Rules and Regs - June 2021

Suffolk County, New York, is planning to establish a countywide water management district to aid in the fight against bacterial contamination of its Atlantic Ocean shoreline.

The county occupies the eastern end of Long Island and has worked for years to counter problems from the approximately 360,000 cesspools used for onsite wastewater treatment. 

What the management district will do, said County Executive Steve Bellone in a press release, is enable repair of the county’s water infrastructure. It will do this by creating a structure to implement the county’s long-term water quality plan, expand financial assistance to homeowners, and serve as a way to invest in new systems and advanced wastewater treatment. 

The long-term water quality plan calls for investing $4 billion over 50 years to reduce nitrogen by adding municipal sewer service to some properties and installing nitrogen-removing onsite units on parcels where municipal service is uneconomical.

In 2017, the county established a grant program to help property owners with the cost of advanced onsite equipment. Voters approved a tax for the grants, and the state later contributed $10 million. 

The county and several of its townships and cities have changed their wastewater treatment laws in the past few years to forbid any new cesspools and require advanced, nitrogen-removing onsite units for any new construction or expansions of existing buildings.

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New York’s Warren County is considering a law to require onsite system inspections when a property is transferred. The county covers most of western shore of Lake George and its southern end. In recent years the lake has been clouded by large algae blooms.

The law would apply to all onsite systems within 250 feet of a specific list of water bodies, and there would be a provision for any municipality to opt out. Some communities in the county passed their own laws about inspections. 

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The water and sewer commission in Glens Falls levied a $3,000 fine against IBS Septic & Drain Service for dumping a large quantity of cooking oil and grease into the city’s wastewater treatment plant in February. 

Security cameras showed IBS was the only septage hauler to dump at the plant that day, reported The Post-Star of Glens Falls. It appears IBS sent a truck that either had not been fully emptied or not cleaned out, said Steve Gurzler, the city’s engineer. He said the company acknowledged its mistake and sent another truck to help clean up.


Marin County plans a pilot project to create 22 apartments in Bolinas by upgrading home onsite systems. 

The project to create what are known as in-law or grandmother apartments is a partnership between the Bolinas Community Land Trust and Bolinas Community Public Utility District, reported the Marin Independent Journal.

Under the class I standard for new construction, there must be a 3-foot separation between groundwater and a drainfield. County supervisors waived that requirement and imposed the class II standard that allows only 2 feet of separation. Systems in this standard use a pre-treatment tank and peat moss biofilter before discharging to a gravel and sand drainfield. 

Twenty of the homes in the project will need system upgrades to reach class II. The other two already have class II systems. 

Because of water shortages in the area, the city has had a moratorium on water permits since 1971. This has largely prevented the construction of new housing.

Marin County is immediately north of San Francisco on the other side of the Golden Gate.


In 2018, New Castle County imposed a temporary moratorium on the use of septic tanks in subdivisions. Now the county is likely to indefinitely ban large developments that use septic systems. 

The temporary moratorium ends in August, but Delaware Public Media reports the county will consider indefinite extension of the ban later this year. Most of the effect will be felt in the southern part of the county where officials want no more than five parcels in any subdivision created on agricultural land. Some landowners objected to the moratorium in the past, saying it will reduce their ability to sell their land.

New Castle County covers the western shore of the Delaware River where it empties into Delaware Bay. 


Wakulla County, on the Gulf Coast just south of Tallahassee, recently received $577,500 from the state for a septic system upgrade program. 

Under the program, certified installers or licensed plumbers may receive up to $7,000 for installing nitrogen-removing onsite systems in certain areas of the county. Costs in excess of $7,000 are the responsibility of the property owner. 


The Bella Vista City Council decided to table an ordinance about septic system size requirements in order to do further research. 

Undersized systems are a problem, said Doug Tapp, Community Development Services director, but there is no way to prevent it. At the moment, the department must accept builders’ assurances that an onsite system is adequately sized, reported the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

The tabled ordinance would require a system suitable for two people in a structure of 1,500 square feet or smaller. A system for three people would be mandated for a structure of 1,500 to 2,500 square feet, and a four-person system for structures of 2,500 to 3,500 square feet. Larger systems would be required for any structure of more than 3,500 square feet. 

Bella Vista is near the northwestern corner of the state.


Oil and gas wastewater discharges into public waters will now be overseen by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shifted authority for permits under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System to TCEQ in January after Texas requested it. 

Any discharge into a pond on leased land will still be regulated by the state Railroad Commission. Standards for discharges remain the same, Jeremy Hagen, general counsel with the Railroad Commission, told the Midland Reporter-Telegram.

Oil and gas operations annually produce millions of gallons of wastewater. Instead of injecting that wastewater into wells, operators could now be allowed to discharge treated wastewater into creeks or lakes to expand the water supply for municipalities and agriculture, Hagen said. 


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