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Educating Homeowners about Septic Systems Len Gilstrap, RS Carteret County Health Department Carteret County Onsite Inspection and Tracking Program EPA.

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Presentation on theme: "Educating Homeowners about Septic Systems Len Gilstrap, RS Carteret County Health Department Carteret County Onsite Inspection and Tracking Program EPA."— Presentation transcript:

1 Educating Homeowners about Septic Systems Len Gilstrap, RS Carteret County Health Department Carteret County Onsite Inspection and Tracking Program EPA Section 319 Program Grant

2 Regulations Onsite systems permitted under the provisions of Laws and Rules for Sewage Treatment and Disposal Systems (15A NCAC 18A.1900) new//images/Rules/1900RulesJune2006.pdf new//images/Rules/1900RulesJune2006.pdf

3 Purpose To allow the continued use of wastewater systems that are installed in a proper manner and suitable soils so they do not have a detrimental affect on the public health and environment through contamination of land, groundwater and surface waters.

4 Risk Management Rules for onsite wastewater systems are based on the risk associated with the proposed application. Risk of contamination is enhanced with limited suitable soils or space, higher flows, higher waste strength, proximity to drinking water supplies, and water bodies.

5 Site Evaluations Topography Soil characteristics Soil wetness Soil depth Restrictive horizons Available space

6 Site Suitability Based on site evaluation results Wastewater flow Wastewater characteristics Setbacks to wells, water bodies, ditches, property lines, etc.

7 Depth of drainfield and water table Minimum 12 to 18 inches separation between bottom of trench and groundwater, even during wet times of the year Aerobic (air) soil removes bacteria

8 Type of Soil Sandy – too fast and not purified Clayey – too slow and poor treatment (ponds) Uniform texture, yellow, yellow-red or bright red in color Gray soil indicates anaerobic conditions

9 Septic System Responsibility Belongs to the owner Protect your investment Replacement cost = thousands $

10 Septic System Failures Unpumped and sludge filled tanks Clogged drainfields Hydraulic overloading Landscape modifications of drainfield area Ageing systems, old technology

11 Septic system failure can result in contamination of land, surface waters, and ground waters which causes human disease through direct consumption, direct or recreational contact or ingestions of contaminated shellfish. Why Do We Care?

12 Conventional System Maintenance The typical onsite septic system consists of a septic tank and a soil absorption (treatment) drainfield. Sounds Simple? Wow – Do we have something to tell you!

13 Conventional Septic System

14 No Operator Required What do you know about your system? What do you need to know about your system? What can you do to protect your system and investment? Proper septic system management is key to protection of environment, investments, and public health.

15 Drainage and Landscaping Surface water diversions for foundation drains, driveway, gutters and other paved areas Heat pumps and water softeners, and irrigation systems System area mounded to shed water Settled area and depressions filled Open ditches and outlets

16 Water Use Drainfields designed for 120 gallons per bedroom/day Exceeding design capacity may cause system to fail

17 Reduce water use by: Checking toilets and faucets for leaks Use 1.6 gal. (or less) per flush toilets Use faucet aerators at sinks and flow reducer nozzles at showers Limit length of shower to 10 minutes or less

18 Reduce water use by: Do not fill bathtub with more than 6 inches of water Do not wash more that 1 – 2 loads of laundry per day Match water load to size of load being washed Do not use dishwasher until it is full

19 Garbage Disposal? Doubles the amount of solids added to tank Increases solids to drainfield due to suspended solids Suggest putting most of table scraps in trash Restrict use when possible Increase frequency of pumping

20 Grease and Oil? Greases, creams, butter, cheeses and cooking oils clog soils Additives to break down grease are not recommended. They tend to keep grease and oils in suspension while in tank and become solid in the drainfield. Drainfield replacement always required

21 Cleaning Products? Use biodegradable products when possible Use moderate amounts of cleaners Do not pour solvents or other chemical down drain Do not use toilet cleaners meant to be placed in the toilet tank

22 Cleaning Products? Improper use of cleaning products and chemicals kill bacteria in the septic tank and the drainfield DO NOT FLUSH: paints, varnishes, thinners, waste oils, photographic solutions, pesticides

23 Solid Waste? Do not put items down the drain that may clog septic tank or other parts of the system Cigarette butts, feminine products, condoms, disposable diapers, paper towels, facial tissues, egg shells, coffee grounds, dental floss, kitty litter, plastics

