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Wastewater Manager's Toolkit

 

The Importance of Community Wastewater Management

Controlling cumulative effects of on-site disposal systems to surface waters and aquifers calls for a watershed approach. Simply put, this means looking beyond the wastewater treatment and dispersal capacity of an individual lot in order to consider the level of wastewater treatment needed to achieve local water quality goals. But for most communities, departing from standard regulations is a challenge. The wastewater management toolkit provides concrete examples as to how small communities with limited staff can develop and oversee an on-site wastewater management program with specialized standards for local resource protection areas. Here you will find: specific methods, ordinances and administrative procedures, with supporting research that communities need to customize this approach to suit their own particular resource protection goals and wastewater management needs.

 

Starting Slowly

Creating a wastewater management program can be an overwhelming task for communities, but it doesn't have to be. There are different approaches of management that allow communities to build their wastewater management program slowly over time. These approaches are outlined below:

Mandatory Inspection and Maintenance for I&A Systems Only:

Innovative and Alternative onsite wastewater treatment technologies are being installed in most RI communities. Rhode Island communities that do not have an onsite wastewater management program, can begin by tracking operation and maintenance agreements and service events, as RIDEM specifies that this is a town responsibility. Ensuring that maintenance contracts for alternative systems are renewed regularly is particularly critical given increasing use of these systems on marginal sites. The availability of web-based onsite tracking programs allows municipalities the option of hiring a private consultant to monitor compliance with maintenance requirements, rather than relying on staff.

If this is the route that your community is interested in taking, be sure to click here to view more!

Voluntary Inspection Program with Mandatory Pumping Every 3 Years

Communities that do not have the ability to develop a mandatory inspection and maintenance program can still build an active and effective voluntary program. A Voluntary inspection program relies on strong advertising and public education this can be achieved relatively inexpensively. Property owners who regularly maintain their system would be urged to submit documentation to the town, and homeowners who have neglected their systems would become aware through extensive advertising. This initial approach has proven to be effective in gaining support for a mandatory inspection program at a later date. Some communities have added a mandatory pumping program to their voluntary inspections, requiring residents to pump their system out every 3 – 5 years and submit documentation to the town.

If this is the route that your community is interested in taking, be sure to check out the following areas of the Wastewater Management Resource Center: Reaching the Public; Selecting a Tracking Program; Pump out Fact sheet; Starting a Voluntary Compliance Component.

Who’s in Charge?

Once you’ve decided what approach is appropriate for your community at this stage, you will have to ask who will be advocating for the creation of a wastewater program and who will be managing it once it’s started?

Advocating for a Program

An advocate must push for the initial plan and ordinance to be written, but need not be the same person who will run and manage the wastewater program once instituted. An advocate could be a hired consultant who retains a grant to write such a plan, the Town Planner, an environmental lobbyist, or the Public Works Director. It has to be somebody committed to the issue of managing wastewater due to water quality concerns in your community.

Running a Program

Some communities initially begin with a board of town officials or volunteers running the wastewater program, but this will likely change over time. As staff are hired, the board will take on more of an advisory role. Staff might include the Town Planner, a designated wastewater specialist, or a Public Works employee. In some towns, the staff person is overseen by a town board; in other towns, the staff are supervised within their town department.

 

 

Copyright 2006 URI Water Quality Program