Rules and Regs: EPA Fines Hawaiian Businesses Still Using Large-Capacity Cesspools

In this month's regulations update, the FTC rules against a company falsely advertising "flushable" wipes, and the EPA levies fines and Hawaii continues reducing the number of cesspools on the islands
Rules and Regs: EPA Fines Hawaiian Businesses Still Using Large-Capacity Cesspools

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As Hawaii continues to reduce the number of cesspools in use across the islands, several businesses have been fined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to eliminate theirs. The EPA has fined one resort $187,500, a hotel $40,000, and a night club $82,425. The resort has closed some of its cesspools, but still has 14 in operation and has committed to replacing them with approved septic systems over the next three years.

Large-capacity cesspools, those that serve non-residential buildings or multiple residential units, have been banned in Hawaii since 2005. More than 3,000 of them have been closed since then. However, the state has more cesspools than any other state, about 90,000, and still allows about 800 new small-capacity cesspools annually.

Since July, the state has been offering individual homeowners a $10,000 tax credit to replace their cesspools with septic tanks or aerobic systems. A proposed ban on new cesspools has yet to become law due to opposition from many groups.

New Clean Water Act rules blocked by federal appeals court
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s updated Clean Water Act rules were blocked nationally by a federal appeals court on Oct. 9. A federal judge in North Dakota had earlier stayed the rules, but that case applied to just 13 states. That order was extended to all states by the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. In a 2-1 ruling, the court stated, “A stay temporarily silences the whirlwind of confusion that springs from uncertainty about the requirements of the new rules and whether they will survive legal testing.”

The EPA says the new rules apply to only 3 percent more waterways, but opponents claim the effects will be much broader. The agency began updating the rules in reaction to two U.S. Supreme Court rulings that raised questions about which waterways, small streams and wetlands were covered by the federal law.

Also, on Nov. 4, the U.S. Senate voted to block the rule under the Congressional Review Act. President Obama has said he would veto the resolution if it reaches his desk. It passed on a 55-43 vote just a day after the Senate bill requiring the EPA to rewrite the rule died; needing 60 votes to end debate on the bill, it failed to advance on a 57-41 vote.

FTC rules against false advertising for “flushable” wipes
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has finalized a consent order that requires Nice-Pak Products to stop advertising that its moist tissue and cloth products are flushable or are safe for sewer and septic systems unless it can substantiate the claims. In a notice issued Nov. 2, the FTC said the company must show the products, sold under several different brand names, will “disperse in a sufficiently short amount of time after flushing to prevent clogging and/or damage to household plumbing, sewage lines, septic systems, and other standard wastewater treatment equipment.”

The FTC issued the original complaint in May 2015, accusing Nice-Pak of misrepresentation for claiming that certain wipes were safe for sewer and septic systems, break apart shortly after being flushed, and are safe to flush. The November notice explains that any substantiation from the company “must be based on the expertise of professionals in the relevant area and have been conducted and evaluated in an objective manner by qualified persons, using procedures generally accepted in the profession to yield accurate and reliable results. Those tests must substantially replicate the physical conditions of the claimed environment in which the item can be properly disposed.”

New rules in water quality management may expand development in New Jersey
Supporters say it would cut red tape while opponents say it will harm the environment. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is proposing changes to its Water Quality Management Planning rules that would reduce “unnecessary red tape while maintaining the high standards of environmental protection,” according to Commissioner Bob Martin. Environmental groups opposing the change, however, call it an “assault on clean water.” The 288-page proposal was released in late October. The rule allows more development but does not allow new sewer lines in environmentally sensitive areas, according to EPA officials. New goals for nitrate dilution from septic systems that officials say can help local planning agencies balance environmental protection with economic growth will, according to opponents, allow the number of septic systems in the 860,000 acre Highlands preservation area to increase from one per 88 acres to one per 22 acres. They say instead of two houses per 250 acres of land, the change would allow 11 homes to be built, though EPA officials disagree with that conclusion. The rules must go through a public hearing process before becoming final.

British Columbia looking at best practices for home dialysis in households on septic systems
The British Columbia office of the Western Canada Onsite Wastewater Management Association (WCOWMA) is working with the Ministry of Health and the BC Provincial Renal Agency to develop best practices for home dialysis in households on septic systems. According to a report from WCOWMA, the BC office has been contacted several times over the past few months regarding the matter and says it has “expressed concern that a septic system not designed to handle these flows could easily be overwhelmed causing issues either in the tank or the field treatment component or both. For new systems, the presence of a renal patient performing home dialysis must be identified prior to planning the system; for older systems, upgrades may be necessary to handle the potential flows.”

According to WCOWMA’s October newsletter, the number of patients choosing home dialysis is increasing. “The flow to drain effluent produced during this time period varies … from 270 liters for a three-hour treatment to 720 liters during an eight-hour treatment,” says the organization. “Treatments may be performed daily or several times per week. The effluent from this process is a mixture of reverse osmosis wastewater (90 percent) and a substance called dialysate (10 percent). Dialysate contains toxic substances that must be treated and dispersed.”

The guidelines are expected to be published by the end of 2015.


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