Town of Johnston, RI
Providence County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Council of the Town of Johnston 8-23-1999 by Ord. No. 1096 (Secs. 22A-87 to 22A-92 of the 1979 Code). Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Sewer districts — See Ch. 70.
Sewer lines — See Ch. 276.
Sewers — See Ch. 279.
Water — See Ch. 335.
Wells — See Ch. 337.
A. 
This is a chapter establishing a Town-wide wastewater management district pursuant to R.I.G.L. Chapter 24.5, §§ 45-24.5-1 et seq., entitled "Wastewater Management Districts."
B. 
The legislative findings set forth in § 45-24.5-2, entitled "Legislative findings," are hereby incorporated herein by reference as findings of the Town of Johnston.
C. 
In addition, the Town of Johnston finds that:
(1) 
All residents of the Town of Johnston are dependent upon groundwater for all drinking, cooking, cleaning and bathing needs;
(2) 
The contamination of the Town's groundwater supply could seriously impact the health, safety and welfare of those living in, working in, or visiting the Town;
(3) 
Some residents and businesses in the Town utilize cesspools, septic systems or some other form of individual septage disposal system to dispose of septage wastes, including some which are substandard and predate the regulations of the State of Rhode Island; and
(4) 
The Town is also dependent upon the ponds, lakes and other surface waters to restore and replenish groundwater, provide attractive residential and recreational areas for residents and visitors of habitat for wildlife which could become contaminated by failed septage disposal systems.
D. 
The adoption of a wastewater management district is consistent with the goals of the Comprehensive Community Plan of the Town by protecting the rural character of the Town, protecting its natural resources while planning and preparing for the future of the Town and its growth.
E. 
The adoption of a wastewater management district is consistent with the goals of the zoning regulations of the Town[1] and promotes the purposes expressed in R.I.G.L. Chapter 24, § 45-24.30, entitled "General Purposes of Zoning Ordinances."
[1]
Editor's Note: See Ch. 340, Zoning.
The purpose of this chapter is to establish a Town-wide wastewater management district to prevent the contamination of the Town's water resources, estimate failed or malfunctioning individual subsurface disposal systems, such as cesspools and septic systems, take advantage of such state and federal programs, grants, loans and other fundings as may be or become available from time to time or as may be raised and to implement the recommendations of the Wastewater Management Commission.
A wastewater management district pursuant to R.I.G.L. Chapter 24.5, §§ 45-24.5-1 et seq., entitled "Waste Water Management Districts," encompassing all of the areas of the Town of Johnston is hereby created.
A. 
Any term not herein defined shall be governed and deemed to have the definition as it appears in the Rhode Island Rules and Regulations Governing Individual Sewage Disposal Systems as adopted by the State of Rhode Island from time to time.
B. 
The following terms shall have the meanings set forth herein:
BUILDING SEWER
The pipe which begins outside the building wall and extends to any place or mechanism of sewage disposal, including, but not limited to, a cesspool or septic system.
CESSPOOL
Any buried chamber, including, but not limited to, any metal tank, perforated concrete vault or covered hollow or excavation which receives discharges for sanitary sewage from a building sewer for the purpose of collecting waste solids and/or discharging liquids to the surrounding soils.
FAILED SYSTEM
Any sewage disposal system that does not adequately treat and dispose of sewage that consequently creates a public or private nuisance or threat to public health and/or environmental quality, as evidenced by, but not limited to, one or more of the following conditions:
(1) 
Failure to accept sanitary sewage from the building sewer;
(2) 
Discharge of wastewater, either directly or indirectly to a subsurface drain, surface drain, wetland or surface water body;
(3) 
Effluent rising to the surface of the ground over or near any part of an ISDS or seeping down-gradient from the absorption area at any change in grade, bank or road cut;
(4) 
Discharge of improperly treated effluent to ground or surface waters resulting in contamination of ground and/or surface waters due to any physical, chemical, biological or radiological substance or nutrients;
(5) 
Inadequate treatment and disposal of wastewater due to deterioration, damage or improper design of any ISDS, such as inadequate separation distanced from the bottom of the system to groundwater or impervious layer or damage from a vehicle driven over a leach field; or
(6) 
Pumping records indicate very frequent septic tank or cesspool pumping. A system shall be considered in need of repair or alteration if the system has been pumped or is in need of pumping two or more times in a calendar year.
INDIVIDUAL SEWAGE DISPOSAL SYSTEM (ISDS)
A system installed to provide sanitary sewage disposal by means other than discharge into a public sewer system.
