EPA Large Capacity Cesspool Phase-out Rules
RI Department of Environmental Management
ISDS Permit Streamlining Task Force
The Department of Environmental Management is committed to improving its performance on an ongoing basis. As part of this evaluation process, DEM initiated an ISDS Task Force that brought together Department staff, the regulated and environmental communities and other interested parties to identify streamlining goals and strategies. The purpose of this task force was to discuss to what extent statutory, regulatory, policy or administrative changes are necessary to improve environmental protection and to streamline the regulations.
The ISDS Permit Streamlining Task Force met four times from August to December 2000. Based on the discussions in the Task Force and the three working groups, a number of recommendations were made to improve the program. The Regulatory Working Group provided the Task Force with the majority of recommendations and met twenty-four times over a twelve month time period (10/3/00 to 10/9/01). For the most part, the issues were technically oriented and the group was able to gain tentative or conditional consensus on the majority of the issues discussed. The technical changes may not seem significant to the lay observer, but their impact will provide for improved tanks, systems that make better use of the treatment potential of native soils, assure longevity of leachfields and better protection of critical resources. These changes will accommodate system installation on sloping sites and allow for trench construction techniques that reduce fill and gravel requirements and thereby reduce cost. The recommendations of the Task Force and the working groups are detailed in Section III of the report, but the following are the major results of this effort.
The regulations will be revised to incorporate the recommendations of this Task Force. It is anticipated the regulation hearing will be held in November of 2002 and will be preceded by a series of workshops that will be used to inform the environmental and regulated communities of the proposed changes and receive comments from a broader audience. The major regulatory recommendations are in the following areas:
- Soil Based Design Criteria provides a method to size a system on the basis of soil physical properties identified during the soil evaluation process. This method of sizing a system replaced the percolation test for sites requiring submission of the site evaluation report.
- Cesspool Removal - The group recommended a risk-based approach for removing cesspools that would have a final deadline for removal, but would allow for some accommodations for hardship cases. Success of the program will depend on financial support for homeowners such as low interest loans, grants or tax credits.
- ISDS System Sizing - Today's homes and businesses are designed differently and family sizes are significantly smaller than they were a generation ago. Future ISDS regulations will take these and other factors into account by reducing residential and commercial sewage flows.
- Wetlands / ISDS permit coordination - ISDS regulations will be amended to improve wetland protection and to streamline the review process. The objective is to reduce unnecessary delays and expense associated with projects near wetlands but not impacting them.
- Effluent Filters - Effluent filters are a cost-effective means of ensuring that solids are not introduced to this part of the system. The filters will be required for all new systems, when a new tank is installed and in repair applications when it is practical to install this device.
- De-nitrification - The impacts of nitrogen in the environment were identified as an issue that needed addressing. In order to address this issue DEM is considering requiring nitrogen-reducing technology in:
- Densely populated areas which are served by septic systems and drinking water wells;
- Wellhead protection areas;
- Coastal areas where Special Area Management Plans (SAMPs) have identified a need for nitrogen controls from ISDS systems.
Variance Process - DEM will expedite denial of applications if they do not adequately demonstrate that the proposed system will be at least as protective of public health and the environment as one that meets the requirements of the regulations. DEM will also propose new procedures to improve application quality, reduce review time and maintain environmental integrity. These changes include the following:
- The variance application form will be revised to more clearly state that the required information is indeed mandatory and that failure to provide it will result in denial of the application.
- The form will also include an advisory stating that variance applications take longer to process than applications for systems that meet code. This longer review time is due in part to a more complex submission, and the required notice to abutters.
- Encouragement of pre-application meetings to discuss the project and proposed mitigation measures.