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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Sosnowski bill on cesspool passes. Now we need Teresa Tanzi’s House bill to pass.

Senate passes bill requiring onsite wastewater treatment systems, removal of cesspools

Senator Sue Sosnowski (L) and Rep. Teresa Tanzi plus Delia at a
Charlestown event
STATE HOUSE – The Senate today passed legislation introduced by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) that would provide for the eventual removal of all cesspools in the state.

The bill (2015-S 0369A) would amend the Rhode Island Cesspool Act of 2007, including replacing individual sewage disposal systems with onsite wastewater treatment systems and would require cesspool removal or replacement upon the transfer of the property where the cesspool is located under certain circumstances.

The current law requires the phase-out of cesspools located within 200 feet of a shoreline, wetland or drinking water supply. This bill provides for the eventual removal of all cesspools beyond these 200 foot boundaries.

“Cesspools are an outdated form of handling wastewater; for this reason, the state banned the installation of new cesspools over 40 years ago,” said Senator Sosnowski. “The main advantage of the using point-of-sale approach for cesspool phase-out is that the cost of replacing a cesspool can be taken into account in the selling price of the home and/or the financing of the home.”

An onsite wastewater treatment system is any system of piping, tanks, disposal areas, alternative toilets or other facilities designed to function as a unit to convey, store, treat and/or dispose of sanitary sewage by means other than discharge into a public sewer system.

The legislation provides flexibility when it comes to the responsibility of replacing the cesspool at the point of sale, leaving it to agreement whether it will be the responsibility of the buyer or the seller.

“The Clean Water Finance Agency has two financing programs to assist homeowners in the cesspool phase-out,” said Senator Sosnowski. “The Community Septic System Loan Program — to repair or replace failing, failed or substandard septic systems — requires a municipal wastewater management plan. The second program, the Sewer Tie-in Loan Fund — for connecting to sewers — does not require a municipal wastewater management plan.”

The bill, which originally was to take effect upon passage, was amended to take effect Jan. 1, 2016, at the request of the Rhode Island Association of Realtors.

“Passage of this bill will significantly reduce pollution in our state waters and reduce the potential risk of disease caused by inadequately treated wastewater discharges,” said Senator Sosnowski.

The measure, which passed 35 to 1, now heads to the House of Representatives, where a companion bill (2015-H 5668) has been introduced by Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34 South Kingstown, Narragansett).