Rules and Regs: A New York County Looks at Nearshore Pollution

In this month’s regulations update, Nassau County, New York, examines onsite systems for possible cause of high bacteria levels in a stream and beach; and citizens protest the proposed site of a portable restroom business in Madison, Georgia

Rules and Regs: A New York County Looks at Nearshore Pollution

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After several years of investigations into the cause of high bacteria levels at a local beach, the Nassau County (New York) Legislature is considering a treatment system for its drainage system.

The latest investigation ended this summer after the state looked at the onsite systems of eight homes as possible causes of the pollution. But after studying the systems for several months, the state concludes they are not sending wastewater into a stream that flows into Long Island Sound at Glen Cove.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has not ruled out onsite systems that are elsewhere or leaking wastewater into the groundwater, reports Newsday.

In the spring, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency collected samples from stormwater and groundwater discharge pipes. A DNA analysis will tell investigators whether the coliform bacteria found at the beach is from humans or animals.

Meanwhile, the county will spend $200,000 to study the feasibility of installing a treatment system for stormwater.

“We’re going to evaluate all kinds of remedies because obviously the [Department of Environmental Conservation] study didn’t really provide the smoking gun that we were looking for as far as the source of the contamination,” Brian Schneider, deputy county executive for parks and public works, tells Newsday. “We’re shifting focus more toward the treatment at the endpoint of the drainage system, before it hits the beach.”

Nassau County is on the western end of Long Island and borders New York City. To its east is Suffolk County, which last year passed a number of laws to attack nitrogen pollution in its nearshore waters.

Approximately 360,000 homes in Suffolk County rely on cesspools for wastewater disposal. That is about 75 percent of all homes in the county. In August 2017, the town of East Hampton became the first community in the state to require low-nitrogen wastewater systems for all new construction and for buildings that undergo substantial renovation. Several other communities did the same.

New cesspools were forbidden beginning in 1973, but they could be installed to replace an older cesspool. In December 2017, the county executive signed a law banning cesspools in all uses, and in May 2017, the county Legislature approved a grant program to help people pay for the cost of converting their onsite systems to low-nitrogen systems.

County health code update will require onsite inspections

The health department for Montcalm County, in the central part of Michigan, is proposing an update to the local sanitary code.

The department tested 20 sites along two rivers and found all of them were positive for E. coli in numbers that exceeded standards for safe swimming. To rewrite the ordinance, the department proposes requiring discharge permits for all properties not now connected to an onsite system and requiring inspection of all systems at least every 10 years, reports the Daily News of Greenville.

New construction projects would receive a free discharge permit that's good for 10 years, and then the permit could be renewed for another 10 years with an inspection. A health department officer says the county has about 40,000 septic systems. The health department also covers neighboring Gratiot and Clinton counties.

Florida septic driver faces illegal dumping charges

A septic truck driver is facing charges for allegedly dumping 10,000 gallons of cooking oil in a vacant lot in Davenport, Florida.

Peter Rodriguez, 50, was charged with two counts of commercial dumping, reports the Orlando Sentinel. He was employed by Brownie's Septic and Plumbing. A sheriff’s spokeswoman says company representatives were unsure why Rodriguez allegedly dumped the oil because the company refines waste oil and sells it.

Residents protest portable restroom business site

More than 30 people attended a government meeting to object to the possible siting of a portable restroom and wastewater processing business about a half mile from a residential neighborhood in Madison, Georgia.

Sam Florence, business owner, plans to dewater septage and dispose of the liquid in the city of Madison’s sewer system. Citizens say the facility would produce odors, attract vermin, increase truck traffic, and could pose a risk to Morgan County’s water supply. They also feared demand would drive an expansion of the business.

The Morgan County Citizen quotes neighborhood resident Chuck Spinks as saying, “Do you know what that stuff smells like? It smells like homemade sin.” Florence says his business would have no effect on county water. The Planning Commission tabled the matter of his plan until members could do more research.

Idaho nonprofit looks at onsite systems as possible source of nitrate pollution

A nonprofit environmental group is pushing for ordinances to protect groundwater in Bannock County, which lies in the southeastern part of Idaho and includes the city of Pocatello.

Elevated nitrate levels have appeared in some private and municipal wells. Members of the Portneuf Resource Council, part of a larger regional nonprofit environmental organization, want rules asking for evidence that onsite systems used in new construction would not make the nitrate problem worse.

While water from the county’s aquifer now meets standards, Mike Larkin, chairman of the resource council, says new ordinances would protect the water. Most cities and towns have some kind of groundwater ordinance, but Pocatello doesn’t, he says, according to the Idaho State Journal. Sue Skinner, retired from the Environmental Protection Agency and an advisor to the resource council, says suppliers are able to blend water from different sources in order to remain within legal limits, but nitrate levels are slowly increasing.


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