Rules and Regs: Record Snowmelt Wreaks Havoc on Midwest Septic Tanks

In this month’s regulations update, pumpers see a major surge in septic tanks overwhelmed by heavy snowmelt, and more onsite rules are in the works.
Rules and Regs: Record Snowmelt Wreaks Havoc on Midwest Septic Tanks

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An unusually heavy snowmelt and series of rainstorms in the Northwestern portion of Wisconsin are causing septic systems to back up. According to published reports, most of those counties have received between 8 and 16 inches more precipitation from snow and rain this year than normal. 

In some areas, the ground are so saturated that drainfields can’t function properly and septic tanks are backing up. Some septic haulers who spread treated waste on farm fields have been hampered by fields that are too wet. One state hauler said the additional work is prompting more labor, a lot of extra fuel and not enough time to get all the work done.

Alaska pumpers see surge in flooded septic tanks 

Like Wisconsin, Alaska pumpers also reported problems in July due to heavy and sustained rainfall in the state’s interior. The precipitation there has also saturated the ground and flooded many septic tanks. 

One pumper in North Pole, Alaska, discouraged the large number of customers requesting pumpouts because empty tanks in saturated soil become more buoyant, which can cause them to rise to the surface. He reported that a holding tank under an outhouse had lifted the structure six feet in the air. 

Idaho considers onsite design rule changes

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality is considering changes to rules for the design, construction, and operation of onsite wastewater systems. The proposals include updates to requirements for engineers, permits, inspections and alternative systems.

Also proposed are recommendations and best practices for converting a septic tank to a lift station to meet current standards for the depth of drainfields. The setback for individual lagoons for homes and small businesses would double under the proposal, from the current 100 feet from the property line to 200 feet and would have to be designed by a licensed engineer. 

Small N.Y. town receives onsite financial assistance 

It might not sound like a lot, but for a town like Shelter Island, every little bit helps. The town has received a check for $4,000 to help pay an intern to collect records on existing septic systems and cesspools. 

The money was provided by the Group for the East End, an environmental nonprofit group, which believes the database is “crucially important to developing informed recommendations and ultimately solutions for what is increasingly important water quality issues facing our entire region.” 

$200K goes to help Michigan recreational boater waste disposal 

The federal government is giving the state $200,000 for projects that help recreational boaters with proper disposal of on-board septic waste. The grant is among $16.6 million being offered to 21 states under the Clean Vessel Act program, run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Since 1993, the agency has distributed funds to states for construction, replacement, renovation and maintenance of boat septic disposal facilities. The program also provides information and education about benefits and availability of pumpouts. The Midwest regional office has used such funds for new pumpout equipment and reimbursement for materials. Some states also install floating restrooms where boaters congregate and no restrooms are available. 

Funding is generated through excise taxes on fishing tackle manufacturers, motorboats and small engines. 


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