MAINTENANCE
The regular cleaning of any leaching chamber, cesspool, septic tank, building sewer, distribution lines or any other component of an ISDS for the purpose of removing any accumulated liquid scum and/or sludge. The term "maintenance" shall also mean any regularly required servicing or replacement or related mechanical, electrical or other equipment.
MALFUNCTIONING SYSTEM
Synonymous with “failed system.”
OWNER
Any person who alone or jointly or severally with others:
(1) 
Has legal title to any premises; or
(2) 
Has control of any premises as agent, executor, executrix, administrator, administratrix, trustee, guardian of an estate of the holder of the legal title, or any person who controls the premises pursuant to the terms of any agreement of purchase or management.
REPAIR
Any work performed on an ISDS in order to mend or renovate to a specific defect or deficiency after the failure, damage, deterioration or partial destruction of a previously existing ISDS or component thereof. A repair shall not include any work performed on an existing ISDS that increases the flow capacity of the system.
SEPTAGE
The solid or liquid materials which are pumped from an ISDS.
SEPTIC SYSTEM
An ISDS.
SEPTIC TANK
A water-tight receptacle which receives the discharge of sewage and is designed and constructed to permit the deposition of settled solids, the digestion of the matter deposited and the discharge of the liquid portion into a leaching system.
(1) 
Failure to comply with and adhere to the rules and regulations established by the Board pursuant to the chapter;
(2) 
The improper discharge of sanitary sewage from a failed ISDS.
A. 
A Wastewater Management Board (the "Board") is hereby established to administer this chapter in accordance with the purpose hereof and the powers granted to such Board pursuant to the terms of this chapter.
B. 
The membership of the Board shall consist of seven individuals. The Board shall have two members from the Town at large who shall be appointed by the mayor. The other five members of the Board shall reside in each of the five Council districts and shall be appointed by the Town Council.
[Amended 12-9-2010 by Ord. No. 2010-34]
C. 
The terms of the members of the Board shall be as follows:
[Added 12-9-2010 by Ord. No. 2010-34[1]]
(1) 
The member from District 1 shall serve a term of three years;
(2) 
The member from District 2 shall serve a term of two years;
(3) 
The member from District 3 shall serve a term of three years;
(4) 
The member from District 4 shall serve a term of two years;
(5) 
The member from District 5 shall serve a term of three years;
(6) 
The mayor's first appointment shall serve a term of two years; and
(7) 
The mayor's second appointment shall serve a term of three years.
[1]
Editor's Note: This ordinance also provided for the redesignation of former Subsections C through H as Subsections G through L, respectively.
D. 
Any member may be reappointed to serve up to three consecutive terms.
[Added 12-9-2010 by Ord. No. 2010-34]
E. 
Each member may hold office until the expiration of the term to which the member has been appointed. In the event of any vacancy, the Town Council may fill the vacancy with an individual to serve the remainder of the unexpired term.
[Added 12-9-2010 by Ord. No. 2010-34]
F. 
The terms of all current members of the Board shall expire on December 31, 2010.
[Added 12-9-2010 by Ord. No. 2010-34]
G. 
The Board shall have at least six regular meetings per year. Special meetings may be held as the bylaws, adopted by the Board, may provide. All meetings shall be subject to the so-called “Open Meetings Laws” of the State of Rhode Island.
H. 
The Board shall elect a Chairperson, a Vice Chairperson and a Secretary.
I. 
Bylaws adopted by the Board shall provide that a quorum shall consist of at least four members.
J. 
The Town Council may remove any member of the Board for misconduct, incompetency, neglect of duty or for any other sufficient cause in a manner which is consistent with the laws of the State of Rhode Island.
K. 
The Town Council may establish the compensation of the Board from time to time. However, this provision shall not be construed as requiring the payment of any compensation.
L. 
The rules and regulations which may from time to time be adopted by the Board shall be adopted in accordance with the following procedure:
(1) 
Prior to the adoption, amendment or repeal of rule, the Board shall give at least 20 days' notice of its intended action. The notice shall include a statement of either the terms or substance of the intended action or a description of the subjects and issues involved, and of the time when, the place where, and manner in which interested persons may present their view thereon. The notice shall be published in a newspaper, newspapers, or other publication having general circulation throughout the Town.
(2) 
The Board shall consider fully all written and oral submissions respecting the proposed rule.
(3) 
Upon adoption of a rule, the Board, if requested to do so by an interested person, either prior to adoption or within 30 days thereafter, shall issue a concise statement of the principal reasons for and against its adoption, incorporating therein the Board's reasons for overruling the consideration urged against its adoption.
