Sunday, April 7, 2013

PADEP Proposes antidegradation for On-lot septic systems

PADEP Proposes antidegradation for On-lot septic systems -Sewage Facilities Planning Module Review for Onlot Sewage Systems Proposed in High Quality and Exceptional Value Watersheds - Proposed Policy - 385-2208-XXX

POLICY: The Department will assure that cost-effective and reasonable best management practices (BMPs) for nonpoint source control are achieved to maintain and protect water quality when reviewing sewage facilities planning modules for proposed individual or community onlot sewage systems in high quality and exceptional value watersheds.
PURPOSE: The purpose of this guidance is to describe BMPs for individual and community onlot sewage systems that can achieve nonpoint source control in High Quality and Exceptional Value waters, and to provide a process to select appropriate BMPs to achieve such control.

APPLICABILITY: This guidance applies to Department and delegated agency review of sewage facilities planning modules proposing the use of individual and community onlot sewage systems in High Quality or Exceptional Value watersheds.  
The policies and procedures outlined in this guidance document are intended to supplement existing requirements. Nothing in these policies or procedures shall affect regulatory requirements. The policies and procedures herein are not an adjudication or a regulation. There is no intent on the part of the Department to give these policies and procedures that weight or deference. This document establishes the framework, within which DEP will exercise its administrative discretion in the future. DEP reserves the discretion to deviate from these policies and procedures if circumstances warrant.
Here are some of the Problems:
1. Policy Developed after PADEP Lost a Key Court Decision - the main reason - Their approval was not based on actual data.  Therefore, they generated a policy that does the same.
2. Implementation of the Proposed Policy - would require changes in the law.
3. Protect High Quality and EV streams as the same level of protection. 
4. Create a standard were individual on-lot septic systems have to resolve in 0 impact on these streams - this standard is greater than any direct discharge to the stream or even a non-degrading discharge.  (PS - this level of protection can not even be meet by a non-degrading discharge).
5. Proposes the uses of Best Management Practices that are not based on sound science and have not been tried in PA.
6. Implements a point system approach that is based on judgement over the use of site-specific data that can be used in a hydrological analysis for the site.
7. Applies this policy to all new septic systems, plus suggest it should be applied to repair systems.  Applies to all existing lots and not just new subdivisions.
8. The policy does exclude spray irrigation systems, but does not exclude drip irrigation systems.
9. Cost burden - the additional cost for installing a septic system in PA could go up by over $ 25,000.00 - why ? To protect streams from Nitrate - the only problem nitrate is no a problem in our streams and only about 4 % of the nitrogen loading to our streams may come from septic systems.  The larger problem is agricultural runoff, combustion of fossil fuels, urban runoff, and direct discharges to the stream.
10. The cost for the implementation of this policy has not been evaluated. This cost would likely be burdened on the local agency and citizen.  Also, implementation of this policy would require changes in all local ordinances.
11. The policy would impact economic development and our rural tourist areas may be the areas most impacted.

We are developing more information - Please book mark the site.
I believe comments are due by May 1, 2013 - they go to

PADEP - Bureau of Point and Non-point Source Management

Rachel Carson State Office Building
400 Market Street
Harrisburg, PA 17105-8774
Proposed Policy
Proposed Policy - Presentation by PADEP - "Does not tell the whole story".
Current Policy and Guidance

other comments
1. May 2010
2. Lehigh Valley Builders


  1. New Website for This Topic


  2. Our formal response