Rules & Regs - May 2021

A bill in the Indiana Legislature would alter the cost of replacing onsite systems with municipal services by changing the state’s financial rules. 

The particular focus of HB 1287 is developed and underserved communities with failing septic systems. Under the bill as it stands, a utility would have to show that the money paid by at least half of the potential customers in a proposed expansion would be enough to repay the expansion cost within 20 years. If there would not be enough money to repay the cost, the utility could require a deposit or other assurance from potential customers, or from the developer or an economic development organization.

An underserved area, the bill says, is developed land where structures receive water mainly from private wells or dispose of wastewater through private onsite systems. 

The bill also addresses a common complaint: property owners forced to connect to municipal sewer and water utilities even though their onsite systems are functioning. Under HB 1287, if an owner makes a property improvement that does not include a bedroom or the equivalent of a bedroom, the owner will not be required to increase the size of an absorption field or connect to municipal water and sewer, provided a written report from a qualified inspector says the onsite system is not failing. 

SB 1287 was approved by the House and sent to the Senate.

A related bill in the Legislature, SB 348, would establish a task force to look at the state’s wastewater infrastructure investment and service to underserved areas. The task force would not have to include a representative of the onsite industry. 

Under the current version of the bill, the task force would consist of 14 people: four senators, four representatives, and six people appointed by the governor including one officer or employee of the state, one representative of wastewater management systems, one engineer or professional with expertise in wastewater management systems, one person representing ratepayers, one person representing municipalities served by a wastewater operator not under the jurisdiction of the state utility commission, and one member of the public. 

SB 348 was approved by the Senate and sent to the House.


Instead of being governed by regional wastewater processing rules, California wineries will now be subject to statewide rules. 

The new framework of regulation, advocated by wine industry leaders, was approved by the state Water Resources Control Board. The board’s order sets guidelines for wastewater processing at most of the more than 3,600 bonded wineries in the state, reported the Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, California. 

At least 1,500 of those wineries will be inside a regulatory structure for the first time. The order increases reporting requirements, caps the volumes of water discharged through land application and subsurface disposal, and requires groundwater monitoring for the largest wineries.

There will be a three-year window for permitting and another five years for wineries to come into compliance.


For the first time, the state’s Natural Resources Commission approved more than $2.5 million in interest-free loans to help people in northwest Arkansas replace or repair failing onsite systems. 

Loans, and some grants, will be available in the Illinois River and White River watersheds. This includes the counties of Benton, Washington, Crawford, Madison, Carroll, Boone, Newton and Franklin.

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette quoted installer Jon Jouvenaux of BBB Septic in Bentonville, Arkansas, as saying the money will serve a need after a year of pandemic. “It’s not like I need any more business. We’re installing systems every day,” Jouvenaux said. “But people who had really nice jobs have been out of work.”

And he said that because people are at home almost all the time, some onsite systems are stressed by the waste flows. 

New York

The East Hampton Village Board said earlier this year that it intends to change its onsite ordinance, so more people install nitrogen-removing onsite systems. In February 2019, the board passed a law requiring advanced treatment for all new homes and for any work that expands existing homes by at least 25% or adds to the number of bedrooms, reported The East Hampton Star.

Under the village’s expected change, advanced treatment would be required when a conventional system fails, when a property is transferred, or when a business asks for a site plan review of proposed construction. 

The village is on the eastern end of Long Island where Suffolk County and other municipalities have passed onsite laws to help control pollution of Atlantic Ocean coastal waters.


The town of Lakeview was scheduled to vote on raising its septage dumping fee from 3 cents per gallon to 6 cents. Public Works Director Jeff Marshall told the town council that neighboring communities charge 10 cents per gallon or more, reported the Lake County Examiner. The increase was necessary because the state Department of Environmental Quality required construction of a new $125,000 dumping facility.

New York

About $72,500 is still available to help people repair or replace onsite systems around Moon Lake, Red Lake and the Indian River. All are in Jefferson County, which touches northeast Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. 

In 2018, the county received $75,000 to help people repair or replace cesspools or onsite systems that could contaminate bodies of water. Only one $2,500 grant has been drawn from the fund, reported the Watertown Daily Times. About 50 homes are eligible for grants. 


The Park County Planning and Zoning Department earlier this year approved onsite regulations that replace rules updated in 2017.

The regulations set new design and construction standards that conform to state requirements. There will also be minimum requirements for standard and nonstandard wastewater systems, reported the Cody Enterprise. All nonstandard systems will require an application that must be submitted before construction begins.

In addition, the regulations include limits on the use of portable restrooms. Use of chemical or portable restrooms will not be allowed for more than 30 consecutive days.

Joy Hill, the county’s planning and zoning director, said the use of portable restrooms has been increasing, and she expects that use to continue increasing as there is growth in home construction and short-term rentals. She said some people make portable restrooms a nuisance by living in an RV on their property while renting out their house for the summer.

Portable toilet use is exempt from the 30-day limit at road, utility or pipeline construction sites; for seasonal agricultural use; at seasonal government inspection sites; and at remote industrial sites. 


Otter Tail County has received $1 million from the state to provide zero-interest loans for the replacement of failing onsite systems. According to a guidance sheet published by the county, $500,000 will be available for systems that serve single-family homes, and $500,000 will be available for commercial systems. 

A separate pot of money from the state’s Clean Water Fund will give grants to low-income households to replace failing onsite systems. Grants will cover 50% of the cost up to $5,000. Grants will be awarded to both the property owner and the licensed installer when a project is complete.

Also in Minnesota, the Mower County Board of Commissioners entered the final phase of updating its onsite ordinance earlier in the year. One major part of the proposed ordinance changes is a requirement that an onsite system be updated before ownership is transferred or escrow is in place, reported the Austin Daily Herald, of Austin, Minnesota. 

“One of the challenges in current property transfers is that sometimes sellers are leaving the state and going to other locations,” Angela Lipelt, the county’s environmental services supervisor, told the newspaper. “They didn’t know they had to do anything, and it’s difficult to find them.”

The proposed changes also include constant compliance for commercial systems through either inspections or permits.


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