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Posts Tagged ‘regulations’

An article in Thursday’s Times-Standard, entitled “Septic rules taking form”, discusses some of the changes owners of septic systems can expect with the State Water Resources Control Board’s new rules, expected to be published later this year.

Leaky septic tanks are an important and mostly unaddressed source of groundwater pollution throughout the country, and many states are wrestling with the problem. In 2000, the California legislature adopted Assembly Bill 885, which required that the State Water Board develop, adopt, and implement statewide regulations or standards regarding on-site wastewater treatment systems (OWTS), including septic tanks.

The Board’s page for its Septic Tanks program makes the proposed rules available. Some of the key effects for septic tank owners include:

  • Owners must have their septic tanks inspected for solids accumulations every five years by a qualified service provider. Inspection cost ~$325.
  • Owners with an onsite domestic well on their property must have a state certified analytical laboratory analyze well water (groundwater) for specified constituents once every five years and report the results electronically to the State Water Board. Domestic well sampling and reporting costs ~$325.
  • Owners whose existing septic systems are within 600 feet of a surface water body that does not meet water quality standards (impaired water body — see maps on the Septic Tanks page) will be be required to:
    • Have a qualified professional determine whether the septic system is contributing to the impairment.
    • If so, retrofit the septic system with supplemental treatment ($45,000 approximate cost for a retrofit).
  • Owners will have to keep documentation to show that they are adhering to the regulations.

There will also be provisions to verify the quality of future new systems.

According to information presented in the proposed rules, there are currently approximately 1.2 million California households and numerous businesses — approximately 10% of all California households, or about 3.5 million people — that are not connected to centralized wastewater collection and treatment systems, and instead rely on small on-site systems such as septic tanks.

Some 18,200 residences out of 59,500 are estimated to be serviced by such systems in Humboldt County (31% of residential units); 5,850 houses out of 11,100 in Del Norte (53%); and 10,900 out of 23,450 houses in Siskiyou (47%). Of these, approximately 1,730 are located along impaired water bodies and subject to the extra requirements: 1,500 along the Klamath River in Humboldt and Siskiyou counties, plus 150 along the Salmon River and 80 along the Shasta River, both in Siskiyou.

On the happier side for owners, the new regulations also provide a statewide waiver that will allow owners of septic systems to avoid filing a report of waste discharge so long as the provisions of the waiver are complied with. This actually makes the paperwork much lighter and simpler for them than it would otherwise be.

Since early December, the State Water Board has been conducting a series of 11 public workshops and one hearing throughout the state to receive oral and written comments regarding the proposed regulations. One of these workshops will take January 28 at 7 pm at the Eureka High School auditorium at 1915 J Street. Be there or be square; the only other two workshops left on the calendar are in Santa Rosa (January 27) and Sacramento (February 9).

Links of interest:

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No time for a substantive post today, but a quick report on two topics I heard talks on yesterday.  More on both next week.

RCRA rules change

mcj030389700001I sat on a conference call entitled “RCRA Waste Management Update: EPA’s New Rules Explained”.  It presented the October 30, 2008 changes in regulations governing wastes subject to Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) rules.  These were recently revised to allow reclassification of certain types of waste so that they would no longer be considered “hazardous waste”.  These are primarily sludges, byproducts and spent materials that are considered to be both (1) in the process of recycling and (2) under the control of the generator.  They can now be stockpiled, stored, moved around, etc. without being labeled “hazardous waste”.

My take: it sounds good but it looks fishy.  It felt like a whole new curtain was being added for the Wizard of Oz; and while it purports to prevent sham or “dirty” recycling (EPA wording), it makes it easy to ship the waste overseas.

Redwood Marine Terminal

humboldt bay terminalI then attended a talk presented by the local chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) with the topic: “Status of the Redwood Marine Terminal Modernization Project”, given by David Hull, Chief Executive Officer of the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District who he oversees the District’s commerce, fisheries, navigation, marine recreation and environmental programs.  It was quite interesting; I was left with a number of questions but I felt I’d like them answered under different circumstances.

My take: No money to work with, lots of uncertainties; some great opportunities but the project will be hard to lead to any kind of satisfactory conclusion between the local politics and the global economy.  I’m not against the idea in principle, because sea (and rail) shipping are more fuel- and emission-efficient than road-based shipping; but it does have environmental impacts and needs to be done right.  And this project has to potential to be a huge money hole if done wrong.

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