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Water: Class V Wells

Motor Vehicle Waste Disposal Wells

This page will help you determine whether you have a motor vehicle waste disposal well, understand why these wells are regulated, learn how to comply with requirements for these wells, and find other options for managing motor vehicle wastewater.

Who should read this page?
What is a motor vehicle waste disposal well?
What is motor vehicle waste and why are these wells regulated?
How do I know if I have a motor vehicle waste disposal well?
What are the requirements for motor vehicle waste disposal wells?
Are there other options besides closing my motor vehicle waste disposal well?
What should I do if I have a motor vehicle waste disposal well?
What are the requirements for closing a motor vehicle waste disposal well?
What is the deadline for complying with the ban or getting a permit?
What do I do with the motor vehicle waste after closing my well?


Who should read this page?

If you own or operate a motor vehicle waste disposal well that receives or has received fluids from vehicle repair or maintenance activities, you should read this section. Some of these wells may be banned or need to meet new requirements.

Motor vehicle waste disposal wells are used by the following types of businesses:

  • Automotive service stations
  • New and used car dealers
  • Auto body shops
  • Muffler repair shops
  • Truck stops
  • Boat yards
  • Vehicle repair home businesses
  • Transmission repair shops
  • Car and truck rental agencies
  • Light airplane maintenance facilities
  • Farm machinery dealers
  • Railroad maintenance facilities

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A well or injection well is a bored, drilled, or driven shaft, or a dug hole, whose depth is greater than its largest surface dimension; an improved sinkhole; or a subsurface fluid distribution system used to discharge fluids underground (40 CFR 144.3).

 

A Class V well is typically a shallow on-site disposal system used to place various non-hazardous fluids below the land surface (40 CFR 144.80).

 

Sanitary waste is liquid or solid waste originating solely from humans and human activities. This category includes waste collected from toilets, showers, wash basins, sinks used for cleaning domestic areas, sinks used for food preparation, clothes washing operations, and sinks or washing machines where food and beverage-serving dishes, glasses, and utensils are cleaned (40 CFR 144.3).

For additional definitions, see the Glossary.


What is a motor vehicle waste disposal well?

A motor vehicle waste disposal well is a shallow disposal system that receives fluids from vehicle repair or maintenance activities in the types of shops listed above. Motor vehicle waste disposal wells are regulated as Class V injection wells.

Typical motor vehicle waste disposal wells are floor drains or sinks in service bays that connect to a septic system or drywell. However, any underground system that receives motor vehicle waste is considered to be a motor vehicle waste disposal well. For example, cesspools, catchbasins, and sink holes are considered motor vehicle waste disposal wells if they receive motor vehicle waste.

The picture below shows a typical motor vehicle waste disposal well design.
mvwdwell

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What is motor vehicle waste and why are these wells regulated?

During normal vehicle repair and maintenance, fluids such as engine oil or solvents may drip or spill into floor drains or sinks in service areas. Motor vehicle wastes include engine oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid, antifreeze, solvents, and degreasers. If you dispose of these fluids through a motor vehicle waste disposal well, they may contaminate ground water. Therefore, EPA regulates these wells to prevent ground water contamination in certain areas.

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How do I know if I have a motor vehicle waste disposal well?

Answer the following questions to determine if you have a motor vehicle waste disposal well.

Questions: If Your Answer is Yes... If Your Answer is No...
1. Does your facility service motor vehicles? Examples: cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, powerboats, all terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, farm tractors, construction machineries, trains, helicopters, airplanes, jet skis, and other motorized vehicles. Go to question 2. You are not affected by the rule. Stop here.
2. Does your facility have floor drains or sinks in the vehicle service areas? Go to question 3. You are not affected by the rule. Stop here.
3. Are all of your floor drains and sinks connected to a municipal sewer? (see note below) You are not affected by the rule. Stop here. Go to question 4.
4. Are all of your floor drains and sinks connected to a holding tank, and is the waste in the holding tank disposed of off-site?
(see note below)
You are not affected by the rule. Stop here. (However, you may be subject to other state or federal disposal requirements.) Go to question 5.
5. Are you discharging all of your motor vehicle service wastewater directly to surface waters or onto land? (see note below) You are not affected by the rule. Stop here. (However, you may be subject to other state or federal disposal requirements.) You may be disposing of motor vehicle service wastewater into a shallow disposal system such as a septic system or drywell and thus have a motor vehicle waste disposal well.

Note: Any plans for your building that show wastewater flow may not necessarily reflect the actual construction of your wastewater system. They also may not include renovations made after your shop was built. Your local health department or a plumber using dye or smoke tests may be able to help you determine where your drain goes.

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What are the requirements for motor vehicle waste disposal wells?

