Rules and Regs: New Arizona Rules Allow Use of Reclaimed Water

In this month’s regulations update, more Michigan counties will require point-of-sale septic inspections, and graywater rules in Arizona now allow more private residential use
Rules and Regs: New Arizona Rules Allow Use of Reclaimed Water

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On Jan. 1, new regulations took effect in Arizona that expand the use of reclaimed water to meet various demands including, under limited circumstances, human consumption.

In one of the nation’s driest states, it’s no surprise that reclaiming water is a focus of attention. The effort has been underway for several years. For example, the governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Water Sustainability was formed in 2009 and issued its final report in 2010. Nor is the work complete.

In its introduction to the rule approved in November, the state’s Department of Environmental Quality says it will make other modifications to water rules in the future. This staged approach will allow people to adjust to changes, enable them to make comments that improve rules gradually, and inspire actions now instead of years from now, which may be the case if all the rules were modified in one giant step. In particular, the department writes, permits for graywater reuse are now seldom used, and by changing those regulations now, the department hopes to spur increased use and innovation.

Generally the rules forbid human consumption of reclaimed water unless the facility producing it first obtains a special permit that requires submission of engineer-designed plans, an explanation of the technologies to be used, and proof of the concept from a pilot project.

Graywater rules were altered to allow private residential reuse of graywater for a flow of less than 400 gpd under certain conditions. Those conditions include: use of graywater only on the property for watering lawns, gardens or composting; prohibiting human contact with soil watered with graywater; and prohibiting the inclusion of water used to wash diapers or other similarly soiled garments because disinfection is too complicated for home systems. Graywater may also be used for watering shrubs, trees and food plants.

Reclaimed water now accounts for 3 percent of Arizona’s total demand. The cities of Mesa, Chandler, and Gilbert all have water reclamation programs to replace potable water with a nonpotable source to irrigate golf courses, landscaping and other green spaces. All three cities also recharge aquifers with reclaimed water. Another water reclamation plant owned by several municipalities reclaims water for a variety of uses including cooling at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station.

Michigan counties to require point-of-sale septic inspections
Starting Jan. 5, 2018, properties in six Michigan counties must have their septic systems inspected as part of a sale. The rule from the Central Michigan District Health Department was sent to the boards of Arenac, Clare, Gladwin, Isabella, Osceola, and Roscommon counties. All are in the north-central part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

The rule was the result of about a year of debate over the need for such a change. It began when E. coli contamination was found in an area river, reports the Morning Sun in Alma. There are some exceptions in the rule, such as for foreclosures, property transfers among immediate family members, and demolition of the structure served by the system.

Local real estate agents opposed the rule, saying the problem was not proven and the solution would be a burden for people buying and selling properties. Other real estate agents suggested changes to the rule. The health department says similar ordinances in other state communities have led to the identification and repair of thousands of failing onsite systems.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has estimated that at any given time, at least 10 percent of the state’s 1.2 million onsite systems are failing.

Mower County relaxes advanced treatment rules
Mower County, Minnesota, revised its ordinances in December to allow more advanced treatment technologies. The action helped the owner of an apartment building and may provide help to other property owners.

The county voted to allow what Minnesota classifies as Type IV systems. Those have additional pre- or post-treatment equipment. Examples are the microFAST systems from Bio-Microbics and those from Hydro-Action.

Jason Korfhage, who owns a 20-unit apartment building in a rural township, asked for the change, reports the Austin Daily Herald in Austin, Minnesota. The mound system serving his building has never worked properly and now is failing, and he says the use of a Type IV system would provide a long-term fix for his property. About 25 other property owners in the area also have failing systems.

While the state allows Type IV systems, they were prohibited by the county. Officials say the primary reason for this was a lack of staff to monitor the systems.

Lawsuit over unsecured lid resulting in boy’s death goes forward
The family of a boy who drowned in a septic tank has filed a lawsuit against two contractors for the city of Jacksonville, Florida.

Three-year-old Amari Harley died Oct. 22 after he wandered away from a family birthday party at a city park and fell into a tank on the park grounds. His family believes he removed the tank’s plastic lid and then fell in. Since then, the city has replaced all plastic lids with cement lids, reports WTLV news in Jacksonville.

The lawsuit claims Environmental Remediation Services and A1 Septic Service were negligent because they failed to register the tank properly, failed to supervise their employees, and failed to report the condition of the tank lid. A statement from the family’s attorney says the city knew of the risk because it had received reports that the tank lid was not secured.

County asking for voluntary septic inspections
The Adams County (Ohio) Health Department is asking residents to voluntarily sign up for onsite wastewater system inspections.

Inspections are part of an operation and maintenance program that requires sanitarians check all onsite systems to ensure they are functioning properly and not impairing the water quality of streams and lakes, reports the Ledger Independent of Maysville, Kentucky.

The county will also issue permits for operation and maintenance. For alternative treatment systems and those with aeration, permits will be issued for two years. Sand filter systems will be inspected every five years, and those with leach lines or drainfields will be inspected every 10 years. Inspections will cost $50.

Suffolk County, New York, will soon require advanced onsite systems
In keeping with the efforts to clean up the nearshore waters of Suffolk County, the Southampton Village Board approved a law in December to require advanced onsite systems for homes.

The law, which takes effect March 1, will require an advanced system for new construction, or an increase in the number of bedrooms, on properties near a body of water. Advanced systems will also be required if a property owner plans substantial changes to an existing system. The systems used must be those approved by the county Health Department.

Suffolk County occupies the eastern tip of Long Island and includes several wealthy communities. Local leaders and others are concerned about the amount of nitrogen flowing into the ocean from cesspools, which are a common method of wastewater treatment in the area. 

South Dakota county commissioner appeals conviction
A former county official convicted for violating wastewater rules in South Dakota will have a new trial.

George Ferebee was found guilty in September of having a septic system that lacked an operating permit. County ordinances require systems to be pumped, inspected, and issued permits regularly, reports the Rapid City Journal. Ferebee comes from Hill City in the Black Hills and served as a commissioner for Pennington County. His term ended Dec. 31.

After a daylong trial, Ferebee was found guilty and ordered to pay a $200 fine. At his trial, he says his property is exempt because it totals 250 acres, and the ordinance exempts holdings of more than 40 acres. The state says his property is comprised of four parcels, and the system is on a lot of about 12 acres.

State law allows people to appeal verdicts from the magistrate court to circuit court. Ferebee did that, claiming there were errors of law before and possibly during trial. A judge agreed there were grounds to reconsider the case and scheduled a new trial for May.

At his sentencing Ferebee asserted the county ordinance was unconstitutional and retroactively imposed penalties for actions taken before the law was passed. 


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