Rules and Regs: Infrastructure Act Provides Funds for Onsite Systems

Also in this month’s update, a grant program in Suffolk County seeks to offset costs of nitrogen-removing onsite systems

Rules and Regs: Infrastructure Act Provides Funds for Onsite Systems

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The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law by President Joe Biden in November carries big implications for the onsite industry.

First is a dedicated program for decentralized wastewater systems. The act authorizes $50 million for the next five fiscal years, for a total of $250 million, reports the National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association. This money will provide grants of up to $15,000 to eligible households for the construction, repair or replacement of an individual onsite system. Money may also be used for larger systems serving two or more households.

Next, the act allocates $7.4 billion to states, tribes and territories for investment in water infrastructure in underserved communities. About half of this money will be available as grants or loans with forgivable principal, said a press release from Colorado Sens. John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennett. The $7.4 billion for 2022 is the first installment of $43 billion coming from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to state revolving loan funds.

In Vermont, state government announced its water infrastructure share of the act will be $63 million. As one example of how the money will be used, Neil Kamman, director of the state's Water Investment Division, said the state is creating a program to help residents of mobile home parks with water infrastructure projects, as reported by the Addison County Independent.

Among revolving loan fund amounts for other states, according to EPA press releases, are: Texas, $508 million; New Mexico, $63 million; and Florida, $275 million.

Marin County considers requiring POS inspections for onsite systems

Marin County, California, just across the bay from San Francisco, is considering a law that would require inspections of onsite systems when properties change ownership.

The county’s Environmental Health Services division has no records for about 30% of the approximately 8,000 onsite systems in the county, reported the Point Reyes Light. Instead, the county reviews systems when people apply for building permits, but that has caused people to not take out permits because they want to avoid an inspection of their onsite system. County officials estimate about 75% of work in the unincorporated parts of the county is performed without a permit.

Tom Lai, director of the Community Development Agency, said the proposed law would ease the burden on property buyers because they would know what onsite repairs are necessary before they close a purchase. As it stands now, buyers are on their own and many unknowingly buy properties with malfunctioning systems, he said.

Inspection requirements considered for onsite systems along Russian River

The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board approved a plan that will affect thousands of onsite system owners along the Russian River and some of its tributaries in California.

Property owners who have onsite systems within 600 feet of the river or mapped streams, or within 200 feet of ephemeral streams, would have to have their systems inspected every five years. They would have 15 years to correct any problems, reported The Press Democrat. A community system would be required to correct problems within 20 years.

The California State Water Board must still approve the plan, expected in 2022, and it must be submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Minnesota county sets guidelines for onsite system inspections

The Mower County (Minnesota) board changed its subsurface wastewater treatment ordinance in November to ease the burden on landowners. The county is located along the Iowa border south of Rochester.

When passed last winter, the ordinance was intended to improve water quality by requiring additional onsite system inspections and requiring an inspection when a property was sold. But because there was no limit on what size building would trigger an inspection, many landowners found themselves required to perform an inspection even when applying for permits for small buildings, reported the Austin Daily Herald.

Some county supervisors and county staff worked up the changes that passed. Now the law excludes structures of 200 or fewer square feet, and with a height of 14 feet or less. The size limits also include decks. A permit for any structure exceeding the minimums will trigger an onsite system inspection.

Grant program in Suffolk County to offset costs of nitrogen-removing onsite systems

The Suffolk County Legislature created a new grant program in November to help offset the costs of installing advanced nitrogen-removing onsite systems.

Homeowners may receive grants of up to $20,000, and developers may receive up to $10,000 for homes built on previously undeveloped land, reported Newsday. Up to $5 million in federal money will fund the grants.

Several environmental groups said they fear the grants will promote development of open space.

Suffolk County, which occupies the eastern end of Long Island, has been struggling for years with nitrogen pollution of its Atlantic Ocean coastline. The county, and several of its municipalities, have passed ordinances requiring nitrogen-removing onsite systems for all new construction and some building expansions.

Septic company settles sexual harassment lawsuit

Shelley’s Septic Tank Inc. will pay $82,500 and provide other relief to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to the agency.

According to the lawsuit, the Florida company’s male owner made sexual comments to a male employee and inappropriately touched him. Immediately after the employee informed the local sheriff’s office of the problem, the owner fired him.

In addition to the monetary penalty, the company will be required to develop and distribute a written antidiscrimination policy and conduct antidiscrimination training.

Ohio county to require operational permits for onsite systems

Mahoning County, Ohio, is introducing a new program that will charge residents for operational permits for their onsite systems. Permits may specify operational parameters and will have a limited life.

The program is mandated by state law, and the county’s version will take effect on Jan. 1, reported The Vindicator. Money collected in fees will be used for additional staff and other expenses.

Fee amounts are based on the complexity of systems. For a simple septic system with few mechanical parts, the fee is $25 for a three-year permit. For more complicated systems, mound systems or drip dispersal, and for systems requiring a maintenance contract, the fee is $40 for a one-year permit. And the fee is $125 for an annual permit for systems that already operate under an NPDES permit.

Colton Masters of Mahoning County Public Health said the program may save property owners from paying much more because it will help extend the life of onsite systems. And the fees charged are much cheaper than paying for municipal sewer service, he said.


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