Drafting an Ordinance
Overview of a Wastewater Management Ordinance:
A typical ordinance
contains the following basic elements: program administration – who is in charge of the wastewater management
program, specifics about an inspection program – who can
perform inspections, schedule for inspections, requirements for
replacement and new systems and septic tanks, requirements for
I and A systems, pumping requirements, details of phasing in an
inspection program, cesspool phase out schedule, and enforcement.
Initially, it may be best to keep it simple and limit the ordinance
to inspection schedules, pumping systems as needed, and possibly
phasing out cesspools. As the program gets established and accepted,
you can add additional requirements. Factors to consider prior
to developing an ordinance at all include: how to staff the program,
whether to phase in an inspection program over several years, and
what is the septage capacity of local sewage treatment plants.
Components of a Wastewater Management Ordinance:
What to consider when writing a wastewater management ordinance
Management Ordinance is the foundation for administration and
enforcement of the town wastewater management program. There
are many decisions that will need to be made. A selection of these
important decisions are outlined below:
of the ordinance explains the importance of regulating onsite
sewage disposal systems. Until recently, most towns have been
faced with two very different choices for wastewater management:
central collection and treatment of wastewater, carefully controlled
ad monitored by sewer districts vs. totally managed individual
systems with maintenance completely up to the homeowner. Centralized
collection systems are not feasible for all communities, for
both environmental and economical reasons. Onsite technologies
are now recognized to be a cost effective and, by maintaining
groundwater recharge, an environmentally sound treatment option.
This is true only when systems are properly designed, installed,
used, and maintained. For this reason, most towns are writing
a wastewater management ordinance and adopting wastewater management
management ordinance typically describes what town department,
board, or position will be responsible for the day to day management
of the WWM Program. Typically the public works department is
responsible for the management with oversight from conservation
commissions and town planning boards.
#3: Design and Construction Requirements
of the wastewater management ordinance often explains town implemented
regulations that impact the design and construction of all new
ISDS located in the town. Often times these regulations are more
stringent than current state regulations. Some of the items address
here include: Access Risers and Effluent Filters, Watertight
Septic Tanks, and Septic Tank Sizing.
#4: Inspections, Monitoring, Operation, Maintenance and Enforcement
This is the
largest section of the wastewater management ordinance. It encompasses
the requirements for the nuts and bolts of a town management
program. Specifically, this section lays out who can perform
ISDS inspections, defines different types of inspections, and
explains what type of maintenance is required on each system
type or in each district. For Example, a critical resource area
may have strict inspection, maintenance, and monitoring requirements,
where a non-critical area may be regulated by a pumping requirement.
is also a big part of the wastewater management ordinance. This
is where the town sets regulations and timelines for program
compliance, and replacement of failed / substandard systems.
Homeowners are also entitled to proper review, hearing, and appeal
#5: Record Keeping, Inventory and Reporting
of the ordinance, establishes the need for proper tracking and
record keeping. The information gathered in the inspection and
inventory process is valuable information and the town is responsible
for collecting, tracking, analyzing and reporting the results.
#6: Financial Assistance and Funding
of the ordinance allows the town or town council the authority
to raise funds for the administration and operation of the onsite
wastewater management program. Typically, Rhode Island communities
have established a fee schedule that constitutes an annual assessment
to all ISDS owners in the community. This section of the ordinance
also addresses the need to establish a low interest loan or grant
program for system upgrade and replacement.
#7: Education and Outreach
a public education program is imperative for a successful wastewater
management program. Residents need to be informed about the benefits
and goals of the wastewater management ordinance and plan. A
typical education and outreach program includes contracting with
a consultant or university to provide educational workshops,
and advertisements to the community.
a Sample Wastewater Management Ordinance.