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MELISSA KRAMER U.S. EPA OFFICE OF SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES OCTOBER 7, 2010 Strategic Wastewater Infrastructure Practices for Rural Areas.

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Presentation on theme: "MELISSA KRAMER U.S. EPA OFFICE OF SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES OCTOBER 7, 2010 Strategic Wastewater Infrastructure Practices for Rural Areas."— Presentation transcript:

1 MELISSA KRAMER U.S. EPA OFFICE OF SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES OCTOBER 7, 2010 Strategic Wastewater Infrastructure Practices for Rural Areas

2 Planning for Wastewater Needs 2 Will significantly affect region’s character and growth  Density and location of development  Availability of uninterrupted natural and agricultural areas  Health of the watershed Rural communities are best served by a menu of options  No one solution will be appropriate for all  Understanding the relationship between wastewater infrastructure and the shape of community growth will help communities to make better choices.

3 Conventional Onsite (Septic) Systems 3 Siting needs usually lead to low-density development Many older systems responsible for nutrient and microbial contamination of ground and surface water, including drinking water supplies. Cluster systems (shared or community systems) tend to lead to more compactly spaced buildings but can also enable tiny pockets of residential housing The Clean Watersheds Needs Survey 2004 Report to Congress estimated that $3 billion is needed to address failing onsite/decentralized wastewater treatment systems.

4 Advanced Treatment Systems 4 Enable more compact land uses Can achieve wastewater treatment levels comparable to centralized sewerage, including removal of nutrients However, for better or for worse, can open up areas to development that were previously considered unbuildable using conventional treatment.

5 Centralized Sewerage 5 Enables the densest land uses Has also enabled and even encouraged development in rural areas regardless of whether it is located in an area that is appropriate for additional growth  Need additional ratepayers to support the cost of the system  Many communities driven to rezone the area  Developers attracted to areas with wastewater infrastructure May improve water quality by replacing failing septic systems, but improvements may be offset by new pollution problems due to sprawl

6 What to do? 6 Carefully consider community development and water quality goals for the entire watershed. Lot-by-lot or neighborhood-by-neighborhood decisions  Ignore incremental and cumulative effects  Give developers more control over community growth than the municipality itself  Can change the character of the community, increase costs for wastewater management, and degrade the watershed. Rural communities can protect water quality without sacrificing other worthy goals, such as maintaining rural character or promoting thriving town centers.

7 Plan for Wastewater Infrastructure Needs 7 Carefully consider ramifications of using wastewater treatment regulations as a planning tool  Often restricts options that would be compatible with overall development goals.  Maximum flexibility generally needed for difficult sites  Undesirable development patterns can occur with all technology Address needs on a regional basis in connection with comprehensive land use planning  Identify where existing infrastructure has excess capacity  Delineate areas where public infrastructure will be provided and areas where it will not  Consider cumulative impacts on water quality and water recharge

8 Maintain Existing Decentralized Systems 8 A program to actively manage decentralized wastewater treatment systems allows communities to maintain them as a viable choice Components of successful models  Inventory of existing systems  Public education  Inspection and maintenance requirement  Municipal responsibility and control  Funded by service fees from users of decentralized systems If the costs of proper maintenance are not fully accounted for  Decentralized systems encouraged in areas that would be better served by centralized sewerage.  The municipality ultimately bears the cost of system upgrades

9 Install New Decentralized Systems 9 Advantages of decentralized systems with advanced technology  More compatible with compact land use patterns  Can service single lots, multi-lots, or even villages  Treatment can be comparable to a centralized system with lower capital and operations costs  Enable additional development in areas without sewerage or the ability to support the nutrient loads from conventional onsite systems  Recharge groundwater and maintain stream flows Regular maintenance required: communities should have a management program for all decentralized wastewater treatment systems A performance standard can preserve water quality  Consider desired land use patterns, current water quality impairments, and projected population growth  A performance standard that effectively prohibits new conventional onsite systems may be warranted

10 Expand or Install Centralized Wastewater Treatment Systems 10 Centralized systems will be the best wastewater treatment solution for some rural communities But consider the long-term implications  Is the area planned for higher-density development?  Will the new ratepayers be able to pay for installation and maintenance, including eventual replacement?  Will the new ratepayers come from outside the region or from the central core? Target such infrastructure to existing communities and planned growth areas established regionally based on investments in transit, housing, and jobs

11 Modest Adjustments 11 Align water infrastructure investments with other public investments Establish a decentralized wastewater treatment system management program (responsible management entity) Develop a comprehensive land use plan that can guide decisions about appropriate wastewater treatment options Deny applications for new conventional onsite systems that are inconsistent with local water quality goals and/or land use plans E stablish a process to approve new treatment technologies without lengthy variance procedures. Require developers to finance all system construction costs. Es tablish criteria for determining when centralized sewerage expansion is appropriate

12 Major Modifications 12 If necessary, support state enabling legislation to grant municipalities authority to adopt local wastewater management programs  Right to establish wastewater management districts and zoning regulations  Right to enter private property for inspections  Ability to order the maintenance of a system  Ability to levy fines and assess fees Require long-term financial maintenance plans for any new decentralized systems Establish a performance bond or escrow account for future operation and maintenance costs Authorize the use of Clean Water State Revolving Fund dollars for decentralized wastewater treatment. Require that a municipal management program cover decentralized systems funded through the CWSRF.

13 Wholesale Adjustments 13 Establish a mechanism for regional planning of wastewater infrastructure that can overcome fragmentation of system ownership, operation, and regulation across political boundaries Delineate specific growth areas where compact development may be located; associate with the transfer of development rights

14 Practice Pointers 14 Base implementation decisions on overall water quality, public health, and land use goals irrespective of whether the municipality or a private developer is funding the project infrastructure Ensure that sufficient capacity reserved in treatment plants to accommodate and direct normal growth to built-up areas Price services to reflect the full cost of building, operating, and maintaining the system regardless of the type of system used

15 Additional Information 15 National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association. Model Code Framework for the Decentralized Wastewater Infrastructure. 2007. U.S. EPA Voluntary National Guidelines for Management of Onsite and Clustered (Decentralized) Wastewater Treatment Systems. 2003. U.S. EPA. Protecting Water Resources with Smart Growth. 2004. U.S. EPA Decentralized Wastewater Treatment Systems: A Program Strategy. df. 2005. df 202-564-8497

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