On the Chopping Block: Sewage Regulations!
Last week, I tuned my computer to TN's House Ag & Natural Resources Committee and watched House Representative Jason Zachary ask its members to support his bill, HB 2206.
HB 2206 removes TDEC authority over the design and installation of decentralized wastewater systems in rural Tennessee communities.
Jargon alert: "Decentralized wastewater systems" = "spreading sewage on fields"
Rep. Zachary assured the Committee that nothing would change. On the contrary, the Bill's Fiscal Note says, "Based on information provided by the TDEC, the bill as amended will result in TDEC no longer being required to review certain construction plans for land application systems."
Rep. Zachary's primary argument was "TDEC drafted the Bill," which, I suppose, was interpreted by him and others that TDEC "supported" the Bill. This is not the same. A state regulatory agency can and may work with legislators on proper statutory language, all the while biting its tongue and hoping that the measure fails, though I cannot speak for TDEC.
In fact, the first version of this Bill attempted to strip TDEC of the authority to approve the design AND operation of land application systems. The second version removed the design approval authority only.
When Committee members said they had received alarming emails regarding detrimental water quality impacts, Rep. Zachary assured them they could disregard those.
When Committee members asked what this Bill would change, Rep. Zachary assured them nothing would change.
When Committee members asked if there were legitimate concerns about spreading sewage on various types of terrain, Rep. Zachary assured them there was no problem.
When Rep. Stewart asked if anyone from TDEC was present to explain further, Rep. Zachary assured them there was no need.
When Representatives do not get accurate information from their fellow Assembly members, constituents must help educate them.
We hope TCWN members will contact their STATE REPRESENTATIVE with their opinion on the matter.
From Southern Environmental Law Center, a map of decentralized wastewater systems in TN: