Living On Karst


How's Your Septic System Doing?

Do You Know?

  • To most of us, septic systems are " out-of-sight" and "out-of-mind." Homeowners do not often realize that proper operation and maintenance of septic systems can have a significant impact on how well the systems work and how long they last. In most communities, septic system maintenance is the sole responsibility of the homeowner.

Failing Septic Systems

  • When a septic system fails, inadequately treated sewage can reach the groundwater. Bacteria and viruses from human waste can cause serious diseases including dysentery, hepatitis, and typhoid fever. Many outbreaks of these and other diseases have been traced back to contaminated drinking water. Nitrate and phosphate from domestic wastewater can cause excessive algae growth in springs and streams and impair aquatic life. Nitrate is also the cause of methemoglobinemia, or blue baby syndrome, a condition that prevents the normal uptake of oxygen in the blood of young babies.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other researchers have identified failing septic systems as a major source of groundwater pollution in karst areas. Many of these failures are attributed to the presence of karst bedrock, old systems with primitive designs, and poor maintenance. The health of your septic system - and your neighbor's - is an important concern for any community seeking to protect groundwater quality, prevent expensive surface damage, and maintain property values.


Septic Systems in Karst Areas

  • Conventional septic systems should not be located near sinkholes, caves, or springs. Thin soils, sloping topography, and unstable foundations are common karstland features that affect the performance of on-site wastewater systems.
  • Regulating lot sizes and housing densities do not necessarily guarantee the protection of karst wells and springs from contamination. Ensuring that septic systems in a given watershed are functioning properly is possible with regular maintenance practiced community wide. This can be accomplished through education, incentives, or local ordinances.




©  Copyright 1997, Cave Conservancy of the Virginias

Special Thanks To The West Virginia Cave Conservancy

Rockcastle Karst Conservancy