Rules & Regs: Michigan legislator tries again for statewide onsite rule

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It’s been almost four years since the Michigan Legislature attempted to pass a statewide sanitary code. That bill, defeated in December 2018, drew widespread opposition from local health departments and local governments who complained that it was crafted behind closed doors with minimal input from local officials.

         Now state Rep. Jeff Yaroch, R-Richmond, is trying again for a statewide rule, but with a more narrowly focused idea. This one, reports Bridge Michigan, would require onsite systems to be inspected when a home is sold or transferred to another owner. Yaroch said this would allow buyers to negotiate repair costs. His bill had its first hearing before the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Committee in the House.

         Among the people speaking or registering in support of HB 6101 were representatives of the Michigan Environmental Council, District Health Department No. 10, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. Registering in opposition were people from Michigan Realtors, Michigan Association for Local Public Health, and Michigan Association of Local Environmental Administrators.

         Michigan is the only state in the country without a statewide sanitary code.


         Barnstable County, which covers Cape Cod, is beginning the process of setting up a registered management entity to provide various services for decentralized wastewater systems.

         A press release from the county says the RME program will provide advice to homeowners on the best technologies to use when an onsite system needs replacement, and will provide assurance about design, installation and maintenance. The RME would also collect performance data and keep municipalities informed about the effectiveness of systems.

         Funding for the program consists of a $1.15 million grant from the Southeastern New England Program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and $100,000 from The Nature Conservancy.

         The county posted a job opening for an employee to develop the program. It will be implemented over five years. 

North Carolina

         The North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission will consider rule changes that include setback and permit requirements for septic tanks.

         Under the changes, the owner of an oceanfront property would have to acquire a permit to put a septic tank back in its original location after it has been displaced by a storm. Tanks would be prohibited seaward of the first line of vegetation.

         Last fall, Hurricane Earl was 830 miles from Rodanthe, North Carolina, on the Outer Banks barrier islands, yet waves broke open a newly installed septic system, spilling untreated wastewater onto a beach.

         “This is not an uncommon event, and it does not take a significant storm to cause these problems,” said Dave Hallac, superintendent of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, according to “This is a problem that is likely to become more significant. We are dealing with significant issues from sea level rise.”


         Last fall, Kootenai County commissioners adopted a rule restricting septic tank use to one tank per 5 acres of land over the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer. The aquifer covers about 250 square miles in northern Idaho around the city of Coeur d’Alene and Lake Pend Oreille. The 5-acre rule was adopted by the Panhandle Health District in 1977 and was scheduled to expire at the end of the current legislative session, reported the Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls Press. The aquifer is the only source of drinking water for most of the county.

Rhode Island

         Eligible residents in Smithfield will be able to sign up for low-interest loans of up to $20,000 to repair or replace failing onsite systems. The Smithfield Town Council approved a program last fall that will make the town a co-signer on loans from the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank. The council capped its backing at $200,000.

         If borrowers default on the loan, the town can file a lien against the property or seek a tax sale to recover its money, said Kevin Cleary, the town engineer, according to the Valley Breeze & Observer of Lincoln, Rhode Island. To begin the process, a state-certified system inspector must declare an existing system either failed or substandard. 


         A former Maui County official and a businessman pleaded guilty in federal court in connection with a scheme to steer more than $19 million in wastewater contracts to a single company.

         Stewart Olani Stant, 55, former director of the Maui County Department of Environmental Management, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to deprive the public of their right to honest services. Milton J. Choy, owner and manager of H2O Processes LLC and Central Pacific Controls LLC, pleaded guilty to bribery of a federally funded program, according to news reports.

         From October 2012 to December 2018, Choy paid Stant $2 million in cash, trips, and other compensation to send sole-source contracts to Choy’s company, according to a plea agreement. Choy reportedly paid $424,987 in travel expenses for Stant, who traveled and gambled with Choy over the course of their 30-year friendship. Court records say Stant cashed $183,000 in Las Vegas casino chips that he did not purchase.

         Stant faces up to 20 years in prison. Choy faces a prison term of up to 10 years.

         Last summer, J. Kalani English, 55, former majority leader of the state Senate, was scheduled to start a 40-month prison term because of his ties to Choy. Federal prosecutors said English accepted $18,305 in cash from Choy in exchange for managing legislation so Choy’s company would benefit from the state’s cesspool replacement program.

         Also involved is former state Rep. Ty Cullen, who is scheduled to be sentenced. Cullen pleaded guilty to failing to report alleged bribes on his legislative disclosure report. Choy allegedly gave him more than $22,000 in casino chips and access to the high-rollers’ room at a New Orleans casino. Choy also allegedly paid Cullen $23,000 in cash over several months.

        After the bribery case broke open, a number of public officials returned political contributions from Choy. 


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