Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Let's lose the Cesspools!

It's unbelievable that Rhode Island still allows cesspools in coastal areas. A cesspool is basically a pit in the ground into which raw sewage is dumped. That sewage, along with all its nasty bacteria and other pollutants, then flows right into the Bay. For the past 5 years, Save The Bay has fought unsuccessfully to change the law and phase-out cesspools. Resistance from builders, realtors, and various other petty politics has prevented this no-brainer from passing. This year, a weakened version of the original bill is pending in the general assembly and even that looks like it might not pass. It's an outrage. -JT

Below is text from an open letter from STB to legislators and policy makers:

It is time to take the first steps to rid Rhode Island of its cesspools. The cesspool phase-out legislation before the House and Senate (H7699 and S2505) this year does just that by targeting the cesspools that pose the greatest threat to human health, public drinking water supplies, public beaches and Narragansett Bay. Save The Bay urges you to support this legislation.

The legislation will require inspection and removal of approximately 3,000 to 4,000 of Rhode Island’s estimated 50,000 cesspools by the year 2012. The affected cesspools are only those within 200 feet of:
· a public well,
· a water body with a public beach,
· the intake of a surface drinking water supply, or
· the shoreline (CRMC’s jurisdiction).

Owners of properties with cesspools are required to either replace the cesspool with a proper individual sewage disposal system (ISDS) or tie into sewer lines if available or planned. In addition, the bill provides prospective purchasers of property statewide ten days to obtain an inspection of the on-site sewage system to determine if a cesspool exists and its condition. This provision should create an incentive for the removal of cesspools at the point to sale throughout the state, although it does not require it.

Finally, the bill does not apply in a community which has its own municipal on-site wastewater management plan that meets the purposes of the legislation and contains provisions for waivers in cases of undue hardship.

Cesspool phase-out legislation has come before the RI Legislature for each of the last four years – each year since 2001 when the ISDS Task Force recommended removal of all cesspools in RI. Four years is far too long to wait to address a public health threat and although this bill is limited in its scope is represents a critically important beginning. Failing cesspools pose a direct threat to keeping Rhode Island’s waters drinkable, swimmable and fishable. Save The Bay asks you to defend these most important of public resources.

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