Rules and Regs: Two-Year Degree Suggested as Solution to Regulator Shortage

Also in this month's regulations update, the U.S. Justice Department opens an environmental justice investigation due to lack of onsite services in Lowndes County, Alabama

Rules and Regs: Two-Year Degree Suggested as Solution to Regulator Shortage

Septic system services companies contend with a labor shortage, but so do some health departments. And some of them have a plan to fix the problem.

A group of health departments in North Carolina are pushing for a two-year degree program to train environmental health specialists, reported The Pilot of Southern Pines, North Carolina. To become a specialist, state law currently requires a four-year degree, an internship, and passing state and local exams.

The two-year program would be developed in partnership with universities and would focus on courses about onsite wastewater and water. People completing the program would be able to work in limited ways for local health departments and could take more courses in order to fill more advanced jobs.

Robert Wittmann, director of the Moore County Health Department, told the county board of commissioners that health directors from around the state intend to petition North Carolina’s General Assembly to approve the two-year alternative.

The shortage of environmental health specialists has continued for decades, he said, and that shortage affects the building industry, the economy and public health.

Justice Department opens onsite wastewater investigation in Lowndes County, Alabama

On Nov. 9, the U.S. Justice Department opened an environmental justice investigation because of the lack of onsite service in Lowndes County, Alabama.

Specifically, the department said it would investigate the wastewater disposal and infectious disease programs of the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Lowndes County Health Department, according to a press release. The investigation will examine whether the programs operate in a way that discriminates against Black residents of the county and causes a greater risk of waterborne diseases such as hookworm.

"Sanitation is a basic human need, and no one in the United States should be exposed to risk of illness and other serious harm because of inadequate access to safe and effective sewage management," Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, said in the press release.

A 2018 article by Southerly magazine reported that Lowndes County, and other economically stressed areas, have experienced surges in tropical diseases such as hookworm and toxocara.

Clarke County, Virginia, to consider ban on community systems

The Clarke County (Virginia) Board of Supervisors is considering changes to its onsite ordinance that would ban community systems among other modifications.

Alison Teetor, the county’s natural resources planner, told supervisors that “mass drainfields” used for condominiums, subdivisions and shopping centers are too difficult to install because of soil limitations. The recommendation is to ban them, reported The Winchester Star.

She said the most significant recommendation for the rule revision would be requiring the Lord Fairfax Health Department to inspect all soils and siting for onsite systems. Inspections would also be required for any maintenance that includes replacement of building sewers, distribution boxes, conveyance lines and header pipes. The health district is agreeable to those changes, she said.

Also, the minimum depth for alternative systems would be reduced to 3 inches from 10. Teetor said some systems do not work well at the greater depth.

A public meeting on the proposed changes is likely to be scheduled for December.

Oregon offers loan program to repair or replace failing onsite systems

Homeowners and small businesses in Oregon may again apply for part of a $2 million state loan program to repair or replace failing onsite systems. Funding for the program ran out in June 2020, but the Legislature authorized more money earlier this year, according to news reports.

The low-interest loans will cover all costs for permitting, design and installation, and may also cover continuing maintenance costs. Interest rates vary based on the income of the borrower, and loans are also available to people without perfect credit.

Lake George Park Commission working on septic tank inspection rule

The Lake George Park Commission in New York is working on a rule that would create a septic tank inspection program affecting at least 3,400 properties in the basin of Lake George.

The commission is still months away from finalizing anything, reported the Adirondack Explorer, but commissioners say inspections could be required every five years, and there would be an annual fee of about $50.

It is not certain who will manage inspections, which properties will be affected by new rules, or how local governments and the commission would handle an expected boom in requests to repair or replace failing systems.

There are more than 6,000 septic systems within Lake George Park, which consists of the lake and its drainage basins. The 3,400 systems targeted by the commission are within 500 feet of the lake or 100 feet of a stream feeding the lake. As a state agency, the commission has broad authority to address problems in the lake basin, and in recent years some parts of the lake have been plagued by algae blooms.

Several municipalities around the lake have already passed rules requiring inspections of onsite systems.

Europe in favor of recycled water, says survey

A survey of people in three nations found less resistance to the idea of recycled water use than researchers expected.

In the Netherlands, 75% of respondents favored reusing water for drinking. In Spain 73% favored the idea, and in the United Kingdom 67% were in favor.

Using recycled water to grow food was more favored, with 85% of people in Spain and 74% of those in the United Kingdom approving. In the Netherlands 75% approved, reported KWR Water Research Institute.

Opinions came from a poll of more than 2,500 people in those three countries by Cranfield University in the United Kingdom.


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