Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc in Rhode Island, resulting in property loss and damage from winds, floods, and beach erosion. If Hurricane Sandy damaged your septic system, you will need to repair that damage to make your home habitable again.
There are a myriad of rules and regulations for the repair of septic systems, particularly for those properties located along coastal zones. In response to Hurricane Sandy, DEM has updated its “OWTS Repair Guidance in Critical Erosion Areas” document:
RHODE ISLAND DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT OFFICE OF WATER RESOURCES
OWTS Repair Guidance in Critical Erosion Areas
October 31, 2012
Hurricane Sandy has caused coastal erosion in certain areas of the south shore which may have undermined structures and exposed components of Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (OWTS), also known as septic systems. Coastal erosion is a continual process that threatens many structures along Rhode Island’s coastline. OWTS repair in these highly vulnerable areas, which are designated by the Rhodes Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) as Critical Erosion Areas, requires a permit from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and an assent from CRMC.
The DEM “Rules and Regulations Establishing Minimum Standards Relating to Location, Design, Construction, and Maintenance of Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems” (OWTS Rules – http://www.dem.ri.gov/pubs/regs/regs/water/owts12.pdf ) provide the Department with discretion in approving applications for repair (Rule 17.7.2) on lots with limiting conditions. As such, each application is reviewed on a case-by-case basis with the objective that the design meets the requirements of the regulations to the greatest extent possible and environmental and public health risks are minimized. Because of the unique circumstances posed by coastal erosion, DEM in conjunction with CRMC has developed the guidance below to address OWTS repairs in the CRMC designated Critical Erosion Areas.
This Repair Guidance consists of a three-tiered structure based on distance from the actively eroding edge of the coastal feature, typically the dune crest or bluff scarp. This policy applies to residential and commercial facilities located along shorelines subject to coastal erosion. It is assumed that insufficient land area is available for OWTS repair components to comply with the system location requirements of OWTS Rule 22 (Minimum Setback Distances).
|Distance from the Actively Eroding Edge of the Coastal Feature to Any OWTS Component||OWTS Requirement for systems <5000 gpd|
|Less than or equal to 50 feet||Zero Discharge System required.|
|Between 50 and 100 feet||Zero Discharge System or an approved Alternative/Experimental (A/E) system.|
|Beyond 100 feet||Any system that fully complies with all other applicable (DEM, CRMC, zoning, etc.) regulations.|
Please note that no expansion of use or increase in wastewater flow is allowed under a repair application.
Zero Discharge System:
Zero Discharge Systems include, but are not limited to:
- Holding tanks for all wastewater; or
- Compost toilet or incinerator toilet for blackwater and a holding tank for graywater.
A listing of Department approved A/E technology may be found at:
Holding Tank Requirements:
Holding tanks must comply with Rule 28 of the OWTS Rules.
Placement of Fill or Structures:
Placement of fill or structures within velocity/flood zones should be avoided. Exterior composting chambers and holding tanks should be located below existing grade where possible and suitably anchored to resist buoyant forces.
Priority with respect to other standards:
With the exception of setback distances to drinking water supplies, the Department will generally give priority to maximizing the setback of any tank, treatment structure, or leachfield to the eroding edge of the coastal feature when evaluating competing constraints. For example, the Department will generally favor maximizing the setback distance to the eroding edge of the coastal feature and allow encroachment into the ten (10) foot setback from the property line or street line. Likewise, the Department may allow closer setbacks to building foundations. In particular, placement of OWTS components in open areas below raised dwellings and within fifteen (15) feet of pilings will ordinarily be allowed. Any proposed reduction in separation distances to water lines or water services must be approved by the local water utility and meet all construction requirements including sleeving or relocation.
Please note that local building or zoning codes may apply and affect the location of OWTS components. Local requirements should be taken into consideration during design.
Applicants may propose obtaining rights or easements to nearby properties for OWTS components, including leachfields, where such option will achieve greater compliance with this guidance or standards in the OWTS rules. Fully executed agreements, easements and local approvals for street crossings, in proper legal form, must be submitted with the application.
The respective repair applications to place system components within 100 feet of the actively eroding edge of the coastal feature in Critical Erosion Areas should be submitted to CRMC and DEM concurrently. DEM and CRMC will undertake joint reviews. If errors in plans concerning the location of the actively eroding edge of the coastal feature are uncovered during preliminary review, the application will be found deficient and returned to the applicant. Designers are urged to contact DEM or CRMC prior to submittal for further guidance on special problems that may arise during design.
Please contact us if there is anything we can do to help you recover from Hurricane Sandy. For septic system repairs and upgrades, we offer the following solutions:
- Septic System Designs, Repairs & Upgrades »»Septic Systems
- Soil Evaluations/Perc Test »»Soil Evaluations
- Home Improvements, Additions & Pools »»Site Plans
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