Rules and Regs: Florida Legislature Considering Batch of Water Bills

Also in this month’s update, the AquiFund initiative helps upgrade septic systems to protect Cape Cod

Rules and Regs: Florida Legislature Considering Batch of Water Bills

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As the new session of the Florida Legislature opened March 7, lawmakers faced several bills related to the onsite industry and to local control of water.

One of the more controversial bills is SB 1240 and its companion bill HB 1197. Both would prohibit counties and municipalities from adopting laws about water quality, water quantity, pollution control and wetlands. Oversight of all those subjects would be reserved to state government, and the state could withhold money from local governments for violating the law. 

“Cities and counties are using water as a weapon to slow down their growth. That is not what water is meant to do,” said bill sponsor Rep. Randy Maggard, R-Dade City, according to the Miami Herald. 

The proposed laws are too broad, too vague, and would remove the ability of cities and counties to protect their water and ensure there is enough of it, Rebecca O'Hara, a lawyer with the Florida League of Cities, told the newspaper. 

The Tampa Bay Times listed several other water-related bills in its summary of introduced water legislation. 

  • HB 423 and SB 1538 would implement a statewide septic system inspection program. The bill is a result of recommendations from the state’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force. 
  • A similar bill, HB 1425, would require inspections every five years for certain onsite systems. The measure would apply to systems more than five years old and would be administered by the state Department of Environmental Protection. 
  • SB 358 would provide a tax credit to homebuilders and developers for up to 50% of the cost of each NSF 350 Class R certified noncommercial, residential graywater system purchased during a taxable year. The credit would not exceed $4,200 per system. 

The legislative session ends May 5.

Massachusetts governor proposes doubling the tax credit for onsite system repair

In a tax-relief package released recently, Gov. Maura Healey proposed doubling the maximum tax credit for repairing or replacing an onsite system at a primary residence. 

Current law allows homeowners to receive a credit equal to 40% of the cost to design and install a new system, up to a maximum of $6,000. Healey’s proposal would change the law to allow 40% of the cost up to $12,000. To recover the maximum amount, homeowners would receive $4,000 credits for three tax years. 

Residents have cited the cost of nitrogen-reducing technology in their opposition to a proposed change in the state’s onsite rules. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has suggested requiring all property owners in nitrogen-sensitive areas to install nitrogen-reducing onsite systems, using best available technology, within five years. If a municipality were to obtain a watershed permit, that deadline would be extended to 20 years. 

AquiFund initiative helps upgrade septic systems to protect Cape Cod

Barnstable County, which covers Cape Cod, announced its AquiFund initiative to help people who need to upgrade to new advanced treatment onsite systems.

Eligible homeowners with 120% of the county’s median household income may qualify for a zero-percent interest loan. Homeowners at 120% to 180% of the median income may qualify for a loan at 2% interest, while those at more than 180% may qualify for a loan with 4% interest.

Loans are available only to new applicants, for properties on a nitrogen-sensitive watershed, and for properties that are single-family homes occupied as a primary residence year-round. 

For more information, visit the county’s website for the AquiFund program.

State of Alabama accused of discrimination in distributing money for wastewater infrastructure

Environmental and legal advocates in March accused the state of Alabama of discriminating against minority communities when it distributes money for wastewater infrastructure. 

The complaint, filed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, comes from the Natural Resources Defense Council, represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The complaint asserts that policies for money from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund make it impossible for poor residents to access funds, reported Alabama Public Radio.

Particularly at issue is money for the Black Belt, a region of rich black soils that is also known for severe poverty.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management said audits have found the agency in compliance with federal rules. Of the $463 million awarded for drinking water and wastewater projects, 34% went to Black Belt counties, but only 10.6% of the state’s population lives there, the agency said. 

U.S. EPA announces second installment of money through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

The U.S. Environmental Protection agency announced more than $2.4 billion will be available for water infrastructure projects for states, tribes and territories in 2023. Money will be distributed through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. 

About half of the money will be available as grants or loans with principal forgiveness.

This is the second installment of money from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. From 2022 to 2026, the law allocates more than $50 billion for water and wastewater infrastructure improvements. 

