High-density residential communities where land use ratios exceed 3 or 4 units per acre produce and discharge far more wastewater to the environment than many of us realize.

The average American home generates 210 to 310 gallons of wastewater per day. At Tippecanoe, James, and Oswego Lakes, approximately 320,000 gallons of waste water are deposited into the soil within close proximity to the lake and the residential wells from which we draw our water used to cook, clean, bathe, and drink.

Septic systems do not completely treat bacteria, viruses, nitrates or phosphorus. Septic systems store or trap some constituents in soil and then discharge the balance to groundwater and surface water around the lakes. Recent studies show that septic systems can also discharge trace amounts of pharmaceuticals.

Naturally occurring nutrients in surface water affect the trophic state of all lakes (trophic states simply indicate how quickly the lake deteriorates). The introduction of nutrients at an unnatural rate accelerates the eutrophication (for example, by runoff from highly concentrated septic systems). Over time, the rate of decline increases depending on the duration of the human impact (called cultural eutrophication). The good news is that this process can be slowed by the removal or elimination of as many non-point sources of unnaturally occurring nutrients (for example, human waste) as possible.

There are many actions residents and community leaders can undertake to protect the long-term health and safety of our families and local communities. It is our responsibility to be the environmental stewards of our drinking water, lakes, and other sensitive natural resources.

Undocumented failures and/or poorly functioning systems, coupled with less than ideal soil conditions can contribute to public and environmental health risks.

In addition to the obvious concerns, there are several other factors that should be considered. The average home site needs to make space for the home, garage, driveway, sidewalks, patio/deck, storage shed/building, initial septic system, replacement septic system, and a 100-foot diameter (50-foot radius) isolation area for the water well under current standards. From a review of the Kosciusko County GIS and zoning ordinance, many of the home sites in the service area are far smaller than 10,000 sq. ft., which is half the Kosciusko County standard of 20,000 sq. ft. for a building site without sanitary sewer. Given the age of the residential development at the lake and understanding that many of the on-site septic systems have likely matured to the point that they will need to be replaced, on-site treatment will either become too costly for homeowners to replace or not possible.