Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Navigation

Personal tools
You are here: Home / Library / Onsite Insight: Monthly Newsletter from the U.S. Water Alliance - August 28, 2013

Onsite Insight: Monthly Newsletter from the U.S. Water Alliance - August 28, 2013

Joyce Hudson and her team work with septic system businesses, utilities, regulators, and public health officials to advance environmentally sustainable, onsite decentralized systems that leave homeowners happy and watersheds healthy. It's centered on education, training, and collaboration.
Original source

"Out of sight, out of mind" is a syndrome but "onsite, decentralized" is a solution, and it can rear its beautiful head in many ways.  Take septics, for instance, please.

 

Septic tanks may be maligned and misunderstood at times, but the future is bright with a new generation of technology, stewardship, and watershed-specific strategies to collect, treat, disperse, and recycle the wealth of our waste.  Erma Bombeck may have written a catchy slogan for a book ("The Grass is Always Greener over the Septic Tank") but here's one of my favorite slogans: "Clean water begins at home".  That was the mantra for the decentralized treatment program in the Wastewater Management Office when I was at EPA, and although the initiative is now called SepticSmart, the mantra still fits.  Joyce Hudson and her team work with septic system businesses, utilities, regulators, and public health officials to advance environmentally sustainable, onsite decentralized systems that leave homeowners happy and watersheds healthy.  It's centered on education, training, and collaboration.

 

Why Care?

Septics serve a surprisingly large portion of America's homes and businesses and can also create significant problems if poorly designed, sited, installed, and maintained. The proof is in the numbers, even if some of the statistics are getting stale.

 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 60 million people in the nation are served by septic systems.  That means about 26 million homes (one-fourth of all homes) in America.  The Census Bureau reports that the distribution and density of septic systems vary widely, from a high of about 55 percent in Vermont to a low of around 10 percent in California.  The New England states have the highest proportion of homes served by septic systems: New Hampshire and Maine both report that about one-half of all homes are served by individual systems. More than one-third of the homes in the southeastern states depend on these systems, including approximately 48 percent in North Carolina and about 40 percent in both Kentucky and South Carolina.  And what about new development?  What are the trends?  About one-third of all new development is served by septic or other decentralized treatment systems.

 

The U.S. Census Bureau has also indicated that at least 10 percent of septic systems have stopped working. These numbers are based on a 2007 census, however. Some communities report failure rates as high as 70 percent.  State agencies report that these failing systems are the third most common source of ground water contamination. In EPA's 1997 Response to Congress on Use of Decentralized Wastewater Treatment Systems (PDF), the Agency determined that with the technology now available, adequately managed decentralized systems can protect public health and the environment as well as provide long-term solutions for the nation's wastewater needs. The report also cited five major barriers to increasing the use of decentralized wastewater treatment systems, and one barrier is the lack of adequate management.

 

In response, over the years various organizations have formed to help overcome the barriers so that decentralized systems remain a viable, cost-effective approach to meeting community and watershed needs. For example, the Water Environment Research Foundation helped fund a collaborative effort that continues to this day.  Check out www.decentralizedwater.org.  The National Environmental Services Center at West Virginia University, and its program formerly known as the National Small Flows Clearinghouse, gets knee deep in providing technical assistance and support to rural communities and homeowners.  Most of its funding is through the U.S. Department of Agriculture but EPA and other organizations provide support.

Read more...

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

Document Actions
Search for Content

On the Portal:

Advanced Search

On our Partner Search:

 
Plone 4