Rules and Regs: Public Pressure Ends Mandatory Sewer Conversion Law in Nevada

Also in this month’s update, a grant program will assist residents with failing onsite systems in Lampasas River watershed

Rules and Regs: Public Pressure Ends Mandatory Sewer Conversion Law in Nevada

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Onsite system owners in the Las Vegas Valley were upset by a bill in the Legislature that would have required onsite system owners to connect to a municipal treatment system. A few hundred of them showed up at a public meeting and told the local water authority of their displeasure.

As introduced, the bill would have required property owners to switch from onsite to municipal treatment by 2054 if a property was within 400 feet of a municipal system. It also would have required a review of permits every five years to determine whether a property was within the 400-foot limit, and would have revoked the onsite system permit if the owners didn’t connect.

The other quirk in the bill was that it would have applied only to a county of more than 700,000 people. In Nevada there’s only one of those: Clark County, which contains the city of Las Vegas. 

All of this was intended as a way to increase the state’s share of Colorado River water, reported the Las Vegas Review-Journal. For every gallon of water treated and returned to Lake Mead, the main water source for Las Vegas, the municipal water system receives a credit of one extra gallon. Those credits enabled Nevada to push its withdrawals beyond the state’s 300,000-acre-foot allocation of river water. Water treated in onsite systems never flows to the lake.

The Legislature heard the complaints. As sent to the governor, the bill allows the Southern Nevada Health District to create a voluntary program that will pay the cost for a property owner to abandon an onsite system and connect to municipal sewer. New septic systems will be prohibited, Colby Pellegrino, deputy general manager of resources for the Southern Nevada Water Authority, told KLAS-TV News.

The bill, now signed into law, takes another step: It gives the water authority power to cap household water use at 1/2 acre-foot of water per year if the federal government reduces the state’s Colorado River allocation below 270,000 acre feet. The cap equals about 163,000 gallons and would affect about 115,000 homes, reported the Review-Journal, but the average home in the valley uses 130,000 to 132,000 gallons. 

A winter snowpack at 160% of normal in the Upper Colorado Basin removed some pressure for water conservation, but it will fill Lake Mead to only 26% of capacity, KLAS reported. 

Massachusetts town excluded from state review of onsite regulations

Officials in the town of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, are upset over being excluded from a state committee reviewing possible new onsite regulations. The Dartmouth Select Board was deeply troubled about the exclusion, reported The New Bedford Light. 

The Department of Environmental Protection is discussing new rules for nitrogen reduction that would require many property owners along the Atlantic shore to upgrade their onsite systems. As proposed regulations stand, people in designated nitrogen-sensitive areas would be required to upgrade to nitrogen-reducing systems within five years after regulations are finalized, and they would have to use best-available technology. Another option would allow towns to apply for watershed management permits, which would extend the deadline for system upgrades to 20 years. 

The state committee is composed of engineers, environmental advocates, real estate professionals, regulators and government officials. Its job is to revise the proposed regulations in light of the hundreds of public comments received. People objected primarily to the cost that homeowners and taxpayers could face if the rules are implemented as proposed. 

Communities near Dartmouth are represented on the committee, but not Dartmouth, said the newspaper. “It’s a very purposeful selection of individuals, because if you select the right people you get a certain outcome,” said Chris Michaud, Dartmouth’s health director and a critic of the proposed regulations. 

Gary Moran, DEP deputy commissioner for operations, said the agency is considering applying regulations only to areas ready to be designated as nitrogen-sensitive, which would mean only watersheds on Cape Cod. DEP may also extend the deadline for compliance, grandfather in more systems, and streamline the watershed permit process.

Kansas county’s onsite code is questioned 

Commissioners in Reno County, Kansas, held a meeting about the county’s onsite code and eventually ordered the Health Department director to come back with answers to their questions. 

"We've created a system that has become so expensive that many of our consumers and our sellers, when they get ready to sell, don't have $20,000 just to have a system (upgraded)," real estate agent Marsha McConnell told commissioners, according to The Hutchinson News. Josh Barkley, of Barkley Plumbing, said the county is known as a difficult place for onsite installations. He and other people told commissioners that contractors cannot use newer technologies because they are not allowed by the county, and he said there are too many requirements for specific soil tests and documents. 

Commissioners were frustrated by a lack of specific answers from representatives of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment who attended, and commissioners discussed reducing their code to the one used by the state, which is half the size of the county’s code. 

South Carolina county officials planning to restrict onsite system use

Greenville County (South Carolina) officials are talking about how to implement a planning goal of restricting the use of onsite systems. Implementation would also include limiting growth in rural areas that sewer lines don’t yet reach, reported The Post and Courier of Charleston. A number of housing developments using onsite systems have been approved in rural areas of the county.

Ennis Fant, who chairs the county council’s planning and development committee, said the county wants to avoid haphazard development and encourage it in areas where sewer system growth is planned. 

County staff offered some options for restricting the use of onsite systems: limiting septic use to subdivisions with six or fewer houses, banning septic systems within 100 feet of a body of water, and requiring 3-acre lots for subdivisions considering septic use.

Greenville County has a population of about 548,000 and by 2040 is expected to add 222,000 new residents. 

Ohio county to use federal relief money for septic tank upgrades

Stark County wants to accelerate septic tank upgrades using $450,000 in money from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The county health department receives about $150,000 annually from the state, but with only those payments it would take about three years to complete all projects on the waiting list, reported The Repository of Canton, Ohio. 

"Stark County has the most septic systems in the state of Ohio," said Todd Paulus, a unit manager at the Stark County Health Department. "We're estimated at around 43,000 septic systems.”

Depending on the complexity of the jobs, the department estimates between 24 and 32 systems could be replaced with the money. 

Some Lincoln County citizens eligible for assistance to repair onsite systems damaged by wildfire

People with onsite systems damaged by wildfire in Lincoln County, Oregon, may be eligible for financial assistance for repairs through a program run by the county and Oregon State University Extension Service. The program had previously been available to wildfire survivors in Otis, but it will now be open to low- and middle-income homeowners across the county. 

To qualify, people must prove ownership of the home and their income. A one-person household will qualify with an income less than $38,640. A household of four cannot have a combined income of more than $79,500. 

Applications for the program can be found at

Grant program will assist residents with failing onsite systems in Lampasas River watershed

Residents of the Lampasas River watershed in Texas may receive up to $8,000 for the repair or replacement of failing septic systems. This is the second set of federal funds for dealing with ailing onsite systems in the watershed, and it will fix about 20 systems. The first set of federal funds replaced about 20 systems. 

The watershed includes parts of Mills, Hamilton, Lampasas, Coryell, Burnet, Bell and Williamson counties, said AgriLife Today, a publication of Texas A&M University, which is part of the Lampasas River Watershed Partnership. 

More information about the grant program is at

Dukes County commissioners vote for reimbursements for nitrogen-reducing systems

Dukes County (Massachusetts) commissioners voted in late May to spend $1.4 million so homeowners in all seven towns in the county could install nitrogen-reducing onsite systems. 

The money will reimburse, or help cover, the cost for properties that cannot connect to a municipal sewer system. Money will come from the American Rescue Plan Act.  Each town will seek property owners interested in participating, reported the Vineyard Gazette of Edgartown.


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