24 Septic System Protected from Damage? Prevent soil erosion from drainfield area Protect turn-ups on LPPs from mowers Keep vehicular traffic off system Maintain natural (downslope) drainage away from system Do not build over drainfield or repair area Locate system area prior to telephone or cable installation

25 Vegetation around System Trees and shrubs closer than 100 feet to system may cause problems Root infiltration into tanks, pipes and drainfield Do not put water loving trees near drainfield Keep plantings away from tank openings

26 Is Septic System Accessible? Do not cover any part with asphalt or concrete Keep all construction away from system For proper function and maintenance entire system must be accessible Protect repair area

27 Pump that Tank Use Table to determine pumping frequency Inspection of solids and scum in tank is best method to determine if pumping is needed Rule of Thumb: Pump if outlet end has 12 inches of solids and/or 4 inches of scum

28 Septic Tank Effluent Filter Image courtesy of USEPA One Compartment tank NC Rules require two compartments

29 Number of Years for Pumping your System Tank size (gallons) Number of people using the septic tank system

30 Find the tank and uncover opening Use only approved wastewater haulers

31 Remove lid. This tank is past due for maintenance.

32 The pumper will break up the solids and mix with liquid so the entire contents of the tank can be removed.


34 Restoring the yard to the prior condition is not always possible. To prevent disturbance of landscaping a riser should be installed on the tank to allow for easy access.

35 Pump that Tank Pump out both sides of septic tank The type of toilet paper, the cleaning products, along with the habits of the system owner will affect how frequently a tank needs pumping. Inspect annually

36 Pump that Tank Good time to clean effluent filter

37 Improve the System Add effluent filters to older systems Add risers to tanks that require digging up to inspect Add aluminum lids to pump tanks openings and effluent filter openings Add float trees Contact septic system contractor or certified operator to make improvements.

38 Risk Management Higher risk applications require: Increased vertical and horizontal setbacks from surface waters, water tables, property lines, wells, etc. Higher levels of treatment

39 Risk Management New wastewater technologies are quickly overcoming many limitations by creating systems with advanced pretreatment.

40 Risk Management Septic tank influent 350 mg/l BOD 200 mg/l TSS Pretreated effluent <10 mg/l BOD <10 mg/l TSS Advanced pretreatment systems can produce effluent qualities that require less separation to ground waters, surface water and smaller disposal areas.

41 Peat Biofilter

42 Type B Peat Biofilter

43 Recirculating Sandfilters Recirculating Sandfilter

44 Bioclere Pretreatment Filter

45 Bioclere Filter Media

46 Advantex Pretreatment System

47 Filter media of an Advantex

48 Risk & Responsibility More complex wastewater systems require more monitoring and management

49 Alternative & Innovative Systems Require contracts with certified operators for operation and maintenance of system Contract must be retained for as long as the system is required Operation Permit specifies frequency of inspections Health Department inspections and permit renewals

50 Owner Responsibilities Be knowledgeable about system and its operation and maintenance requirements Be supportive of Operator and maintain contract When selling property provide new owners with information on septic system

51 Operator Responsibilities Check septic tank and pump tank for solids Inspect drainfields for adequate cover, surface water diversions, and surfacing effluent Purge drainlines, check and set floats and pressure head

52 Operator Responsibilities Check alarm, record readings in control panel, adjust timer settings Perform performance measurements Control Panel

53 Operator Responsibilities Use performance measurements to evaluate system performance Take preventative measures when deficiencies are noted Provide repairs when needed Available when needed Notify owner and health department of condition of system

54 Alternative & Innovative Systems Systems are more sensitive to water use, detergents, cleaning products and oils and greases Replacing the system will be expensive – protect it now.

55 The Future Ignorance and neglect of your septic system will insure costly, difficult and disruptive repairs. Preventive maintenance rewards and protects your investment Proactive governments can assist property owners to assure appropriate maintenance is provided.

56 Management efforts at the local level can help assure these elements of infrastructure are managed positively and as assets which protect community values and investment, homeowner investments, public health and environmental quality. Dr. A.R. Rubin Opinion Paper for Carteret County /Pine Knoll Shores Wastewater Management Workshop

57 References USEPA, 2005; Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems Manual, EPA 625-R USEPA, 2005, Handbook for Onsite and Decentralized System Management, EPA 832 D ) USEPA, 2002, A Homeowners Guide to Septic Systems; EPA 832-B

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