U.S. EPA Region 8, under its responsibility in Colorado, Montana, South Dakota and Indian Country, plans to ensure closure of all motor vehicle waste disposal wells. The disposal wells were banned effective Jan. 1, 2007.
In 1999, EPA adopted new rules for two types of shallow on-site disposal systems or injection wells – motor vehicle waste disposal wells and large capacity cesspools. These two specific types of systems were selected out of more than 20 subcategories of shallow disposal systems because of their potential to contaminate underground sources of drinking water. These requirements banned new disposal wells in April 2000, with existing disposal wells required to obtain a permit or close by Jan. 1, 2007. Region 8 has been working with the facilities to identify these disposal wells and get them permitted or closed since 2000. All motor vehicle waste disposal wells are banned with the exception of those that received a permit to treat and discharge.
With the goal of protecting sources of drinking water, EPA plans to issue administrative orders as soon as disposal wells without permits are identified. However, since many of these operators are small businesses, they will be given a chance to close their disposal wells within a certain time period determined by the circumstances. If the operator closes the well within the given time period, no penalty will be sought.
“EPA’s goal is to protect the sources of drinking water for the people living near these potential pollution sources,” said Mike Risner, Region 8 acting deputy assistant regional administrator, Enforcement, Compliance and Environmental Justice. “We are hopeful that operators will step forward and contact us to help eliminate these potential threats to the clean drinking water.”
Businesses, including automotive service stations, auto body shops, farm machinery dealers and light airplane maintenance facilities that are in areas without sewers and that dispose of water on-site, may have motor vehicle waste disposal wells. Generally, motor vehicle waste disposal wells are floor drains or sinks in service bays that are tied into a shallow disposal system. Most commonly, these shallow disposal systems are septic systems or drywells, but any underground system that receives motor vehicle waste is considered a motor vehicle waste disposal well. A variety of names are used to describe shallow disposal systems including cesspools, catch basins, sink holes, underground vaults or drain tanks.
These wells are typically shallow disposal systems that are used to place a variety of fluids below the land surface near underground sources of drinking water. These disposal wells may be found almost anywhere people are, but, in general, they are located in rural areas without sewers where people depend on ground water for their drinking water. Their simple construction provides little or no protection against possible ground water contamination.
Shallow injection of wastewater from industrial and manufacturing processes can cause significant problems. During normal vehicle repair and maintenance activities, vehicle fluids may drip, spill, or otherwise enter floor drains or sinks in service areas. These fluids may include: engine oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid, hydraulic fluid, antifreeze, chlorinated or non-chlorinated parts-cleaning solvents and degreasers. These wastes can endanger drinking water sources. Chemicals disposed of in a septic system designed to treat sanitary waste can cause the system to malfunction and contaminate ground water. Chemicals disposed of in a dry well may flow directly into the drinking water source and contaminate ground water.