Among the amounts allocated are: $20.9 million for Kansas, $64.3 million for Missouri, $11.9 million for Nebraska, $31.4 million for Iowa, $26.2 million for Oregon, $166 million for California, $15 million for Arizona, and $176.9 million for Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. 

Nevada considers bill to encourage connections to municipal systems for some communities

The Nevada Legislature is considering a bill that would encourage people to abandon onsite systems in favor of municipal wastewater systems. 

The bill, AB 220, would require property owners to connect to a municipal system by Jan. 1, 2054, if they live within 400 feet of the system and live in a county of more than 700,000 people, reported KVVU News. Currently the bill would apply only to Clark County, which includes Las Vegas and has a population of 2.3 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Next largest is Washoe County, including Reno, with 493,392 people.

The bill would require a review of permits every five years to determine whether a property is within 400 feet of a municipal system, notify the owners of a need to connect, and revoke the system’s permit after 365 days. The state would also establish a program to pay no less than 50% of the cost to abandon an onsite system and connect to a municipal system.

Maryland institutions to research climate change dangers to septic systems

Researchers at three institutions will receive a $1.35 million grant to formulate solutions to the dangers that climate change poses to septic systems.

Research will begin this summer and continue through mid-2025. Specialists from the University of Maryland, George Mason University and the nonprofit Resources for the Future will study flood risk and septic system health on the state’s eastern shore. 

Using the information they collect, the research team will evaluate policy options such as upgrading onsite systems, facilitating connections to municipal wastewater systems, and helping relocation from areas particularly at risk. 

Massachusetts company fined for violating wastewater regulations

Massacusetts has fined the company 182 MTR LLC $7,470 for violating wastewater regulations. The company owns Highway Auto Salvage in Northampton.

In December 2021, the state investigated a complaint that an employee pumped the contents of a septic tank onto land next to Mill River. Also, 182 MTR failed to comply with a required system inspection, said a press release from the state.

If 182 MTR pays $5,750 of the fine, the state will suspend the remainder provided the company brings its wastewater system into compliance with state rules. The press release said the company has hired an engineering firm to remedy the problem. 

Homeowners eligible for funds to repair onsite systems damaged by the Holiday Farm Fire

Homeowners in the McKenzie Valley are eligible to receive up to $35,000 to repair or replace onsite systems damaged in the Holiday Farm Fire. 

Payments will come from federal funds received by Lane County and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, reported The Register-Guard of Eugene, Oregon. The county and state partnered with the Eugene Water and Electric Board to distribute more than $3 million. 

Applicants must own the property, the property must be within the perimeter of the fire and must have sustained damage, and the repairs must be completed by the property owner or a licensed onsite installer certified by the state. Grant funding is retroactive to March 3, 2021. 

Lake George mandates septic inspection and increases dumping fees

Septage hauled to the new wastewater plant in the Village of Lake George, New York, will incur a higher fee.

In mid-February the Village Board voted to increase dumping fees from $60 per thousand gallons to $100 per thousand gallons. At their meeting, board members noted that Glens Falls already charges $75 to $80 per thousand, and a rate increase is expected, reported The Post-Star of Glens Falls. 

As of this spring, onsite system owners around Lake George — for systems within 500 feet of the lake or 100 feet of a major tributary — will be notified by the Lake George Park Commission to inspect and pump their systems at least once every five years. Owners of residential systems must pay a $50 fee, and people with commercial systems will pay $100, reported the Lake George Mirror.

About 2,700 systems will be eligible for inspections, and one-fifth, or about 540 systems, will be inspected each year between May and November.

Thieves stole doors from pumper trucks of Florida company A1 Septic

A1 Septic in Southport, Florida, was sidelined for a few days because one or more thieves stole the doors from its pumper trucks. 

An employee driving past the yard about 4 p.m. on Feb. 26 noticed all the doors were still in place. When she arrived at 6 a.m. Monday, all doors were missing from the company’s two trucks, reported WJHG News. The thief, or thieves, apparently entered the yard through a back fence. 

Removing a door doesn’t take long, and each one can bring $5,000 to $7,000 if thieves know where to sell them, said Jason Daffin of the Bay County Sheriff’s Office. The same type of theft has happened in other parts of the state, he said.

A1 is back on the road after it received a new set of doors for one truck, but that set the company back about $40,000.


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