A. 
The Board shall establish such rules and regulations for the conduct of its own proceedings, for examining permits, for public education programs, review of compliance rules and regulations of the Board, hearings, investigations, planning for current and future wastewater disposal needs, raising and obtaining funds for its operations, assessment of penalties, fines and levies, and as may otherwise be necessary and proper for the implementation of this chapter and which are consistent with the laws of the State of Rhode Island, of the United States of America and the Charter of the Town.
B. 
The Board shall have the power to adopt and amend all bylaws and rules of procedure, not inconsistent with the Constitution and laws of the State of Rhode Island, the Town Charter, the Constitution and laws of the United States of America or this chapter which may be reasonably necessary for the proper performance of its duties. Specifically, the Board is granted the following powers:
(1) 
To establish a public education program, which shall precede the implementation of any inspection or pumping schedules or any enforcement activities of the Board, to make property owners aware of the proper maintenance and care of an individual septage disposal system and the need for periodic pumping. Once the inspection and pumping schedules are established, the education program shall remain in place to educate new residents and to update the Board members and existing residents of the Town on new information or procedures.
(2) 
To provide for the passage of management district employees, officials, Board members or their specifically designated agents to pass unto private property with the consent of the property owner, tenant, or upon a showing of probable cause before a judge or magistrate of the courts of the State of Rhode Island of a violation of the rules and regulations established by the Board, when necessary for investigations and inspections of septic systems.
(3) 
To order the maintenance and/or pumping of an individual septage disposal system in accordance with an appropriate schedule.
(4) 
To establish appropriate schedules for the inspection and pumping of individual septage disposal systems.
(5) 
To raise funds for the administration, operation, contractual obligations and services of the wastewater management district by:
(a) 
Assessing property owners for fees or assessments which have been approved by the Town Council;
(b) 
Borrowing, and for that purpose, by issuing bonds or notes of the Town which have been approved by the Town Council;
(c) 
Seeking, applying for and obtaining grants and other funds from the State of Rhode Island and/or the United States of America; and
(d) 
The budget and rates established by the Board and approved by the Town Council shall be presented at the annual budget meeting for approval of the Town Council.
(6) 
To hire personnel necessary to carry out the functions of the district.
(7) 
To seek and receive grants of funds from governmental agencies or private groups.
(8) 
To establish a revolving fund to make available grants and low-interest loans to individual property owners for the improvement, correction, repair or replacement of failed septic systems.
(9) 
To authorize and contract with independent septage haulers and inspectors.
(10) 
To contract with other cities and towns for septage disposal through sewage treatment plants with the approval of the Town Council and through such procedures for authorization, such as submission for voter approval, as the Town Council, in its discretion, may prescribe and as are required by law.
(11) 
To prohibit the discharge of any septage wastes into any surface matters or unto the surface of the ground.
(12) 
To levy fines for noncompliance; however, any such fines shall not be greater than $500 per violation. Each day of continuing violation shall constitute a separate and distinct violation. All fines collected shall go to a dedicated fund for the purpose of operating the wastewater management district. Before the assessment of any fine, rules and regulations of the Board shall provide for a hearing. Further, the rules and regulations shall provide that any person aggrieved by the final decision of the Board in assessing a fine, ordering compliance or other action, shall have the rights of appeal pursuant to R.I.G.L., Administrative Procedures Act, Chapter 35 of Title 42 and to the district court.
(13) 
To contract with engineers and licensed septic system installers to effectuate the repair or the replacement of any failed or defective septic system, cesspool or other individual septage disposal system on any property to which the property owner has refused to comply with the orders and directives of the Board after an additional written notice, hearing, expiration of any and all appeal periods, pursuant to the following procedure:
(a) 
The property owner shall be afforded an opportunity for a hearing after reasonable notice.
(b) 
The notice shall include:
[1] 
A statement of the time, place and nature of the hearing;
[2] 
A statement of the legal authority and jurisdiction under which the hearing is to be held;
[3] 
A reference to the particular sections of the statutes and rules involved;
[4] 
A short and plain statement of the matters asserted. If the Board is unable to state the matters in detail at the time the notice is served, the initial notice may be limited to a statement of the issues involved and a detailed statement shall be furnished.
(c) 
An opportunity shall be afforded all parties to respond and present evidence and argument on all issues involved.
(d) 
Unless precluded by law, informal disposition may be made in any contested case by stipulation, agreed settlement, consent order or default.
