Park County’s planning and zoning department is unveiling small, new wastewater regulations, most notably prohibiting chemical or portable toilets from being used in the “long-term,” which is now considered 30 consecutive days or more. The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality states portable toilets should not be for long-term use, but the county has gone beyond that requirement now to clarify exactly how long that is.
The new regulations also create an application for all non-standard wastewater systems being installed in the county, which must be submitted before construction of the apparatus begins.
“That helps us to track those,” Park County Planning and Zoning Director Joy Hill said. “If someone has a privy or outhouse, it’s important to know in case they are going in close to a well.”
Hill said the use of portable toilets has been increasing locally, and she sees this use only growing into the future as home construction and short-term rental properties become more and more prevalent, and the county’s total population continues to grow.
Similar guidelines already exist in the cities of Cody and Powell.
There are exceptions to the 30-day rule including storage of the toilets; use at an active road, utility or pipeline construction site; use at a construction site in which a permit was filed for in the past year; seasonal use in agricultural practices; seasonal use at government inspection sites such as those used by Wyoming Game and Fish; and use at remote industrial sites. People can also submit written requests for an exemption based on other needs.
Hill said there are many people stretching the rules of the system and making their use of portable toilets a “nuisance,” such as homeowners who live out of an RV on their own property for an entire summer and rent out their home to short-term renters, while dumping their own refuse directly into the septic tank.
One business that could be negatively affected by the changes is the Red Barn gas station in Wapiti. The Red Barn maintains a portable toilet outside its business over the entire summer for the droves of tourists making their way to and from Yellowstone National Park.
“Over the past 50 years I’ve cleaned up more human waste than I cared to,” owner Amanda Seibert said.
Seibert said she was not consulted before the changes were made and cannot afford to install a new septic system for her business that she said would only be justified for about three months a year.
One business owner that was consulted with about the changes was Jerry Herweyer, owner of Keele Sanitation, who worked with Hill in drafting the changes, but did not support the final approved measures passed at the commissioner meeting.
“It’s a nuisance for some people, it’s a necessity to others,” Herweyer said of the rise in portable toilet use.
Herweyer is also board president at the Powell Golf Club and said the facility operates a portable toilet during the winter months for Nordic skiers and other recreationalists using the property. This practice would not be allowed under the new regulations.
“From a golf course standpoint, it’s not practical to put in an outhouse for something you’re not getting any revenue out of,” he said, “You’re just providing it for the public.”
Herweyer said seasonal uses should be allowed across the board and requested the commissioners at their meeting Dec. 1 to spend more time considering the issue and talking to other businesses. The commissioners had already spent two prior meetings discussing the topic over the fall.
Also established are design and construction standards for wastewater systems to conform with DEQ standards.
Expanded definitions and clarifications are also included in the changes, along with minimum requirements for both standard and non-standard wastewater systems.
These new changes will update the regulations last established in 2017.
In multiple meetings including Dec. 1, commissioner Lloyd Thiel expressed his distaste for the changes, finding it to be unnecessary regulation to manage a problem that doesn’t currently exist.
“Unless we have an actual problem with it, that the solution isn’t going to cause more harm, leave it alone,” he said.
The commissioners voted 3-1 to support the new regulations with Thiel voting in opposition.
Thiel also complained the county is demanding more paperwork and applications from business owners, but Hill contends her department is actually clarifying and explaining rules better.
During the meeting concerns were expressed about the local wastewater sewer lagoons starting to fill up and the possibility of having to restrict or charge those with portable toilets dumping in the lagoons if this use becomes too common to handle.
“Right now we don’t have the serious problem but it’s going to get worse,” Tilden said. “Everybody has got a new way of doing things and if there’s a rule or regulation they’re going to try and find some way to get around it.”
Earlier this year, the commissioners opted not to replace a small wastewater administrator position. P&Z staffer Kim Dillivan picked up those duties, which Hill said has caused a negative effect to her staff’s work flow during a year of record-high permits and applications filed within the department.
Hill was recently approved for a new position that will cover these duties and 54-cent-per-hour merit increase for another employee.