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Cesspools and the Rhode Island Cesspool Act of 2007

Cesspools and the Rhode Island Cesspool Act of 2007

Cesspools and the Rhode Island Cesspool Act of

RHODE ISLAND DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT OFFICE OF WATER RESOURCES Frequently Asked Questions Cesspools and the Rhode Island Cesspool Act of 2007 July 18, 2011 Do all cesspools in Rhode Island need to be replaced? What do I have to comply with? No, only cesspools located within the 200 foot zones described below need to be replaced under the Cesspool Act of 2007. If you own a cesspool located outside of the 200 foot zones, the Cesspool Act does not apply to you. Rules to implement the requirements of the law went into effect on August 4, 2010. Cesspool replacements triggered by the Cesspool Act of 2007 must be done in accordance with DEM’s septic system Rules. Note that outside of the 200 foot zones described below, the septic system Rules allow the continued use of cesspools unless they are failed or unless they are a large capacity cesspool. A cesspool is considered “large capacity” if it serves any multifamily residential building, including duplexes, or any non-residential building serving 20 or more people a day. Failed cesspools and large capacity cesspools must be replaced with a septic system meeting State rules. Some municipalities already have requirements affecting cesspools. If your municipality has established a wastewater management program with comparable or more stringent cesspool replacement requirements, you are exempt from the requirements of the state law, but you must comply with the local ordinance. At least 3 municipalities (Charlestown, South Kingstown, and Block Island) have requirements to replace all cesspools in the community, not just those identified under the state law. How do I know if I have a cesspool? A cesspool is any buried chamber (could be a metal tank, a perforated concrete vault, “beehive” or a covered excavation) that receives sewage from a building for disposal into the ground. (Note: Most home sewage systems installed after 1970 are not cesspools. Regulations became effective at that time that prohibited new installations of cesspools. Hence, if your system received an approval by the state after 1970, it is most likely not a cesspool.) If you know you are not connected to the public sewer system, but don’t know whether you have a cesspool or a septic tank with a leachfield, you will have to hire someone to determine if you have a cesspool. Licensed septic system designers or registered septic system inspectors can make this determination. Note that this initial determination is not necessarily the same as the formal cesspool inspection required by the Cesspool Act. See below for additional information on inspections. Do I have to replace my cesspool? If so, when? There are 3 possible scenarios under which you are or will be required to replace your cesspool: 1) Your cesspool is failed (see definition below). This applies anywhere in the state and is required under current regulations; 2) You have a cesspool that serves a non-residential facility or multifamily dwelling. This applies anywhere in the state and is required under current regulations; or 3) Your cesspool is located within one of the three areas described below: • Within 200 feet of the inland edge of all shoreline features bordering tidal water areas (i.e., Coastal Resources Management Council’s jurisdiction); • Within 200 feet of all public wells; and • Within 200 feet of a water body with an intake for a drinking water supply. Cesspool Act 2007 - FAQs July 18, 2011 1

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