Rules and Regs: Large Cesspools Still in Use in Hawaii After Ban

In this month’s regulations update, a Kentucky woman’s family files suit against a sewer district after she perishes following a fall into an abandoned septic system, and the EPA is issuing fines for large-capacity cesspools being operated in several Hawaiian counties
Rules and Regs: Large Cesspools Still in Use in Hawaii After Ban

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued fines for illegal large-capacity cesspools in Hawaii, which recently became the last state to ban all new cesspools. Large-capacity cesspools, those that serve 20 or more people a day, have been banned in the state since 2005. Hawaii County was fined $105,000 for allowing illegal cesspools at a drag strip and a shooting range. Maui County was fined $33,000 for those at a racetrack, and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources will pay $50,000 for using them at a state park. Earlier this year, the EPA fined the U.S. Army $100,000 for large-capacity cesspools at three military facilities in Hawaii.

Woman’s family files suit against sewer district after she perishes following fall into abandoned septic system
The family of a 73-year-old woman who died when she fell into an abandoned septic system is suing the Metropolitan Sewer District of Louisville and a contractor, and is planning a class action lawsuit. The suit alleges that when the district connected all homes in the area to the sewer system in the 1990s it was negligent in not backfilling dry wells and did not sufficiently supervise its contractor, who has since gone out of business. According to the medical examiner’s report, the woman suffered fatal injuries when she fell 18 to 20 feet into the abandoned dry well.

A New York county selects winners of new septic systems in second year of lottery
Suffolk County has selected 20 winners in its lottery for new septic systems. It’s the second year of the contest designed to help improve the area’s water quality by reducing nitrogen from onsite systems. In the two years, 330 people have entered and 39 have won free systems, which includes installation along with monitoring and maintenance for five years. All systems being installed were donated by six manufacturers in the U.S. and Canada with values up to $20,000. 

Rollback of law will leave strictness of denitrification requirements up to Maryland counties
Calling it a “cost-prohibitive burden,” Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) has announced a rollback of a 2012 law requiring the use of the best available denitrification technology for all new septic systems in the state. Instead, it will be up to the counties to decide if such technology will be required outside the Critical Area — land within 1,000 feet of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, where best available technology is still required. Hogan announced the action by the Department of Environment on August 20 during a speech to the Maryland Association of Counties; many rural areas had opposed the regulation and a previous proposal by former Governor Martin O’Malley to ban all new developments on septic systems in the state. The department also announced it would increase efforts to replace failed septic systems. It has offered grants for advanced systems and to add new technology to existing systems in Critical Areas. But they don’t cover the entire cost; retrofitting a system can cost as much as $10,000 and a new system can cost $10,000 to $12,000 more than a traditional septic system. The change has been sent to the legislature's Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review for final approval.

Ontario groups working to solve “flushable” wipes issue
The Municipal Enforcement Sewer Use Group, comprised of 29 Ontario communities, estimates that flushable wipes cost Canadian utilities $250 million per year in cleanup costs. It has been working with the International Standards Organization of Geneva, Switzerland, to develop standards for the word “flushable,” and Canada’s Competition Bureau is investigating companies for possible violations of consumer packaging laws and false and misleading labeling. While there are more than a dozen lawsuits in the United States, Canadian utilities are so far depending on advertising in order to get consumers to stop flushing the wipes. According to Alaska Highway News, Metro Vancouver has a humorous $200,000 "Adult Toilet Training" campaign telling its 2.5 million users that it's not okay to flush the wipes or anything besides "pee, poo and toilet paper." The Vancouver utility spent $100,000 last year to unclog flushable wipes from pumps.

Loan program used to upgrade onsite systems in Minnesota watersheds
Nearly $2 million is being used across three watersheds in Minnesota to upgrade onsite wastewater systems. The Clean Water Partnership loan program recently announced $1.9 million in low-interest loans and says it still has $9 million in funds available for local units of government that want to “target the restoration and protection of a water resource such as a lake, stream or groundwater aquifer.”

The Snake River Watershed Management Board received a $400,000 loan to upgrade 27 to 33 systems that will prevent 136 pounds of phosphorus and 574 pounds of nitrogen from entering the groundwater. The Hawk Creek Watershed Project received $1.05 million for 75 upgrades that will reduce 240 pounds of phosphorus, 5,300 pounds of total suspended solids, and 600 pounds of nitrogen a year. In the Heron Lake Watershed District, $450,000 in funding will be used to upgrade 30 systems, resulting in an estimated annual reduction of 304 pounds of phosphorus, 3.2 tons of sediment, and 807 pounds of nitrogen.

Massachusetts health board considering requirement for denitrifying septic systems
The Tisbury Board of Health is dropping a plan to tax new homes for their contribution of nitrogen to area bodies of water based on water use and the type of onsite wastewater system. Instead, it is considering a requirement for denitrifying septic systems in all new construction or system replacements. Under the original proposal, newly built homes would be charged a semiannual fee based on the amount of wastewater produced and the type of treatment system. The cost for a three-bedroom home would have ranged from $320 to $3,200 depending on the wastewater system installed. The nitrogen tax plan was heavily criticized during a series of public hearings in June.


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