Positive Impacts to Health and the Environment

Reduction in Health Risks

Removing wastewater from the community through complete treatment is the very best way to mitigate the likelihood of exposure to the risks of waste borne pathogens, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. Beyond the community waste transmitted diseases, some of which can be very serious and communicable, concerns for exposure to pharmaceutical and hygiene products are becoming more widespread. Exposure can be through direct contact from failed systems pooling water on the ground and from pets or insects. Drinking well water from a well that is short circuiting with a nearby septic system can be just as risky. While some illnesses can be immediate, other issues related to human waste uptake through well water exposed to septic system discharges can take many years to manifest.

Residents will likely not detect drinking water issues by taste or smell. Each homeowner should take steps to test for contaminants on their own. This is recommended for all who depend upon groundwater for their household consumption.

Introducing new community waste water systems stems the degradation.

Environmental Preservation

The concern for accelerated eutrophication of lakes is real and is called “cultural eutrophication”. This can take the form of agricultural runoff, residential development and recreational use. All have the ability to collectively hasten the natural degradation process of lakes. The broad cause of this is related to nutrients providing for plant life propagation that then leads to continuous buildup of sedimentation through the cycle of growth, death and decay. This includes algal populations, rooted plants and vascular floating species.

Nutrients in human wastes that find their way to the aquifer are known to migrate to surface water due to the immediate influence of the open water body. Concentrations are affected by the topography and geology of the adjoining land. Testing for a direct connection can be done using dye applied to the septic system or through testing concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus at unnatural levels. These nutrients are the principal building blocks for successful plant life.

In the Tippecanoe Lake community an estimated 320,000 gallons of waste water is discharged daily to the soil in relative close proximity to drinking water wells and the lakes. Over the course of one year this would be equivalent to nearly 117,000,000 (117 million) gallons of waste water.

In 1995, The Kosciusko Health Department Determined Septic Systems, Long-term, Are Not Feasible

On October 19, 1995, the Deputy Administrator of the Kosciusko County Health Department stated that the upgrade of septic systems in high water table and sloping area are not, in the long run, feasible. The reason are stated as follows:

  • In most areas virgin soils that have never been used for septic systems do not exist.
  • Because a large portion of these lots are used for structure and set back requirements, adequate sizing is not possible. 
  • Because private water wells do require periodic maintenance or replacement, location of some wells have not been in compliance with the 50 foot separation distance. Please note that the Kosciusko County Health Dept. does enforce a one and two family dwelling well ordinance. This ordinance was established to achieve the best well placement possible. 
  • Repairs consist of removing the old systems down past plugged soil, backfilling with spec 23 medium sand, to a predetermined elevation then a stone bed and distribution system. These systems could be considered temporary at best.
  • Sloping site sometimes cause repair systems to be installed at a greater depth than desirable. Evaporation and oxygen exchange are limited at these depths. 

Read more in the October 1995 letter here. 

Why Do Septic Systems Fail?

Septic systems failures can occur when wastewater either breaks out at the surface or seeps into the soils and travels to groundwater sources, contaminating the water and threatening public health.

In areas where both individual water wells and septic systems are used by homeowners, there is a greater danger of drinking contamination by septic system failure because of the relative proximity of the two systems. Check with the local health department to ensure a safe distance between a septic tank and a drinking water well.

In areas where soils are sandy and less dense, there is potential that a septic failure will allow household wastewater to move quickly to the source of water serving homes in the area. Some research also indicates that septic failure rates are highest in well-drained soils because of inadvertent undersizing of leach fields.

In areas with clay soils, septic failures lead to runoff of pollutants to surface waters as the clay does not allow water to easily move through soil underground.

Source: http://nirpc.org/media/4392/septicsystems_rev_032012.pdf

 

2014 Tippecanoe Lake Mail Survey Determines Resident Views About Our Lake

A 2014 mail survey (completed by The Natural Resource Social Science Lab, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources of Purdue University) to Upper Tippecanoe Lake residents determined multiple findings and social indicators regarding lake quality, performance and risks.  Read more in these reports:

Upper Tippecanoe Residents Pre Post Comparison (2014 to 2010)

Additional Data Analysis of 2014 Lake Survey

Tippecanoe Lake Resident Final Baseline Report (2011)

Why Are Sewers Needed Versus Current Septic Systems

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.

Septic System Do’s and Don’ts

Do...

  • Learn the location of your septic tank and drainfield. Keep a sketch of it handy with your maintenance record for service visits.
  • Have your septic system inspected annually.
  • Have your septic tank pumped out regularly by a licensed contractor.
  • Keep your septic tank cover accessible for inspections and pumpings. Install risers if necessary.
  • Call a professional whenever you experience problems with your system, or if there are any signs of system failure.
  • Keep a detailed record of repairs, pumpings, inspections, permits issued, and other maintenance activities.
  • Conserve water to avoid overloading the system. Be sure to repair any leaky faucets or toilets. 
  • Divert other sources of water, like roof drains, house footing drains, and sump pumps, away from the septic system. Excessive water keeps the soil in the drainfield from naturally cleansing the wastewater.

Don't...

  • Go down into a septic tank. Toxic gases are produced by the natural treatment processes in septic tanks and can kill in minutes. Extreme care should be taken when inspecting a septic tank, even when just looking in.
  • Allow anyone to drive or park over any part of the system.
  • Plant anything over or near the drainfield except grass. Roots from nearby trees or shrubs may clog and damage the drain lines.
  • Dig in your drainfield or build anything over it, and don't cover the drainfield with a hard surface such as concrete or asphalt. The area over the drainfield should have only a grass cover. The grass will not only prevent erosion, but will help remove excess water.
  • Make or allow repairs to your septic system without obtaining the required health department permit. Use professionally licensed septic contractors when needed.
  • Use septic tank additives. These products usually do not help and some may even be harmful to your system.
  • Use your toilet as a trash can or poison your septic system and the groundwater by pouring harmful chemicals and cleansers down the drain. Harsh chemicals can kill the beneficial bacteria that treat your wastewater.
  • Use a garbage disposal without checking with your local regulatory agency to make sure that your septic system can accommodate this additional waste.

Source: www.co.marin.ca.us/depts/CD/main/ comdev/ehs/septic/ septic_system_do_s_and_don_ts.cfm