Rules and Regs: Michigan Launches Onsite Treatment Fund for Food Industry

Also in this month’s update, South Carolina conservation groups push for temporary ban of septic tank permit approvals

Rules and Regs: Michigan Launches Onsite Treatment Fund for Food Industry

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In early August the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development launched a $30 million fund to help food businesses pay the cost of onsite wastewater treatment systems, several news outlets reported.

Companies must pay the full cost upfront, but they may be reimbursed for up to 50% of total project costs. Among those are site work, engineering design, installation and materials. Payments are limited depending on daily flows. For example, a project of up to 750 gpd is eligible for a maximum grant of $225,000. On the top end, a project for more than 20,000 gpd is eligible for the maximum grant of $2 million.

Money from the new Wastewater Infrastructure Fund is intended to help companies meet requirements for groundwater discharge permits, says the state website detailing the fund. There is a focus on processing of fruit, vegetables, dairy products, meat, eggs and grain.

Jamie Zmitko-Somers, director of the department’s agriculture development division, told Crain’s Grand Rapids Business, “A lot of these processing facilities are in rural communities, and the disadvantage for them is they do not have municipal waste systems that they can send their waste to where it’s treated.”

Scott Newman-Bale, CEO of Short’s Brewing Co. LLC, told Crain’s that in 2013 the brewery’s wastewater output exceeded the treatment capacity of its home community of Elk Rapids, located on a bay of Lake Michigan. The brewery produces about 4.5 gallons of wastewater for each gallon of finished beer, he said. To solve the problem, he said, the company built its own $2 million wastewater treatment system, which came online in 2015. 

South Carolina conservation groups push for temporary ban of septic tank permit approvals

In the first week of September, the Charleston Waterkeeper and Coastal Conservation League asked a judge to temporarily ban some septic tank permit approvals. The ban would last until the state updates its permit process to allow for rising seas and increasing storms. 

Only large-scale housing developments would be affected along with homes within 200 feet of state waters in coastal counties, reported The Post and Courier of Charleston. An example of people not affected would be those replacing septic tanks at single-family homes. 

Attorney Leslie Lenhardt, representing the two groups, said the state’s coastal act of 1977 was passed before scientists fully understood how climate change would affect modern septic systems. She said permitting rules need to be adjusted to account for that. 

Around Charleston, sea levels have increased by 10 inches since 1950, and since 2010 levels have increased at a rate of 1 inch every two years. 

The judge in the case said she would issue a ruling as soon as possible.

Massachusetts towns consider options for compliance with nitrogen reduction rules

Two Massachusetts towns are considering different options for complying with the state’s new onsite rules intended to reduce nitrogen pollution of coastal waters. 

Bourne may hire an outside firm to manage onsite system upgrades required by the new rules. Officials may contract with the town’s current management firm, or may partner with some or all of the 15 other towns on Cape Cod to hire a management firm to serve all of them, reported The Enterprise in Falmouth. 

The town is still also considering whether to apply for a state watershed permit. Under the new rules, towns in areas designated nitrogen-sensitive have two years to apply for a permit that provides a 20-year period to implement nitrogen-reducing strategies such as advanced onsite systems or municipal sewer connections. If towns don’t apply for the permit and after the two-year application window closes, residents will have five years to upgrade their onsite systems to advanced treatment. 

In Wareham, voters may be asked to decide whether to opt for municipal sewer or pursue onsite upgrades, reported the Wareham Week. Patrick MacDonald, the town’s public health director, said the options for complying with the new onsite rules are to extend sewer service to the entire town or accept responsibility for the compliance of every private onsite system affected by a watershed permit. He recommended a shift to municipal sewer. 

Oregon county expands its onsite replacement program

Lincoln County and Oregon State University Extension Service have expanded their onsite replacement program to all low- and middle-income homeowners in Lincoln County. The program provides aid to replace onsite systems
damaged by wildfires.

