State Legislation To Moot Anti-Degradation Review of On-lot Septic Systems Advances

June 2013Articles In the Zone

Legislation introduced by State Representative David Maloney (R-Berks) to address the review requirements for new on-lot sewage systems proposed in special protection waters advanced out of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee on May 15 and was approved by the full House on June 10 by a vote of 118-80. House Bill 1325 was introduced in response to a draft Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) technical guidance document.

Prompted by an Environmental Hearing Board decision from November 2011,Pine Creek Valley Watershed Association v. DEP (EHB Docket No. 2009-168-L), DEP published adraft technical guidance document requiring proposed new on-lot sewage treatment systems located in High Quality or Exceptional Value watersheds to utilize various Best Management Practices (BMPs) to prevent the degradation of surface waters as required by state and federal regulations (see 25 Pa. Code Chapter 93 regarding Water Quality Standards).

The public comment period for the draft policy was extended through June 3, 2013, and the DEP has held numerous public webinars on the topic that are available on itswebsite . It has received considerable pushback from certain areas of the Commonwealth that possess a considerable number of special protection waters and where on lot sewage disposal is commonplace.

According to the DEP, it would prefer a legislative fix to the new legal standards created by Pine Creek. Indeed, it is supportive of the language contained in House Bill 1325, as well as a companion bill in the Senate.

HB 1325 would essentially moot the need for the draft policy because it would deem those individual and community systems proposed to be installed in special protection watershed as meeting the anti-degradation standards of Chapter 93 if they were properly designed and installed per current regulatory requirements.

However, should the General Assembly fail to act on Rep. Maloney’s legislation, the DEP intends to review and incorporate feedback it received during the policy’s public comment period. A revised guidance policy would then be republished for additional public input. Some potential changes could include the permitted use of the referenced watershed approach and the plume plot approach to demonstrate the proposed septic system’s impact (or lack thereof) on a receiving water.

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