Rules and Regs: Massachusetts May Require Nitrogen Technology for All of Cape Cod

Also in this month’s regulations update, a citizen in Texas fights in court for the ability to maintain his own onsite septic system

Rules and Regs: Massachusetts May Require Nitrogen Technology for All of Cape Cod

Indications are that Massachusetts will change its Title 5 onsite rules in a few months to require nitrogen-reducing technology on all of Cape Cod.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has contacted town managers in advance of a general notice about the change, reported Cape Cod news organizations.

Changes may require upgrades of all existing systems within five years after the regulation takes effect, and may give towns the option of applying for a watershed permit, which would allow them to tailor solutions to their particular circumstances.

Four communities already hold a single watershed permit for Pleasant Bay on the eastern end of Cape Cod. The permit was issued in 2018 and was the first in the state. It requires the communities to cut nitrogen flow into the bay by 39,022 pounds in 20 years. Three communities are building sewer systems. The fourth is reducing fertilizer use on its municipal golf course, improving drainage, considering alternative technologies and planning a small treatment system.

Stanley Andrews — who chairs the board of health in Bourne — told the Cape Cod Times that some Title 5 change by year’s end is a good possibility if for no other reason than the lawsuit filed last summer against the state and the towns of Barnstable and Mashpee.

In the lawsuit, the Conservation Law Foundation asked a court to suspend permits for conventional septic systems in the two towns until they develop a plan to stop nitrogen pollution. For years, the towns and state have known that nitrogen pollution from septic systems is fouling waterways, the foundation argues in its suit. By continuing to approve permits, the towns and state have allowed pollution to continue and thus have violated state law, the suit asserts. Instead of conventional septic systems, the foundation wants advanced treatment units to be required when onsite systems are installed or when properties are transferred.

Thirty watersheds on Cape Cod have nitrogen total maximum daily loads approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Brewster Town Administrator Peter Lombardi told that the process of changing Title 5 is only beginning. A meeting with town officials would be followed by a public comment period, he said.

Maryland orders site plans with repair applications

Anne Arundel County notified installers on July 1 that the State of Maryland has ordered changes for onsite permits and applications in the county.

Site plans will now be required for all repair applications. The county health department will conduct a perc test as it has done, and will then send a letter to the property owner, applicant and contractor recommending minimum onsite requirements. It will be up to the property owner to decide who will create and submit the site plan.

Site plans must be signed and dated and should include information such as locations of nearby structures, locations of wells within 100 feet of the property, swimming pools, layout and design of the proposed system, rights of way and easements, and anything that could impede installation of a system.

Permits for conventional tanks will no longer be automatically issued, and the process for perc and dry wells will also change.

Sonoma County to study onsite treatment options near river

Directors of the Sonoma County (California) Water Agency voted in June to conduct a study of wastewater treatment options for properties along the lower Russian River. Homes and businesses in Monte Rio and Villa Grande rely on onsite systems that don’t meet current standards and could discharge untreated effluent into the river and its tributaries, said a press release from the county.

Brelje & Race Consulting Engineers of Santa Rosa will conduct the $425,000 study of options, which include one or more alternatives recommended by a citizens advisory panel and representatives of local governments. The next step would be a pilot project to begin upgrading onsite treatment.

Sonoma County supervisors also will consider revisions to the county’s onsite treatment manual in early 2023, and the county is now beginning the public comment process.

In August and September, the county will host a series of question and answer meetings using Zoom videoconference software.

Information about the proposed changes is available here.

Texas citizen fights in court to maintain his own onsite system

The chair of the Hood County (Texas) Republican Party lost a court fight in June over maintenance of his onsite system. A judge found Steve Biggers has not been maintaining his system in accordance with county regulations.

Biggers has said publicly that he believes trained homeowners should be able to maintain aerobic systems instead of being forced to contract for the service, reported the Hood County News in Granbury, Texas. Court testimony showed Biggers had taken training from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Some counties accept that training as sufficient, but Hood County requires homeowners to complete a more intensive two-day training through the Texas Onsite Wastewater Association if they want to maintain their own systems.

County Attorney Matt Mills said the court decision means Biggers will have about 30 days to either take the TOWA class or obtain a maintenance contract for his system. If he doesn’t comply, the county could consider asking a judge to hold him in contempt of court.

New robot cleaner could reduce manual scavenging deaths in India

A team at the Indian Institute of Technology has developed a mechanical aid to clean septic tanks, eliminating the need for humans to enter them. Despite a law banning what is called “manual scavenging,” hundreds of deaths are reported every year when people climb into tanks for cleaning.

Using a custom designed rotary blade, the HomoSEP robot mixes the septage and solids in a tank and then sucks out the slurry. Researchers plan to deploy 10 units across Tamil Nadu, a province in southeastern India. The first two will go to two women whose husbands died during manual scavenging.

Continued manual scavenging results from lack of enforcement of the law and cost, explained the Indian Express in Mumbai. Unskilled laborers can be illegally employed for a day at about 2% of the cost of a cleaning by the Mumbai civic government.


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.