Rules and Regs: Massachusetts Septage Hauler to Pay $500,000 in Penalties

Also in this month's regulations update, residents of a Michigan township will be allowed to keep onsite systems instead of paying for a treatment plant

Rules and Regs: Massachusetts Septage Hauler to Pay $500,000 in Penalties

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A septage hauler will pay $500,000 in penalties and fees for illegally disposing of wastewater. In addition, Midstate Sewerage of Millbury, Massachusetts, will not seek state or municipal contracts for two years as part of a settlement with the state, according to the office of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy. The settlement ends a lawsuit filed in 2018.

Midstate was accused of dumping septage into a Millbury municipal pump station instead of hauling it to the Upper Blackstone Water Pollution Abatement District, news reports say. By doing so, the company avoided paying thousands of dollars in disposal fees.

At the same time, the company had a contract with the state Department of Transportation to dispose of wastewater, and the state says the company lied about disposal so it could receive payment under the contract.

Midstate — along with a related entity, LDI LLC. — was also accused of installing unauthorized septage storage tanks at its property and of illegally handling and disposing of waste oil.

After two-year struggle, Michigan township residents may keep onsite systems

After a two-year struggle, residents of a Michigan township will be allowed to repair or replace failing onsite systems individually instead of being forced to pay for a central wastewater treatment plant.

In 2018, the state department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy found a number of failing septic systems in Seville Township were discharging into the nearby Pine River. The department sent a letter to the town board ordering construction of a wastewater treatment plant for homes in the community of Riverdale, reports the Morning Sun of Alma, Michigan. Riverdale’s 124 property owners were looking at $6 million to $8 million in expenses.

“We were told the soil wasn’t adequate for septic systems, but that wasn't true,” township Supervisor Tish Mallory tells the newspaper.

Citizens formed a committee, and the township began working with the Michigan Rural Water Association to address the problem. In a four-page letter this year, the department agreed to alternative proposals made by the town. Among those are conducting semiannual water tests, establishing a septic district for the community, mandating pumping of all systems every seven to 10 years and enacting point-of-sale rules requiring system inspections when properties are sold.

Three homes and two businesses are using their onsite tanks as holding tanks until the local health department issues permits for new systems.

“We have been told by other (government) entities that we’ve been an example for other (EGLE) cases because no one has ever done this,” Mallory says.

The township is in central Michigan, about 44 miles west of Saginaw.

Story County, Iowa, passes septic pumping mandate

Story County, Iowa, commissioners voted 2-1 to require all septic systems be pumped every five years. The county is in the central part of the state, about 45 miles north of Des Moines and includes the city of Ames.

There are 3,120 active permitted systems in the county, but 900 rural properties have no permit, reports the Ames Tribune of Ames, Iowa. A small study of systems without permits found that none had drainfields for secondary treatment. Systems instead discharged into field tiles, ditches or creeks.

Penalties for violating the new law begin with a $65 fine, but the county’s Environmental Health Department won’t begin looking for noncomplying residences until later in 2021. Residents who have never pumped their tanks, or who haven’t done so since 2016, will have all of 2021 to comply with the law. 

Regional Housing Authority in Virginia to offer grants for septic pumping

The Accomack-Northampton (Virginia) Regional Housing Authority has grant money available for low- and moderate-income families who need to have their septic tanks pumped or who need help with repairing or replacing a failing system.

Depending on whether a property is in the water quality project area, and depending on income and other factors, property owners may receive up to 100% of the cost of pumping, repairing or replacing a septic system, according to a press release from the authority.

Pump-out grants are available for the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and people are eligible if their household income is less than about $40,000.

The repair or replacement program is available only to people in parts of Northampton County. Income limits apply to this also, but even people with incomes greater than about $70,000 are eligible for a 50% cost share, the press release says. 

FEMA providing financial help for onsite systems after Oregon wildfire

Money is available from through the Federal Emergency Management Agency for people who lost their well water supply or onsite systems in the Echo Mountain Complex wildfire that occurred in September in Oregon.

People in Lincoln, Clackamas, Douglas Jackson, Klamath, Lane, Linn and Marion counties designated for federal disaster aid may be eligible for money to cover repairs not covered by home insurance.

“FEMA assistance cannot duplicate insurance coverage,” the agency says in a press release. “However, households that don’t have insurance or have received an insurance settlement less than the cost to repair serious damage may apply to FEMA for help with costs that are necessary to have a functioning home, including for repair or replacement of private wells and/or septic systems.” 

West Virginia Supreme Court rules portable restrooms essential for oil drilling company

As part of a tax case, the West Virginia Supreme Court exempted portable restrooms from the consumer sales and service tax for their use by an oil drilling company.

Antero Resources Corp. of Denver appealed to the court because of a tax bill from the state for its remote horizontal drilling operations. The company asked for a tax exemption on its crew quarters, portable restrooms and other equipment. The court sided mostly with the company.

In its opinion, the court noted that the key question under state law was whether items were used or consumed in the production of natural resources and whether the items were an essential part of production. Drillers are on site for two weeks at a time and work shifts around the clock.

“These (portable restrooms) are located at remote well sites, and it would be impractical if not impossible for Antero to operate its well sites without making bathroom facilities available,” the court wrote. “Indeed, it is difficult to imagine how such operations could proceed without such facilities.”

The court did allow the state to tax the company for rentals of trash trailers and waste receptacles. As a result of the court’s opinion, the state will collect a fraction of what had been a seven-figure tax bill, reports WVNews. 

County commissioner in Washington performs song in support of outhouses

Jefferson County, Washington’s Board of Health declined to change the county’s ban on outhouses at a December meeting. The board has been reviewing a number of regulations, such as sanitation requirements for people who live in RVs, tents and other non-permitted residences.

One commissioner, Greg Brotherton, is asking for repeal of the law. Other counties allow them, he says, according to The Leader of Port Townsend. And not everyone can afford to install a septic system, he says.

Other members of the board are refuting his idea, saying there is too much risk to groundwater and that it would be impossible to enforce state outhouse rules, which require outhouses to be clean, free of flies and not draining into state waters.

Brotherton tried to present a song about the issue (he is known for doing this at meetings), but the online technology thwarted him. He made a motion to repeal the law, but it failed for lack of a second.

Jefferson County covers roughly the center of the Olympic Peninsula about 25 miles northwest of Seattle.

Brotherton’s privy song can be seen here.


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