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Rules and Regulations

OWTS Cesspool Phaseout

A cesspool is any buried chamber (could be a metal tank, a perforated concrete vault, or a covered hollow or excavation) that receives sewage from a building for disposal into the ground. The Rhode Island Cesspool Act of 2007 (RIGL § 23-19.15), as amended in 2015, mandates that all cesspools within the state must, over time, be removed from service. The structure served by the cesspool must either be upgraded to a new OWTS or connected to a sewer line if one is available. The timeline for cesspool removal is as follows:

  • If a property is subject to sale or transfer, the cesspool must be removed from service within one year of the closing date;
  • If a cesspool is failed, the cesspool must be replaced within 1 year of the failure, or less if an imminent threat to public health is identified;
  • If a cesspool serves a non-residential facility serving more than 20 people per day, or any multifamily dwelling, the cesspool must be replaced as required under current DEM and EPA regulations;
  • If a cesspool is located within one of the three areas described below, the cesspool must be replaced immediately:
    • Within 200 feet of the inland edge of all shoreline features bordering tidal water areas (i.e., Coastal Resources Management Council’s jurisdiction);
    • Within 200 feet of any public wells; or
    • Within 200 feet of a water body with an intake for a drinking water supply.

The deadline for replacing cesspools located within these 200-foot zones was January 1, 2014 and all remaining cesspools in these areas are in violation of the Cesspool Act.


Background Information:


Guidance and Forms:

Contact Water Resources
Office of Water Resources
OWTS Program
235 Promenade Street
Providence, RI 02908-5767
Phone: (401) 222-3961