Pike awaiting sewage relief legislation
June 12, 2013 —
Pike County officials are hoping that new legislation proposed in Harrisburg will divert “a lot of expense” for homeowners who would have to modify waterfront on-lot sewage systems under new PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) policy.
Pike Commissioners’ Chair Rich Caridi said at the meeting on June 6 that area assembly and state senate members have proposed legislation to mitigate the new policy.
Caridi said that Pike Representatives Mike Peifer and Rosemary Brown, and Senator Lisa Baker have all joined in moving the legislation. Representative Sandra Major is also a co-sponsor.
In a May 2 memorandum to the assembly, bill sponsor Representative David Maloney explained that DEP proposed the new policy after losing a court challenge to its approval of a Lycoming County sewage plan.
Since that decision (Pine Creek Valley Watershed Assoc. v. DEP), Maloney wrote, “The department proposed new guidance for on-lot systems within High Quality (HQ) and Exceptional Value (EV) Watersheds.”
Uncommon in most of the state, HQ and EV streams drain much of Wayne and most of Pike counties.
That guidance reportedly would prohibit septic systems closer than 150 feet from a body of water or 30 feet from a stream, and require underground septic systems to be surrounded by a barrier to prevent the effluent from traveling underground.
This would be required to prevent nitrates in excess of 10 parts per million (ppm) from getting into the water stream or water body.
The 10 ppm standard dates from studies as early as 1945 that were incorporated in 1997 federal Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) water standards.
The EPA found that nitrate levels of less than 40 ppm can cause fatal cyanosis, oxygen deprivation, when ingested by infants less than six months of age.
Caridi denies that Pike County has any history of elevated nitrate levels in its public waters, other than a contested EPA sampling from Lake Wallenpaupack.
Maloney wrote, “It has since become clear through public input that the proposed [DEP] guidance would be impractical; leaving DEP with no approach with which to rely upon when approving development projects using on-lot systems in HQ and EV watersheds.”
The bills, HB 1325 and SB 946, would amend the language of existing state clean water law, to provide that existing permitted systems design would satisfy the anti-degradation requirements of the Clean Streams Law.
As to the bill’s progress, the assembly bill was awaiting action by the house appropriations committee on June 5.