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
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
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
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
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
incentives, or local ordinances.