install. The would-be installer was charged with two felonies, theft by unauthorized taking and theft by deception, reported the Concord Monitor. He was also charged with two misdemeanors: deceptive business practices and forgery. Police said he led the woman to believe he would design and install a system for her, and showed her a forged permit application.


Health departments in seven counties will be receiving $250,000 from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to help homeowners replace failing septic systems. Low- to moderate-income households can receive money to cover 50% to 100% of system replacement costs. The grants are intended to help clean high-risk watersheds, reported the Sandusky Register. Counties receiving the money are Erie, Ottawa, Sandusky, Paulding, Putnam, Williams and Wood.

Rhode Island

Charlestown’s program to replace failing onsite systems was praised by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a way to improve the resilience of coastal communities threatened by rising sea levels and climate change.

The $270,000 grant program began in 2016 and is nearing an end, reported The Westerly Sun of Pawcatuck, Connecticut. The town invited applications from people who live in places where nitrogen pollution posed the greatest risk to water, and 15 were picked to receive denitrifying onsite systems. Each grant paid about $18,000, and each homeowner paid the balance of about $10,000. 


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