Washington State Wineries May Be Scrutinized For Waste Disposal Processes

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The Department of Ecology in Washington state is looking at regulatory changes due to the growing number of wineries in the state. According to the agency, every gallon of wine produced results in 6 gallons of wastewater. While the DOE says the industry has done a good job in general handling the wastewater, it is concerned many smaller wineries are disposing of wastewater in domestic septic systems, which aren’t designed for these waste streams. The largest wineries have individual wastewater discharge permits, and the DOE is drafting a general permit for smaller operations. Draft regulations are expected in July with a final regulation to follow in November for public comment. Final adoption is scheduled for March 2016. Agency representatives briefed the industry at the February meeting of the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers and plan to survey wineries through the association.


A proposal to repeal a ban on the purchase and installation of “non-efficient” faucets, shower heads, flushing urinals and tank-type toilets failed by a 6-4 vote in a committee of the Colorado Legislature. The ban, set to go into effect in September 2016, requires the use of fixtures that meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency WaterSense standards in new construction and renovations of residential, commercial, industrial and state-owned buildings. In criticizing the new rule, Colorado Rep. Tim Dore (R-Elizabeth) cited what he called the “Denver-centric view” of lawmakers. He said they overlooked the needs of rural areas with septic tanks, private wells or small water and sanitation districts that don’t have the water pressure needed to make the fixtures feasible.


Two bills have been introduced to once again try to overturn Florida’s ban on land-spreading septage waste, which becomes effective in January 2016. Passed in 2010, the ban was intended to protect the state’s waters from nutrient pollution. Septic wastewater haulers and rural counties tried to change the law last year without success. Companion bills were introduced again in February in the state’s House and Senate. Those who oppose the ban say land-spreading is important to rural counties as a fertilizer, noting that many rural areas don’t have wastewater treatment plants or, if they do, they may not accept septage. The Department of Health reported in 2011 that about 40 percent of the state’s septage was land-applied at 92 licensed sites. During discussions in 2014, the state health department said it would study the issue but has not issued a report.

New York

A group of town supervisors and village mayors on Long Island are calling for New York to form a $100 million regional initiative to fund upgrades of cesspools and septic systems to advanced onsite systems. The East End Supervisors and Mayors Association, which represents local officials in Suffolk County, made their plea in a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislative leaders. Many properties on Long Island still use cesspools, and many septic systems are decades old. The group would like the state to offer $5,000 rebates for homeowners who update their septic systems, saying it would result in updates to about 25 percent of the county’s 81,000 onsite systems. Their proposal also calls for $3 million for a nitrogen management and mitigation plan for the area, along with $2 million to develop nitrogen standards.


Some septic pumpers in Ohio are considering a class action lawsuit to overturn new state rules that went into effect in January. The 25 Akron-area pumpers object to having to inspect systems and submit reports to the local health department. The new rules were the result of seven years of discussion at the state level and cleared legislative review last fall, four years after legislation was passed requiring their development.


A Texas lawmaker has introduced a bill to grandfather all existing gravity flow septic systems and permit their use on properties of 10 acres or larger. Current state law requires gravity systems to be replaced with an aerobic system if a major repair is required. Texas Rep. John Wray (R-Waxahachie) had promised to submit the bill (HB 1301) during the 2014 campaign in which he was elected to his first term.

New Hampshire

Designers and installers in New Hampshire can now apply for septic system approvals online. The state Department of Environmental Services announced the Subsurface Systems Program ePermitting system in February. The online offering also accepts payment of fees with a credit card and allows the tracking of application status. The site address is des.nh.gov/onestop/subsurface-epermitting.htm. Registration is required, which can take up to five days for the department to review the license status of the installer.


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