Other States:
Population: 1,048,319

Information on the state of Rhode Island is available for the following topics. To review this information, click on the links below.

Contacts| Regulations, Statutes & State Codes | Quick Facts | Septic Stats

Onsite Demonstration Programs | Onsite Management Communities



Return to Index

Deb Knauss, Senior Environmental Planner, or
Ernie Panciera, Principal Environmental Scientist
Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management
Office of Water Resources ISDS Section
235 Promenade Street
Providence, Rhode Island 02908-5767
(401) 222-4700, ext. 7612 or (401) 222-4700, ext. 7603 (respectively)
(401) 222-3564 (fax)





Regulations, Statutes & State Codes:
Return to Index

Rhode Island State Regulations

Rhode Island Constitutions, Statutes and Codes

Rules and Regulations Establishing Minimum Standards Relating to
Location, Design, Construction and Maintenance
of Individual Sewage Disposal Systems
April 20, 2001

Onsite regulations for Rhode Island were last amended in April 20, 2001; however, significant revisions are underway. The effective date is not yet known, but it is unlikely to be before July 2002.

The list of approved innovative/alternative (I/A) technologies is scheduled for updating in early 2002, and the current list is available at the Web site http://www.state.ri.us/dem/programs/benviron/water/permits/isds/pdfs/ialist.pdf For technologies not listed, the variance application process (Section SD 20.00) addresses the protocol for requesting a variance from the rules.

Surface discharge is not an option in Rhode Island for onsite septic disposal systems.

State Code allows for drainfield area/size reductions; however, leachfield size reductions may be afforded approved innovative/alternative technologies that reduce BOD5 and TSS. The I/A list cites in the technology descriptions which ones are allowed leachfield size reductions. Some of the technologies allowed reductions also reduce total nitrogen (TN). Those technologies considered for drainfield reductions include Bioclere (BOD5 and TSS reduction), Biocycle 525 (BOD5 and TSS reduction), Norweco Singulair (BOD5 and TSS reduction), RUCK (BOD5, TSS, and TN reduction), FAST-single home and modular (BOD5, TSS, and TN reduction).

Leachfield size reductions are also allowed for recirculating sand filters, single-pass sand filters, and Puraflo, all of which shall be installed with shallow narrow drainfields, in accordance with the "Guidelines for the Design and Use of Sand Filters in Critical Resource Areas." This guidance document is available at http://www.uri.edu/ce/wq/owtc/html/owtc_sandfil.html#Sizingdrainfields

A funding program exists to assist homeowners either replacing failing systems or installing new ones in the form of low-interest loans available only in municipalities with DEM-approved wastewater management plans. For information, contact:

Jim Riordan, Principal Environmental Scientist
RIDEM - Office of Water Resources
235 Promenade St.
Providence, RI 02908-5767
(401) 222-4700, ext. 4421
(401) 222-3564 (fax)

Questions pertaining to ongoing onsite demonstration, research, or testing projects may be directed to:

George Loomis
University of Rhode Island
Onsite Wastewater Training center
001C Coastal Institute in Kingston
Kingston, RI 02881
(401) 874-4558
(401) 874-4561 (fax)


David Dow
URI-CE Onsite Wastewater Training Center
001F Coastal Institute in Kingston
Kingston RI 02881
(401) 874-5950
(401) 874-4561 (fax)

Rhode Island Code does not recognize or require management programs/contracts or districts to monitor and maintain onsite systems or individual liquid waste, and there are no plans to develop such a program with the next year. Municipalities have the authority to require the programs, and about six (6) in the state have done so. At the state level, there is no approval required of municipal ordinances; wastewater management plans require DEM approval for the municipality to be eligible for low-interest loans.

The state tracks the number of permits issued per year for new construction (2,000); system repair and replacement permits are combined (2,000).

In Rhode Island, the term "failed system" shall be held to mean any sewage disposal system that does not adequately treat and dispose of sewage so as to create a public or private nuisance or threat to public health and/or environmental quality, as evidenced by, but not limited to, one or more of the following conditions:
1. Failure to accept sanitary sewage into the building sewer;
2. Discharge of sanitary sewage to a basement, subsurface drain, surface drain, or surface water unless expressly permitted by the Department;
3. Sanitary sewage rising to the surface of the ground over or near any part of an individual sewage disposal system or seeping down gradient from the absorption area at any change in grade, bank, or road cut;
4. Any deterioration or damage to any individual sewage disposal system that would preclude adequate treatment and disposal of wastewater, e.g., contact between the bottom of the individual sewage disposal system and the water table.
The most common reasons for system failure in the state include old systems, collapsed steel tanks, cesspools, homes built with the number of bedrooms exceeding that for which the permit was approved, and use of garbage grinders.

A State onsite certification or licensing program exists for certain wastewater professionals; a list of certified individuals is available at http://www.state.ri.us/dem/programs/benviron/water/licenses/isds/deslist.htm A document explaining the design authority for each of the classes and the distinction between the designer licenses (Classes I-III) and soil evaluators (Class IV) is available at http://www.state.ri.us/dem/programs/benviron/water/licenses/isds/licenexp.htm

Site evaluation in Rhode Island is a two-part process that includes the soil evaluation, which may be completed only by a licensed soil evaluator. Site evaluation work other than the soil evaluation component may be completed by a soil evaluator or a Class II or III designer.

Questions pertinent to municipal wastewater regulations may be directed to Riordan (above).


Quick Facts:
Return to Index

Total number of onsite systems: 150,000, of which approximately 90,000 are cesspools; 1994
U.S. census reports about 120,000 systems.

Number of new systems installed each year: NA

Failure definition: NA

Number or proportion of systems presently failing: Approximately 25%, with some estimates

Number or proportion repaired annually: Approximately 1% (1500-2000) repaired or

Number or proportion replaced annually: See above.

Number or proportion of repairs or replacements that require alternative technology (e.g.,
sand filters, pressure dosing):
So far, only a handful have involved new (alternative or
advanced) technology, but it is estimated that approximately 10% would benefit from its use.

Number or proportion of repairs or replacements that require advanced technology (e.g.,
disinfection, nutrient removal):
See above.

Cost of a conventional septic system installation: $5000-$9000, but up to $20,000 on
problematic sites with severe constraints.


Septic Stats:
Return to Index


Onsite Demonstration Programs:
Return to Index

R.I. DEM has funded several demonstration projects including recirculating sand filters,
waterloo biofilters, shallow drip irrigation systems, and a community STEP system. Some
research has also been locally or privately funded.

The Block Island and Green Hill Pond watershed management plans both will contain
demonstration components.

Onsite Management Communities:
Return to Index

Block Island