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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: January 27, 2020 03:58 PM
From: Senator Gene Yaw
To: All Senate members
Subject: Change to Act 537 (PA Sewage Facilities Act)
In the very near future, I will be introducing legislation amending Act 537, also known as the PA Sewage Facilities Act.

During the 2017-18 session, legislation I sponsored, SB 144, sought to amend Act 537 by providing for the use of “alternate systems” for planning purposes throughout the Commonwealth. Currently, DEP only allows for “conventional systems” to be used in site planning. SB 144 was overwhelmingly supported in the Senate and became Act 26 of 2017, but not before significant changes were made, which, although not known at the time, are now operating counter to the intent of my legislation, and are currently having unintended negative consequences. This legislation seeks to make a technical correction to Act 26.

My original language in Act 26 was crafted in consultation with experts in the field and with DEP. The intent was to achieve several very important public policy and environmental goals. We wanted to streamline the process by which innovative, effective and better treatment technologies are made available to Pennsylvania residents and businesses. We also wanted to protect our farmland from being targeted for new land development. In addition, we wanted to improve water quality in our streams and rivers – alternative systems have a proven performance record which is superior to conventional systems.

It has come to my attention that the newly proposed draft Technology Verification Protocol (TVP) from DEP, if promulgated in final, would act in direct opposition to each of those goals and will lead to several serious negative environmental consequences including adding millions of gallons of insufficiently treated wastewater into the waters of the Commonwealth. I am told that the draft TVP is supposedly based on the language of Act 26 that was added and this is the source of the unintended consequences outlined herein and the need for the technical correction to Act 26.

The draft TVP has been roundly and justifiably labeled as a “technology bar”. Because of the barriers the draft TVP presents to the use by Pennsylvanians of proven alternate treatment technologies such technologies will either not be used or their use will be seriously diminished.

This failure of DEP to facilitate the use of such technologies will continue to cause harm to our streams and rivers and is directly contrary to the statutory mission of DEP. Allowing for “alternative systems” in the planning process would widen the area to which development can take place and save valuable acreage that could otherwise be used for agriculture. Alternative systems are currently being utilized in other states and are academically tested pursuant to 25 PA Code Section 73.71.

Ultimately, this technical correction will remedy the unintended consequences by eliminating the draft TVP.

I hope you will join me in co-sponsoring this legislation.

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Introduced as SB1030