Subscribe Today

Mayor’s Corner

I received the following article October 12 in an email from Jesse Best at Smart Cities forum.
This condensed version begins with the same highlighted topic:
From runaway algae blooms to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, household septic systems may be making matters worse. Once conceived as a low-cost, low-tech means of disposing of toilet waste in rural communities without sewers, septic systems have become a leading cause of the toxic algae blooms. Like a rainbow cloak, algae blooms drape across lakes, bays and coastal shorelines on Cape Cod, Long Island and small water-bodies in other states. As the top source of contamination for disease outbreaks from residential drinking water wells, septic systems also contribute to illness across the country. This poor track record is worsened by numerous factors: incomplete knowledge about the number and location of failing systems, old septic infrastructure that does not incorporate the latest nitrogen-removal technology, and an uneven application of pollution-reducing management practices.
In short, septic systems – which are used by one-fifth of U.S. households, mostly in New England, the Midwest and the Deep South – need an upgrade.
Solutions do exist, but they require new research, investments and policies. In certain cases, sanitation experts call for a drastic shift from individual backyard units to water-recycling, waste-reusing neighborhood systems that are cheaper than sewer expansions and match the 21st-century ethic of resource efficiency.
In general, for septic systems to protect human health and ecosystems, public officials must improve three main areas: data, oversight and design.
Data gaps begin at the top. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the number of septic systems nationally, but it stopped collecting data at the county level after 1980. Georgia is developing WelSTROM, a GIS database of septic systems and drinking water wells, to help counties prevent water contamination. Data has been entered for 22 of Georgia’s 159 counties.
The Virginia Department of Health is using a bundle of economic, demographic and septic data to identify “waste-water islands,” or areas with small lot sizes, no public sewer connection, poorly draining soils, older homes and low household incomes. This combination of factors often indicates where septic systems are concentrated and at risk of failure. –  End of article.
POINT: What I got out of the story was not what was being sold, but, it is food for thought. There is always another side to every story. The common point of view that certain groups would have us to believe is that towns, cities and even corporations are the larger problem with environmental issues of the day. According to this article, that may not be the case. However, as these studies go forward, we can expect policies to change. More laws will be developed. More compliance in the private sector will be the final goal. This is the government we are creating for ourselves and our children. Their end result could affect our end result. Sooner than we think, the septic tank police could declare that “their business is EPA business.”
Meanwhile, The Town of Marlinton’s existing sewer treatment process included two open lagoons. Because of Ammonia Nitrogen, this type of system is under attack. Some say it could become non-compliant or even outlawed in a few short years. We know that a replacement biological treatment plant could easily be in the $14-20 million range. This is why we must try to keep our present system operational for as long as we can.
Remember, the article says the good old septic tank is now the greater threat!

more recommended stories