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Municipal Guide To Clean Water: Conducting Sanitary Surveys to Improve Coastal Water Quality

Part IV. Eliminating Identified Problems

Fixing problems requires an integrated, persis- tent approach, a combination of “carrots and sticks,” and a system to track progress. This information should be included in the survey database and/or the final sanitary survey re- port, and shared with DEP and DMR for areas impacting shellfish growing areas.

What constitutes a violation?

Discharging pollutants to Maine waters with- out a license is a violation of Title 38 MRSA § 413, which subjects the polluter to possible enforcement action including the imposition of monetary penalties. “Discharge” means any spilling, leaking, pumping, pouring, emptying, dump- ing, disposing, or other addition of any pollutant to state waters (Title 38 MRSA § 361). Section 413(1-A) prohibits operation of a subsurface wastewater disposal system without a license, and 413(1-B) prohibits subsurface dis- charges without a license, unless the system is designed and installed in conformance with the plumbing code. Each property owner found to be discharging illegally may be the subject of DEP enforcement action; however, the DEP usually does not pursue enforcement action for a discharge if it is promptly eliminated.

The local plumbing inspector (LPI) is responsible for administering and enforcing Maine’s Subsurface Waste- water Disposal Rules (144 CMR 241). In many cases, the LPI is also the local code enforcement officer. The LPI and/ or designated official have Right of Entry on Inspection (Title 30-A MRSA § 4213), and with the owner’s permis- sion may enter the property or structure to determine if it is in compliance. If entry is denied, an administrative search warrant is necessary.

The Maine DEP has overlapping jurisdiction and authority with the municipality’s LPI over malfunction-

ing subsurface wastewater disposal system discharges to surface waters or the surface of the ground (Title 38 MSRA § 347-C). DEP staff have the authority to enter any property to ensure compliance with laws ad- ministered by the department, and enter any building with the consent of the property owner. If permission is denied, an admin- istrative search warrant is necessary. To report complaints for systems that discharge to water, contact the Maine Department of Environmental Protection Enforcement Section, 207-287-3901 or 800-452-1942, and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services Subsurface Wastewater Program 207-287-5689; http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/eng/plumb/ Who has legal authority to inspect properties and respond to violations? Municipalities are responsible for administering the Maine State Plumbing Code (Title 30-A MRSA § 4211). The state code, however, is only a baseline. Municipalities have the authority to enact more stringent rules govern- ing plumbing or subsurface wastewater disposal systems than those adopted by the state. For areas impacting shellfish growing areas, the DMR Commissioner (or authorized staff acting on behalf of the Commissioner) has the right of entry on private property with the owner’s permission and the right to seek an administrative warrant if necessary (Title 12 MRSA § 6172 [5]).

Maine DEP

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