Community-Managed Septic Systems:

A Viable Alternative to Sewage Treatment Plants

CED-78-168: Published: Nov 3, 1978. Publicly Released: Nov 3, 1978.

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Wastewater generated by homes and businesses is either transported by sewers to central facilities for treatment and disposal or treated and disposed of onsite by some type of septic system. Because septic systems have performed ineffectively, they have come to be regarded as temporary methods of wastewater treatment. Septic systems generally fail, however, as a result of human error or neglect.

Septic systems are environmentally and technologically sound. Properly designed, constructed, operated, and maintained septic systems should not fail and can be as permanent as central treatment systems. Alternative septic system technologies are available to overcome soil, geological, and hydrological conditions which may limit the use of conventional sewage systems. These alternative systems can provide as good or better treatment than central systems, use less energy, and provide an additional benefit by replenishing groundwater. Federal agencies do not encourage the building of septic systems to permanently solve wastewater treatment problems, and various state regulations and local enforcement have not provided effective controls to assure good septic system performance. Good management could reduce septic systems' failure and make them part of a community-wide strategy to reduce, prevent, and eliminate water pollution.

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