(e) 
The record of a contested case shall include:
[1] 
All pleadings, motions and intermediate rulings;
[2] 
Evidence received or considered;
[3] 
Statement of matters officially noticed;
[4] 
Questions and offers of proof and rulings thereon;
[5] 
Proposed findings and exceptions;
[6] 
Any decision, opinion or report by an officer presiding at the hearing; and
[7] 
All staff memoranda or data submitted to the Board in connection with the case.
(f) 
Oral proceedings or any part thereof conducted by the Board in a contested case shall be transcribed on request of any party. A stenographer may serve as hearing reporter and such stenographer shall be paid by the Board.
(g) 
All findings of fact and decisions shall be based conclusively on the evidence and matters officially noticed.
(h) 
Irrelevant, immaterial and unduly repetitious evidence shall be excluded. The Board shall give effect to the rules of privilege recognized by law. The Board's experience, technical competence and specialized knowledge may be utilized in the evaluation of evidence and the Board may take notice of cognizable facts, especially of those matters within the Board's specialized knowledge regarding technical or scientific matters.
(i) 
Documentary evidence may be received in the form of copies or excerpts, if the original is not readily available. Upon request, parties shall be given an opportunity to compare the copy with the original.
(j) 
The rules of evidence as applied in civil cases in the superior courts of the State of Rhode Island shall be followed, but when necessary to ascertain facts not reasonably susceptible of proof under those rules, evidence not admissible under those rules may be submitted, except where precluded by specific statute, if it is a type commonly relied upon by reasonably prudent people in the conduct of their affairs. A party may cross-examine as may be required for a full and true disclosure of facts.
(k) 
Any final order adverse to a party in a contested case shall be in writing or stated in the record. Any final order shall include findings of fact and conclusions of law, separately stated.
(l) 
No party or employee of the Board shall communicate with any member of the Board regarding any issue of law or of any contested matter except upon notice and opportunity for all parties to participate, but members of the Board may communicate with each other and may have the advice of one or more personal assistants.[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: Amended at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. I).
(m) 
Any person who has exhausted all administrative remedies available to him/her before the Board and who is aggrieved by a final order in a contested case is entitled to judicial review in the manner set forth in R.I.G.L. § 42-35-15 and a final notice of impending action allowing for an additional thirty-day period for such property owner to commence compliance with the regulations, orders and directives of the Board. Further, the Board is empowered to seek an order from the Superior Court for the County of Providence to enjoin the property owner from interfering with the efforts of the Board to effectuate the repairs or the replacement of the septic system on the property. In addition, the Board shall be empowered to assess all the costs incurred in enforcing its regulations, orders and directives, together with all the costs specifically of repairing or replacing the said septic system as a penalty and may attach the said property to enforce the payment of such penalty.[2]
[2]
Editor's Note: Amended at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. I).
The rules and regulations established by the Board shall provide for a method of periodic inspection of individual sewage disposal systems in the Town which are suspected of being deficient. The said rules and regulations shall permit the property owner to select and hire the licensed inspector and/or pumper to perform the said scheduled inspections and to pump the septic tank when appropriate. The inspections shall, at a minimum, including reporting on:
A. 
Septic tank levels;
B. 
Surface breakout unto the ground surface;
C. 
Lush plant growth over and near the tank or leach field;
D. 
Odor;
E. 
The presence of trees within 10 feet of the leach field;
F. 
The presence of impervious areas over the leach field;
G. 
Determining whether there is any discharge of septage unto the surface of the ground or into any surface water.
H. 
Any recommendations of the inspector to bring the system into compliance with rules and regulations of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and the Board. Further, the results of all inspections shall be reported to the Board within 30 days of inspection. The Board shall review the inspection reports and give notice to any property owner whose individual septage disposal needs corrective action of the corrective action need. The rules and regulations of the Board shall provide for the property owner to have at least 30 days to contact the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, in writing, and apply for the necessary permit to repair or replace the system, if necessary, or to take such other corrective action as may be necessary. Requests for hearings shall be made within this thirty-day period. In the event an inspection simply reveals the need for the system to be pumped, the property owner shall be required to produce evidence of pumping by an authorized septage hauler within 30 days of the date of the inspection.
I. 
The Board shall maintain records of its proceedings, of all notices of violations, inspections, pumping, reports of the wastewater commission and its predecessors, reports generated by the Board or by professional consultants hired by the Board, and other documents pertaining to the business of the Board. The records of the Board shall be prima facie evidence of the proceedings of the Board.