Rules and Regs: Failed Referendum Means Higher Septage Dumping Fees in BC Community

In this month's regulations update, the Alaska Water and Sewage Challenge moves into the pilot testing phase, and officials in a British Columbia community will face issues over increased costs for a septage receiving station.
Rules and Regs: Failed Referendum Means Higher Septage Dumping Fees in BC Community

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The failure of a referendum in a British Columbia community has officials wondering what will happen next with septage. It started in 2014 when the City of Fort St. John announced it was closing its septage receiving facility because several illegal dumping cases threatened the city’s treatment system. Septage has become a problem in recent years due to an increase in waste from oil drilling worker camps. Many of the trucks carrying septage are also used to haul chemicals for oil operations that can harm sewage treatment plants.

In response, the 46,000-square-mile Peace River Regional District (PRRD), located northwest of Calgary, began planning for new septage receiving stations to serve its rural residents and work camps. The City of Dawson Creek also built a $3.5 million trucked waste facility at its municipal wastewater treatment plant.

In November, the referendum to fund operations at the newly opened PRRD receiving station in Charlie Lake failed. It would have levied a tax of 11.4 cents per $1,000 of assessed improvements to properties, but failed on a vote of 510 to 420. Operations will have to be funded through user fees that are expected to be very high because of the small number of users. That may cause many people to take their septage to Dawson Creek, which committed to keeping the facility open for 20 years when PRRD built its new receiving station. More people hauling septage there could pose capacity problems and increase operating costs. 


Alaska Water and Sewer Challenge moves into pilot testing phase
The Alaska Water and Sewer Challenge has moved into its third phase of a multiyear project aimed at eliminating honey buckets in the state’s rural communities. According to the project’s website, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation began the project in 2013 to “spur worldwide research to develop innovative and cost-effective water and sewer systems for homes in remote Alaskan villages. The project focuses on decentralized water and wastewater treatment, recycling, and water minimization.”

More than 3,300 rural homes have no running water or flush toilets, with many using honey buckets that collect human waste and are hand-carried to community sewage lagoons. A 2010 study found higher rates of invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) amongst Alaskan children who did not have access to piped water. IPD is a very serious bacterial infection that can affect the brain, blood and lungs, and residents of southwest Alaska suffer rates of IPD that are among the highest in the world. 

In phase three of the challenge, funding for prototype development and pilot lab testing was awarded to three of the six teams that presented detailed proposals in phase two. Results of the testing will be presented in fall 2017. Those that meet the performance targets will be provided further funding for development and testing in phase four, followed by field testing and technology refinement and improvement.

The final three teams are:

  • DOWL Alaska (engineering firm) – Proposed water and wastewater holding tanks located in a small vestibule attached to the house to minimize space requirements in the home and avoid the use of expensive heat trace to a separate holding tank outside the home. The pilot system will be set up in Fairbanks at the Cold Climate Housing Research Center.
  • Summit Consulting (engineering firm) – Proposed treatment of raw water by means of a two-stage cartridge filtration process followed by ultraviolet disinfection, which allows flexibility to treat a wide range of raw water quality. The pilot system will be set up at the company’s main office complex in Tok. 
  • University of Alaska Anchorage – Proposed to recycle both graywater and some blackwater, as well as the use of a modular approach that will allow homeowners to select those in-home components that fit their lifestyles and space available. UAA’s pilot system will be set up on the school’s Anchorage campus.

Idaho DEQ revising onsite wastewater rules
Several updates to onsite wastewater rules are being considered in Idaho. The Department of Environmental Quality says the revisions will cover easements for when septage is stored, treated or disposed of on property other than where it originated, minimum recommendations for intermittent filter dosing, and subsurface flow constructed wetlands that are used for secondary wastewater treatment.


MPCA offering grants to upgrade or replace diesel engines
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is again offering $270,000 in grants to improve or replace old diesel engines to reduce their impact on the environment. Since 2006, the MPCA Clean Diesel Program has reduced emissions equivalent to taking 750,000 cars off the road.

The grant requires the vehicle owner to cover 60 percent of the cost of upgrading or replacing a diesel engine, or 75 percent of the cost of replacing a truck or piece of construction equipment. Vehicles that are to be upgraded must be fully operational, and if the engine is replaced, the old engine must be permanently disabled. The agency says it has completed projects on more than 1,800 school buses along with garbage trucks, tanker trucks, construction cranes, delivery trucks, and even a paddleboat.


Missouri watershed area receives grants to replace onsite systems
Ozarks Water Watch has received another $1 million grant from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to replace and repair failing septic systems in the White River watershed that feeds the Lake of the Ozarks. OWW replaced or repaired 130 systems under a previous grant. Homeowners can get up to $25,000, half being in the form of a grant and the other half a zero-interest loan. With the new grant money and funds from loan repayments, OWW expects to replace or repair another 200 failing systems.

With another grant from the Missouri Department of Conservation, OWW is also now offering $50 rebates to help people pay for pumping out their septic systems.


Hauling wastewater from food carts requires a license in Oregon
Food carts have become a big thing in Portland, Oregon, and are spreading across the state. While they are licensed by local health departments, removing and hauling wastewater from food carts requires a license from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, according to a reminder posted on the agency’s website. That’s because such a license is required to pump or haul wastewater that is defined as sewage: “water-carried human and animal wastes, including kitchen, bath and laundry wastes from residences, buildings, industrial establishments, or other places.” Portland has more than 500 such carts, according to Food Carts Portland.



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