Fact Sheet for California
Tanks and Disposal Wells
Best Management Practices
Related ECAR Fact Sheets
Other Relevant Resources
following fact sheet was prepared by the ECAR Center staff. Once
prepared, each ECAR Center fact sheet undergoes a review process
with the applicable state environmental agency(ies). You can check
on the status of the review process here.
Please read the disclaimer on the status page. While we have tried
to present a summary of the essential information on this topic,
you should be aware that other items, such as local regulations,
may apply to you.
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You Need to Know
There is a simple rule for determining
when it is OK to put industrial wastewater into a septic system
- never. You can dispose of "sanitary wastes" from ordinary
lavatory use or hand washing in a septic field only if the
wastewater has not been contaminated with any water from an industrial
Some yards may have shallow wells
or cesspools that have been used for disposal of industrial wastewater.
It is now illegal to create such systems, and existing systems need
to either be closed or need to have special permits to continue
their operation. This fact sheet will help you check whether
your existing wastewater disposal practices are in compliance with
This fact sheet explains the regulations
applicable to septic tanks or other forms of disposal wells used
at auto recycling facilities for disposal of vehicle fluids or industrial
wastewater. These methods of disposal are referred to as "motor
vehicle waste disposal wells." They are regulated under federal
and state Underground Injection Control (UIC) regulations that protect
drinking water supplies.
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 would be 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, to name a few.
Automotive recyclers must adhere
to the following federal rules for motor vehicle waste disposal
- New motor vehicle waste disposal
wells are banned nationwide as of April 5, 2000.
- Existing motor vehicle waste disposal
wells are banned in ground water protection areas and other sensitive
ground water areas. States have until January 1, 2004, to delineate
other sensitive ground water areas, unless they apply and receive
an extension of up to one year to complete this task (by January
1, 2005). States or EPA may waive the ban and allow owners and
operators to obtain a permit. However, their use will eventually
be phased out (no later than Jan. 1, 2008).
Under the State of California's water
pollution control regulations, a company CANNOT discharge industrial
wastewater into an injection well. This activity is strictly prohibited
unless a company has obtained a permit to drill and a permit to
operate (UIC) permit from the State Water Resources Control Board.
This includes discharging industrial wastewater to an on-site sewage
treatment system (e.g. septic tank, leach field). Not only would
this activity be a violation without a permit, the discharged materials
could also damage your on-site system.
Links to the Regulations and Forms.
Use the following links to view the regulations and permit forms
pertaining to septic tanks.
Rules for Class V Wells
Rules for Motor Vehicle Waste Disposal Wells
When an inspector comes to your facility,
there are certain things he or she checks to see if you are in compliance
with environmental regulations. It makes good sense for you to perform
a "self-audit" and catch and correct problems before they result
in penalties. Also, there are some compliance incentives associated
with self-audits (see Audit
Use the following list to audit your
septic tank or underground well.
- Does your facility discharge
vehicle fluids or related industrial wastewater to a septic tank
or similar system? Does a permit authorize the discharges?
Check all uses of water and steam within the industrial areas
of your facility. Determine where wastewater is generated and
discharged. You must have a permit or written authorization for
all industrial wastewater discharges. Use of a septic tank or
similar system is not a viable option.
Management Practices (BMPs)
Most regulations tell you what you
have to do to be in compliance, but they don't explain how to do
it. That's where "best management practices" come into play.
BMPs are proven methods that help you to get into compliance and
stay there. The following BMPs are recommended for septic tank management.
- Check your sinks and floor drains
in the shop to make certain you know where they discharge.
- Cap or plug any floor drains connected
to a septic tank.
- Do not put other fluids like oil,
solvents, paints or chemicals into a floor drain. This could contaminate
your property and expose you to large fines and clean up costs.
- Think about installing an emergency
shut-off on the drain pipes to prevent accidental spills from
entering the sewer.
- Train employees on the importance
of preventing any vehicle fluids or other industrial wastes from
entering a septic tank or well.
- Post signs at sinks connected
to your septic tank system to remind employees not to discard
any wastes into the sink.
- For more information, contact the
State Water Resources Control Board at (916) 341-5250.
ECAR Fact Sheets
- Partners in the
Solution Guidance Manual (Developed by the State of California Auto
Should I Know About Motor Vehicle Waste Disposal Wells?
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