EPA Signs Agreement on Septic System Improvements

The Environmental Protection Agency has signed an agreement with several organizations to improve the septic systems that provide wastewater treatment for 25 million homes nationwide.

The Environmental Protection Agency has signed an agreement with several organizations to improve the septic systems that provide wastewater treatment for 25 million homes nationwide.

>Ben Grumbles, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Water, said, “This agreement will help solidify our national partnership to protect drinking water supplies and local water quality through promoting change in the way these wastewater systems are managed.”

EPA said septic systems are used in nearly 25% of US homes, including about a third of all new housing and commercial development.

It said when properly sited, designed and maintained, septic systems can produce high quality wastewater. However, it said that 10-20% of decentralized systems are not adequately treating wastewater due to inadequate site location, design and maintenance.

The program is intended to upgrade the management of these systems and facilitate collaboration between EPA headquarters, EPA regions, state and local governments and national organizations representing practitioners and assistance providers.

AMSA Urges EPA To inalize Pretreatment Rule

The Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies (AMSA) has urged EPA to finalize its proposed pretreatment streamlining rule.

AMSA said the agency, which proposed the rule in 1999, should provide a timeline for completing it. It said an EPA report found that wastewater agencies with approved pretreatment programs were half as likely to experience a pass through and/or interference event as those without an approved pretreatment program.

>AMSA said a streamlining rule should recognize the need for flexibility in converting historical concentration-based limits to mass-based limits, and revise definitions of nonsignificant or de minimis categorical industrial users.

It said those changes would have no negative impact on the environment and would have the potential to save wastewater utilities hundreds of millions of dollars, enabling them to channel those resources into other high-priority water quality projects.

Separately, AMSA said more than 20 national and state organizations representing municipal interests have urged EPA to complete its blending guidance.

The coalition letter said that rather than being an “environmental rollback,” the blending policy reflects an environmentally sound practice used by the nation’s public treatment utilities for over 30 years.

AMSA said municipalities use blending as a component of their wet weather management strategies to ensure that excess flows from heavy rains and snowmelt receive the greatest treatment possible under extreme wet weather conditions.

It said blended effluent fully meets Clean Water Act permit requirements, protects public utility infrastructure from “washout,” and prevents the release of untreated sewage into the environment and sewer backups into homes and businesses.

Tests Reveal Problems ith Airliner Water

EPA said a second round of tests has found continuing problems with the drinking water on passenger aircraft. It said the water in 17.2% of 169 randomly selected passenger aircraft was contaminated with total coliform bacteria.

The tests were performed on domestic and international passenger aircraft at airports nationwide last November and December.

EPA said passengers with compromised immune systems may want to request canned or bottled beverages and refrain from drinking tea or coffee unless made with bottled water. The agency said total coliform and E. coli are indicators that other disease-causing organisms (pathogens) may be present in the water.

The agency said when its tests identified total coliform in the water of a domestic aircraft, that aircraft was disinfected and retested to ensure that the disinfection was effective. In the case of foreign-flag aircraft, the airline companies were advised to disinfect the aircraft.

EPA began a review of its drinking water guidance for airlines in 2002. Because of the test results, it is speeding that process and plans to emphasize preventive measures, adequate monitoring and improved maintenance of aircraft water systems.

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