Rules and Regs: Virginia Department of Health Wants to Limit Role in Evaluation of Onsite Systems

In this month’s regulations update, an Australian consumer group is challenging ‘flushable’ wipes claims, and the VDH wants licensed professionals to perform the bulk of evaluation and design of septic systems
Rules and Regs: Virginia Department of Health Wants to Limit Role in Evaluation of Onsite Systems

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A November report from the Virginia Department of Health outlines a strategy for privatizing the evaluation and design for onsite wastewater systems and private wells. The report is in response to a 2016 bill that required the agency to develop such a plan. According to the executive summary, “VDH should not provide evaluation and design services when and where a sufficient number of licensed private sector professionals are available to perform evaluation and design services.” Instead, it says, the agency should focus on high-priority items. “VDH is unique among state and federal agencies in that it provides some of the same services offered in the private sector,” says the report, which includes draft legislation that would revise state law to allow the change. “VDH’s dual role of service provider and regulator creates numerous difficulties with enforcement, plan review, and work product expectations. The strategic vision includes VDH providing adequate programmatic oversight with a proper ‘check and balance’ system.” In its conclusion, the report recommends a five-year transition period along with funding to help low- and moderate-income families to repair septic systems and private wells.

Australian consumer group challenging ‘flushable’ wipes claims
Flushable wipes may be the topic of a class action lawsuit in Australia. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has accused Kimberly-Clark and Pental of misleading and deceptive conduct by giving consumers the impression that the wipes were flushable. Kimberly-Clark has stood by its claims, saying its products meet or exceed flushability guidelines. Pental has changed its labeling to remove claims that the wipes disintegrate like toilet paper and later removed the word flushable from its packaging and websites. It is estimated that the flushable wipes have caused around $15 million in added cleanup expenses for Australian utilities.

Lawsuit filed in Virginia county over septic permit for mosque
The U.S. Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against Culpeper County, claiming it denied a septic system permit in order to prevent the construction of a mosque by a local Islamic center. The county claims the mosque needed a pump-and-haul permit because the soil could not support a septic system, but voted to deny the permit. In its suit, the Justice Department says the county has considered 26 such permit applications since 1992 and has never before denied one.

New well permit regulations under scrutiny in Washington state
Several Washington counties have placed moratoriums on new building permits in light of a state Supreme Court decision dealing with water rights. The Department of Ecology says between 2,000 and 8,000 new wells are added each year, but represent just 1 percent of water consumed because it is returned to the ground through septic systems. The court ruled in October that counties must independently ensure water is legally available before issuing permits for new wells and that Whatcom County failed to do that by allowing news wells to reduce water flow in streams. Some legislators have promised a fix to state law in the 2017 session.


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