Rules and Regs: Comment Deadline Extended for Massachusetts Septic Rule

Also in this month’s update, the owner of a Michigan septage hauling company is sentenced for illegal land application

Rules and Regs: Comment Deadline Extended for Massachusetts Septic Rule

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The public has more time to comment on a proposed change in the Massachusetts Title 5 onsite rules. The change would require all onsite users in certain areas to install nitrogen-reducing systems within a few years. Cape Cod and other coastal communities would be affected.

In December, the state Department of Environmental Protection said the deadline for public comments would be extended to 5 p.m. on Jan. 30. In addition, news reports said, there will be two public hearings, on Jan. 24 and 25, and two informational webinars, on Jan. 17 and 18. More information is on the department website:  

Extension of the comment period follows opposition from the public and local governments over the timeline and cost of the proposed rules that would designate nitrogen-sensitive areas. Towns in those areas would have to upgrade to nitrogen-reducing systems within five years after the regulation is finalized. Towns would have to use the best available technology, but that could include nontraditional technologies such as permeable reactive barriers filled with wood chips to remove nitrogen as water flows through. Towns may also be able to apply for watershed permits, which would extend the deadline for upgrades to 20 years. 

Local officials and some residents said they were dismayed at the possibility of imposing so much cost on people within such a short time.

Two state legislators, Rep. Chris Markey, D-Dartmouth, and Sen. Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford, wrote a letter asking the department to slow implementation of the proposed rules, and they questioned the evidence behind it. In Dartmouth, they wrote, only 29% of total nitrogen in the Slocum River is from onsite systems, while in the Westport River onsite contributes only 34%. The rest is from private industry such as composting, they wrote.  

Vermont providing funding for onsite system repair or replacement

The state is providing another round of funding to low- and moderate-income residents who need to repair or replace onsite systems. 

Eligible residents must have a failed or inadequate onsite wastewater system, own and live in a single-family residence or a multi-family building with up to four units, and have an annual household income less than $80,835.

Applications may be made by Jan. 31. Money for the work is coming from the American Rescue Plan Act and will pay for about 150 to 200 projects. The $5 million in first-round funding is now being distributed to more than 180 homeowners. 

More information is available on the state website:

Maryland’s Bay Restoration Fund designates funds for onsite upgrades

At the end of December the state approved $2.13 million from the Bay Restoration Fund so counties can upgrade onsite wastewater systems to reduce nitrogen discharges. 

Nitrogen is one of the more serious pollutants in Chesapeake Bay, and the funding will affect 18 counties, news reports said. 

Owner of septage hauling company sentenced for illegal land application 

The owner of a Michigan septage hauling company was sentenced in December to six months in jail and fined $755 for illegally applying septage to farm fields. 

In December 2020, the Saginaw County Health Department received reports of trucks emptying septage onto fields, said a story from WNEM News in Saginaw. The company owner said the trucks were spreading water from underground tanks, but health inspectors found septage waste where the trucks had been. In April 2021 the owner was charged with a misdemeanor count of land-applying septic waste. In September 2022 he pleaded guilty. 

The health department said the same company had been investigated for the same issue in May 2020. The news report did not name the hauling company or the owner.

Asotin County considers stricter onsite rules

On Jan. 30, the Asotin County (Washington) Public Health District will consider adopting new rules about onsite systems. 

Under the proposal, lots less than 12,500 square feet in area will have to meet specific standards before a septic system is allowed. Also, systems will have to be inspected when a property is sold. The intention is to add teeth to rules, said Collin Jurries, the environmental health specialist for the district, according to the Lewiston Tribune, of Lewiston, Idaho.

About 60% of the county’s population uses onsite systems, and homeowners will be encouraged to keep records of drainfield maps with the health district. 

City of McComb seeks to increase dumping charges at WWTP

Haulers may see a significant increase in fees to dump septage at the wastewater treatment plant in McComb, Mississippi. City Administrator David Myers is proposing $40 per thousand gallons instead of the current $7.

Myers said he thought about increasing the cost after learning a hauler was driving the 81 miles from Richland to dump at the McComb plant. 

"The McComb wastewater treatment plant is only one of the few that allows this type of dumping so that's to our advantage," he said, according to the Enterprise-Journal of McComb. "That's the reason why they were coming — we had some of the lowest prices in this area to dump septic and other stuff."

Myers said the city isn’t making much money because the fee is so low. "I think that now we're going to generate a lot more,” he said. "We're doing a service for these folks allowing them to come and dump in our plant.”

Massachusetts town changes onsite inspection reporting rules

Rules are changing for inspection reports and payment in Mashpee, Massachusetts, following a vote by the board of health in December.

Both must now be submitted to the department within 30 days after inspections, reported The Enterprise of Falmouth, Massachusetts. Homeowners must pay for the town’s review of their inspection, and if payment is not submitted within 30 days, there will be no review, and the inspection will have to be repeated. 

The town will also no longer accept hand-drawn sketches from installers. They must now submit as-built diagrams.


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