Rules and Regs: New York City Mulls Changes to Onsite Wastewater Rules

Also in this month's regulations update, citizens in Billerica, Massachusetts, vote against a penalty for people who refuse to connect to the municipal sewer system

Rules and Regs: New York City Mulls Changes to Onsite Wastewater Rules

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New York City is about to revise its watershed rules, and that includes how onsite systems are handled. Changes also include how the city’s Department of Environmental Protection will handle portable restrooms and holding tanks. The department will not approve them, but the new rule adopts standards consistent with state standards.

Among the changes proposed for onsite systems:

  • Approvals from the department will expire unless construction is substantially complete and a system is functioning as designed within five years for subdivision systems and two years for all other onsite systems.
  • Systems out of operation for five or more years can be returned to operation if they are brought into compliance with current rules.
  • If required modifications to an onsite system are not done within two years, the department’s approval expires.
  • Drip and low-profile dispersal systems for intermediate-size onsite systems will be prohibited in the watershed.
  • The department must be notified at least two business days before construction of an onsite system begins and must be notified at least a day before any component is buried. If construction stops for more than seven days, the permit applicant must make a best effort to notify the department at least two business days in advance of the restart of construction.

A copy of the rules and a link to post comments can be found here: http://rules.cityofnewyork.us/content/amendment-watershed-regulations.


Queensbury approves onsite rule

The town of Queensbury, New York — located on the southern end of Lake George — last fall ended three years of discussion by approving a rule for onsite systems near lakes and rivers. If a property-zoned waterfront residential is sold, the town will inspect the onsite system. Only if the system has passed an inspection in the previous three years will it be exempt. The new rules took effect in January.

A number of people wanted an exemption for properties transferred through inheritance, but the town board refused. Officials continually say leaking systems must be fixed and that a sale is the time to do that because owners can use some of the sale proceeds to fix wastewater system problems, according to The Post-Star of Glens Falls.


Town votes against penalty for not connecting to sewer

Citizens at a town meeting in Billerica, Massachusetts, voted down a penalty for people who refuse to connect to the municipal sewer system. The proposal would have charged people who did not connect about $240 annually. For 44 years, a town rule has required people to connect to municipal sewer within a year after it becomes available, but there has never been a penalty.

John Curran, town manager, says about 630 people have refused to connect, which amounts to $200,000 in lost revenue every year, according to the Lowell Sun newspaper. That costs other ratepayers about $15 annually to help pay for sewer service expansion. People at the meeting say citizens spent thousands of dollars to upgrade their onsite systems to meet state standards because municipal sewer service was not available, and now they may be forced to pay again to make sewer connections.


Company scams Clark County residents to sell septic products

Public health officials in Clark County, Washington, immediately north of Portland, Oregon, warned residents about a company making false statements to sell septic products. Officials say the company calls people and tells them there was an alert about failing onsite systems. Then the company representative offers to sell the person an additive to clean their septic system, reports KPTV in Beaverton, Oregon.

There was no alert about failing systems. Health officials say not all additives work, and some may contaminate groundwater. The state Health Department maintains a list of approved additives.


Onsite regulations fight continues in South Dakota

The long fight of one county official opposed to onsite system regulations has overflowed onto a regional water district that backed his cause with public money.

Last fall the West Dakota Water Development District board approved up to $7,500 for a lawyer to join George Ferebee at a meeting of the South Dakota Water Management Board. The district wants the state board to say cities and counties cannot regulate septic systems, or at least not those in existence before a 1975 change in state law. That is Ferebee’s latest argument in his years-long opposition to wastewater regulations.

The county is about 100 miles long and includes Badlands National Park in its eastern end. The western end includes part of the Black Hills National Forest, and near the center is Rapid City. Ferebee lives in rural Hill City, in the Black Hills.

Onsite regulations led to Ferebee’s own legal troubles. In October 2017, he was convicted of operating an onsite system without a permit. The county zoning rules he violated require systems to be regularly pumped and inspected.

The meeting was not to be Ferebee’s first appearance before the state water board. In 2016, he challenged the authority of counties and cities to regulate pit privies and cesspools. In that case, he also wanted the state board to issue a ruling against Pennington County and Rapid City. Without discussion, the board voted 6-0 to dismiss his petition.

One member of Rapid City’s Public Works Committee put the wastewater issue in broader terms. “We as Rapid City have a responsibility to protect that water downstream from us,” says Jason Salamun, City Council member. “That’s called being a good neighbor. That’s what we are in South Dakota — good neighbors. That means taking care of the water supply we all share.”



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