Rules and Regs: Alaska Septic Pumpers Expect Stricter Disposal Limitations

In this month's regulatory news, find out which state delayed a ban on land application, and learn about a proposal that would allow homeowners to opt out of mandatory sewer connections.
Rules and Regs: Alaska Septic Pumpers Expect Stricter Disposal Limitations

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Septic pumpers in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough of Alaska don’t have a local disposal site for septage. Every day, they have to ship 50,000 gallons of septage to the Anchorage Point Woronzof treatment plant. The plant already operates under an exemption from the Clean Water Act allowing it to discharge effluent with much less treatment required at most wastewater plants. Officials expect the U.S. EPA to pressure the city to limit how much waste they accept from outside the area, which also includes around 1.5 million gallons of landfill leachate. 

Of the 96,000 residents of what is called Mat-Su, about 80,000 use septics and the population is growing. The two treatment plants that exist in the borough can’t accept septage because they are already operating with permit exemptions due to high levels of ammonia and nitrates. Mat-Su officials have been studying the matter for years and estimate a regional wastewater plant will cost nearly $18 million. Even if approved, the plant couldn’t be operating until 2019. 

The study showed that pumpers and haulers travel 500,000 miles a year to dispose of septage in Anchorage — with one saying he makes up to five trips a day.

Land application ban delay fails in Florida

An effort to delay a ban on the land application of septage failed in the Florida legislature in the past session. If something isn’t done next year, the ban will become effective in 2016. According to the Florida Department of Health, about 40 percent of the state’s septic tank waste is spread on 92 permitted sites. 

The ban is expected to double the average $250 cost of pumping a septic tank. The Florida Onsite Wastewater Association, and others, had sought a one-year delay so the state could study disposal options and the environmental effects of land spreading, and wants to repeal the ban outright. Even though the legislation failed, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection says it will begin the requested study this fall anyway. 

The bill delaying the ban passed the Senate on a 37-1 vote on the last day of the session. A companion bill in the House was never brought up for a vote. One legislator said many non-rural lawmakers didn’t understand the significance of the bill and how much rural counties depend on land spreading. Many wastewater treatment plants don’t accept septage and some rural counties have no treatment plants. 

Ohio proposal would allow sewer connection opt-out

A proposal in the Ohio General Assembly would allow property owners served by an onsite sewage treatment system to opt out of mandatory sewer system connections. The bipartisan measure was crafted to provide relief to property owners facing mandatory sewer system tie-ins. 

House Bill 522 requires that property owners with onsite systems, and the local health department, be notified of planned sewer systems if the property may be required to connect. The property owner could opt-out of the connection as long as the onsite system is maintained in accordance with state law. Owners of onsite systems not in compliance would have an opportunity to upgrade their system in order to avoid connecting to the sewer system. 

State Representative Sean O’Brien, one of the lead sponsors of the legislation, says people can be prosecuted for not connecting to a sewer system and feels that is unacceptable and unconstitutional. He says the bill was drafted with the assistance of the Trumbull County Board of Health, the Ohio Department of Health, and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. 

Georgia now requires portable sanitation certification

The Georgia Department of Health will now require certification and continuing education for portable restroom operators. Certification classes will be offered through the Georgia Onsite Wastewater Association; contractors certified by the Portable Sanitation Association International will meet the state requirements and only have to provide proof of their PSAI certification. 

New regulations dealing with portable restroom units were also passed by the Department of Health after several years of research and two public hearings.


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