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ECAR Fact Sheet for Idaho
Septic Tanks and Disposal Wells

Regulations
Self-Audit Checklist
Best Management Practices
Contacts
Related ECAR Fact Sheets
Other Relevant Resources

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The 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.

What 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 operation.

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 be sealed or closed.  This fact sheet will help you check whether your existing wastewater disposal practices are in compliance with current rules.


Regulations

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 dry wells, 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 wells:

  • 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.

*In short, spent parts washer cleaners, both solvents and aqueous cleaners, and other types of industrial wastewater should never be discharged to a septic system.

The only permissible use for septic systems is disposal of sanitary sewage, which includes the water coming from lavatories/washrooms, showers, drinking fountains, etc.

Links to the Regulations and Forms. Use the following links to view the regulations and permit forms pertaining to septic tanks.

Federal NPDES Permits

Wastewater-Land Application Permitting Program

Wastewater-Land Application Permit Rules (IDAPA 58.01.17)

Idaho Water Quality and Wastewater Treatment Rules

Federal Rules for Motor Vehicle Waste Disposal Wells

Class V Well Pre-Closure Notification Form


Self-Audit Checklist

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 Policy Page).

Use the following list to audit your septic tank or underground well.

  1. 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.

Best 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.

Contacts

  1. For more information, contact the Idaho DEQ Water Quality Division at 208-373-0502.
  2. To report a spill or leak, call the Idaho state Communication Center at 800-632-8000 or 208-846-7610.
  3. To report an environmental incident or complaint, contact the nearest regional office or fill out an online environmental concern form.

Related ECAR Fact Sheets

  1. Floor Drains
  2. Stormwater
  3. Wastewater

Other Relevant Resources

  1. What Should I Know About Motor Vehicle Waste Disposal Wells?
  2. Pollution Prevention Guidance Document

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