Rules and Regs: 21 States Fight Pollution Limits

Rules and Regs: 21 States Fight Pollution Limits

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Pollution limits set by the U.S. EPA to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay are being fought by 21 states that fear it will result in the federal government taking away power from states to regulate water quality. The original suit by the American Farm Bureau and other groups was dismissed in September because a lower court ruled the EPA, six states, and the District of Columbia had voluntarily agreed to the plans. The Chesapeake Bay Program dates back to the original agreement in 1983. 

That court’s dismissal of the case has been appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. The 21 states have filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs’ challenges of the Total Maximum Daily Loads set by the agreement. According to The Star Democrat newspaper, the states claim the limits are “the culmination of (the EPA’s) decade-long attempt to control exactly how states achieve federal water quality requirements under the (Clean Water Act), and marks the beginning of the end of meaningful state participation in water pollution regulation.” They also claim it would end the “traditional right” of the states to decide how to meet federal requirements. 

The states signing the brief are Michigan, Florida, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Florida faces increased legislation

Lawyers have notified the Florida Department of Health that they intend to sue to end the permitting of septic tanks along the 156-mile-long Indian River Lagoon system along the Atlantic coast. The case is being filed under the Endangered Species Act on behalf of an eco-tourism business owner, the Florida manatee, the green sea turtle and the Atlantic salt marsh snake. The suit will claim that septic systems contribute to algae blooms that kill marine life. Excess nitrogen is suspected in the algae blooms, but the source of the nitrogen is not known, according to state officials. 

After months of revisions, a bill to protect Florida’s freshwater springs passed the first of three committees. SB 1576, introduced by Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, would provide an estimated $378 million for septic tank hookups and wastewater improvements — considerably more than requested by the governor or recommended by House and Senate budget writers. The House Bill has not been before any committees yet. 

Environmental groups, including the Sierra Club Florida, supported the changes. Representatives of wastewater utilities, Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Home Builders Association have concerns over more stringent septic tank inspection regulations, which could delay or prohibit home sales. 

If funding is available, the bill would require septic tank hookups near protected springs to be provided at no cost to homeowners, along with improvement to wastewater treatment plants.

Septic service license extensions proposed in Virginia

The Senate has passed a bill that would grant a six-month interim license extension to some septic service operators concerned about their ability to pass a qualifying exam. The bill is on its way to the governor. 

The bill is in response to complaints from many in the septic business who fear the licensing test will lead to the loss of their businesses. They argue that it is designed for engineers and others with at least a college degree and contains questions that have little bearing on their job requirements. 

Critics of the test contend the six-month extension provided for in the legislation doesn’t solve their main problem, which is that the test is excessively and needlessly stringent. 

The test, administered by a board affiliated with the state Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation, was created for those installing and maintaining sewage disposal systems designed for use in soils deemed unsuited for traditional septic tanks.

Idaho considers onsite system guidance changes

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality is considering changes to guidance covering the design, construction, and operation of onsite wastewater systems. The revision to the Technical Guidance Manual for Individual and Subsurface Sewage Disposal Systems was put out for public comment in March. 

The proposals apply to separation distances, drain field covers and excavation procedures, capping fill trenches, drip distribution systems, experimental systems, extended treatment package systems, pressure distribution, recirculating gravel filters, sand mounds, and two-cell infiltrative systems. 


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