Eligible homeowners can have their systems replaced at no cost, according to the county’s website. Eligibility depends on household size and income. For example, a household of one person must have an income no greater than $38,640, and a household of eight would qualify with an income of no more than $133,980. 

New York village passes time-of-sale onsite inspection ordinance

The village of Speculator, New York, in the Adirondack lake country, passed a time-of-sale ordinance requiring onsite system inspections when properties are transferred. 

Mayor Jeannette Barrett told the Adirondack Almanac that the village has watched similar ordinances pass in nearby communities around Lake George and like those communities is concerned about the quality of its lake water. 

The new regulations apply to Lake Pleasant, Whitaker Lake, and Lewey Lake. 

Guam EPA may cut off water supply of people who violate onsite rules

To protect its aquifer, the Guam Environmental Protection Agency may seek to cut off the water supply of people who violate its onsite rules. This is part of a two-piece recommendation to the agency’s board for combatting increasing groundwater contamination, reported the Guam Daily Post. 

Guam law forbids onsite systems on parcels of less than half an acre in the groundwater protection zone on the northern section of the island. But an exception to the rule allows parents to split property and pass it on to their children, and this has been used to bypass the aquifer protections, the recommendation said.

The second piece of the approach is permitting advanced treatment systems, said Brian Bearden, who directs the agency’s water division. Current law does not allow this and recognizes only three types of toilets: connected to a sewer system, connected to a septic system, or discharging to a hole in the ground.

Guam is a U.S. territory in the western Pacific Ocean about 2,000 miles north of Australia. 

Council providing financial aid for repair of onsite systems in Oregon counties

A new onsite assistance program from the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council will provide financial aid for the repair or replacement of onsite systems. 

Money will provide reimbursements to people at or below moderate income levels in Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties, reported KTVZ News in Bend. 

Eligibility varies by county and household size. According to the council’s website, the income for a two-person household in Crook County cannot exceed $58,380 while the income for the same size household in Deschutes County is $73,140. 

Endowment helps low-income homeowners pay for septic pumpouts in Virginia

Low-income homeowners in Roanoke County can apply for a free pumpout through the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission. 

Money from the Virginia Environmental Endowment will cover about 50 pump-outs in the county, reported WDBJ News in Roanoke.  

Environmental group seeks to stop wastewater permit for planned subdivision in Montana

An environmental group has won a round in its lawsuit to stop a state wastewater permit for a large subdivision in Montana. In the latest development, a judge rejected the state’s motion to dismiss the case. The issue will now be argued in court on its merits. 

Upper Missouri Waterkeeper sued in state court to halt the onsite plan for a 175-acre residential development near the Gallatin River. Last year the state Department of Environmental Quality recognized that section of the river as impaired by algal blooms, reported the Billings Gazette

Upper Missouri Waterkeeper asserts that by allowing individual onsite systems with lower individual discharge volumes, DEQ would create an unscientific exemption from standard permit requirements. 

Iowa county’s health board budget decreased after unlawful payments

Supervisors in Tama County, in central Iowa, voted to decrease the health board’s budget after the board made payments totaling about $13,000 to two homeowners whose onsite systems were improperly approved by the county’s former sanitarian. 

Carlton Salmons, attorney for the county supervisors, found the payments unlawful for many reasons, reported the Tama-Toledo News Chronicle. Supervisors voted to refuse any payments to the homeowners and to transfer $51,000 from the health department budget into the county’s general fund. Supervisor Bill Faircloth said supervisors would find out whether there is a legal way for them to help. 

As the supervisors voted, a relative of one of the homeowners said, “We’ll see you gentlemen in court.” 

California man steals, crashes pump truck

The California Highway Patrol is searching for a man who crashed a stolen pump truck near Santa Rosa
in northern California.

First responders found the truck on its side after the crash at about 11:30 a.m. on Aug. 30. The truck hit an oncoming car, injuring the driver, reported the San Francisco Chronicle. The thief apparently lost control of the truck while driving it along a rural road. 

It was unknown whether the truck contained any septage.


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