Motor vehicle waste disposal wells are banned in the following cases:

  • Nationwide if the well was constructed after April 5, 2000.
  • They are in ground water protection areas. Ground water protection areas are areas near public water systems that provide ground water used for drinking.
  • They are in other sensitive ground water areas. Other sensitive ground water areas are those areas outside of ground water protection areas that need protection from motor vehicle waste disposal wells.
  • Throughout states that have opted to entirely ban motor vehicle waste disposal wells.

Check with your permitting authority to find out if your motor vehicle waste disposal well is in a ground water protection or other sensitive ground water area (or to find out if wells are banned statewide). The permitting authority may also notify you directly that you are in one of these areas.

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Are there other options besides closing my motor vehicle waste disposal well?

Some states may waive the ban and allow you to continue using the well if you apply for and receive a permit. If you are granted a waiver, you must follow the procedures outlined in your permit. At a minimum, permits require that:

  • Waste fluids meet drinking water standards called Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) at the point of injection. This means that shop wastewater, before it is discharged into the ground, must not exceed any MCL.
  • You implement the best management practices described in your permit to minimize the amount of contaminants in your shop wastewater.
  • You monitor the wastewater being discharged into the ground and sludge to ensure continued compliance with MCLs, as required by your permit. This requirement may mean taking a sample of the wastewater once a year (or as specified in the permit) and sending it to a laboratory for analysis.

If your wastewater does not meet drinking water standards, you have two options:

  • Install “pretreatment equipment” that treats the wastewater before it goes to the drain.
  • Close the well according to the permitting authority’s directions.

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What should I do if I have a motor vehicle waste disposal well?

The table below summarizes the steps you should take if you have a motor vehicle waste disposal well.

Questions: If Your Answer is Yes... If Your Answer is No...
1. Contact the permitting authority. Is your well in an area where such wells are banned? Go to question 2. You may continue operating your well. Be sure to meet the minimum requirements for injection wells.
2. Does the state grant waivers? Apply for a permit. Go to 3. You must close your well. Contact the permitting authority for specific requirements.
3. Was a permit granted? Continue operating. Meet all permit conditions. You must close your well. Contact the permitting authority for specific requirements.

To apply for a permit, contact your permitting authority. Whether a waiver will be granted will depend on specific state requirements and your situation. If no waiver is granted, you must close the well.

Remember, you are responsible for complying with the requirements for motor vehicle waste disposal wells. Failure to comply may result in enforcement action, including penalties.

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What are the requirements for closing a motor vehicle waste disposal well?

If you must close your well, you must do so in a way that prevents contamination of ground water. Contact your permitting authority to find out if there are any additional requirements you must meet. In closing your well, you must do the following:

Permanently plug or otherwise close the well in a way that is approved by the permitting authority and that ensures ground water is protected.

  • Dispose of or manage any soil, gravel, sludge, liquids, or other materials removed from your well or the area around the well according to all federal, state, and local requirements. Your permitting authority should have information about specific requirements in your state.

Your permitting authority may have additional requirements for well closure. Before closing your well, contact the authority for guidance. It is your responsibility to find out what the requirements are.

Example: If your floor drains are connected to your septic system, you may be required to clean out the drains and the pipes running to the septic tank and seal them off using cement. You may also need to have a licensed or certified septic service check the contents of your septic tank to see if there is any contaminated sludge. You may be required to sample surrounding soils and ground water to ensure there is no contamination. After this is done, the septic system can be used for sanitary waste from bathrooms.

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What is the deadline for complying with the ban or getting a permit?

The deadline for complying with the ban (or obtaining a permit) varies from state to state. Contact your permitting authority to find out by when you will need to comply.

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What do I do with the motor vehicle waste after closing my well?

After you close your well, manage your motor vehicle service wastewater with one of the methods below.

Dry Shops: Minimize the use of water to clean service bays. Use absorbents and vacuums to pick up spills and drips. Dispose of these materials according to state guidelines and regulations. Place all used vehicle fluids in individual containers for proper off-site management.

  • Holding Tanks: Store the motor vehicle waste in a service bay wastewater holding tank. The tank can be periodically pumped out for proper disposal. You may minimize the amount of wastewater that has to be stored by separating shop wastewater from sanitary and vehicle washing wastewater—and by cutting back on the amount of water used in your shop.
  • Sanitary Sewer Hookup: Contact the local sewer authority about the possibility of connecting floor drains to the sewer system. Often, system hook-up may be available even though it was not an option when the service bays were built. Sewer hookups can be expensive, however. If connecting to a sanitary sewer will take time to complete, you may be able to extend the deadline for closing your well for up to one year. However, you must get special permission to do this, and you probably will need a temporary operating permit.
  • Conversion: In some cases, you may be allowed to convert a motor vehicle waste disposal well to another type of Class V well. This option requires that all motor vehicle fluids be kept away from drains using physical barriers that prevent the waste from entering the well.

Example: One person generates an estimated 25 gallons of sanitary wastewater per 8-hour workday, or up to 6,000 gallons per year. If you install a holding tank, separating sanitary wastewater from shop wastewater can lower hauling and management costs.

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