OLR Bill Analysis

sHB 5130 (as amended by House "A")*

AN ACT CONCERNING THE SEWAGE SPILL RIGHT-TO-KNOW ACT AND EXPANDING CONTINUING EDUCATION PROGRAMS FOR WASTEWATER OPERATORS.

SUMMARY

This bill (1) adds to the reporting requirements applicable to sewage treatment plants or collection systems and establishes civil or criminal penalties, as applicable, for failing to electronically report as the bill requires; (2) establishes continuing education requirements for certified wastewater treatment facility operators; and (3) makes several technical changes.

Beginning July 1, 2018, the bill requires sewage treatment plant or collection system operators, within two hours after becoming aware of a sewage spill, to submit an electronic report about it to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). And if a spill exceeds 5,000 gallons, or is anticipated to do so, the operator must notify the chief elected municipal official where the spill occurred. The municipality must then, as soon as practicable, notify the public and downstream public officials, as appropriate, of the spill.

The bill also requires any report required under the state's regulations on general conditions for water discharge permits to be submitted as an electronic report.

Lastly, the bill requires certified wastewater treatment facility operators to annually obtain at least six hours of continuing education. The operators and the facilities at which they work must keep a record of the continuing education and make it available if the DEEP commissioner requests it. Existing law and regulations require operators to pass an examination and meet certain education requirements as part of their certification (CGS 22a-416; Conn. Agencies Regs. 22a-416-4).

*House Amendment “A” replaces the original bill (File 3), which instead (1) added to DEEP's notice responsibilities after a reported spill incident and (2) required DEEP to establish and administer a certification renewal process and continuing education program for wastewater facility operators.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage for the sewage spill notice provisions and October 1, 2018 for the wastewater operator requirements.

ELECTRONIC REPORTING

Sewage Spill

The bill's sewage spill notice requirements apply to any sewage treatment plant, water pollution control facility, related pumping station, collection system, or other public sewage works. A “sewage spill” is waste diverted from any part of a sewage treatment plant or collection system that results in reasonable public health or safety or environmental concerns.

Existing regulations on reporting bypass events (i.e., diversion of waste from a wastewater collection or treatment facility) already require facilities to report the events to DEEP within two hours of becoming aware of them and provide a written report, within five days after they occur, on the cause, duration, and corrective actions (Conn. Agencies Regs. 22a-430-3).

Other Reports

Under the bill, each report that must be submitted to DEEP under the existing regulations on water discharge permits must be submitted electronically. Some of the reports required by the regulations include monitoring reports, permit-mandated reports, and reports on discharges that exceed certain thresholds (Conn. Agencies Regs. 22a-430-3).

Penalties

Under the bill, electronic reports must be made on a reporting form as the DEEP commissioner prescribes. Failing to file an electronic report as the bill requires is a violation and subject to civil or criminal penalties, as applicable.

Civil. Under the bill, failing to file an electronic report related to wastewater discharge, including sewage spills, is punishable by a civil penalty of up to $25,000 for each violation. The court determines the amount, but each violation is a separate offense. For continuing violations, each day a violation continues is considered a separate offense (CGS 22a-438(a)).

Criminal. The bill subjects anyone who, with criminal negligence, fails to file an electronic report related to wastewater discharge, including sewage spills, to a fine up of to $25,000 per day of violation, up to one year in prison, or both. A subsequent violation is punishable by a fine of up to $50,000 per day of violation, up to two years in prison, or both (CGS 22a-438(b)).

Anyone who knowingly fails to file a required report is punishable by a fine of up to $50,000 per day of violation, up to three years in prison, or both. A subsequent conviction for a violation is a class C felony, punishable by a fine of up to $100,000, up to 10 years in prison, or both (CGS 22a-438(c)).

COMMITTEE ACTION

Environment Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

30

Nay

0

(02/28/2018)