Being Really Smart About Septic Systems!

By Kristina Heinemann

New York State Center for Clean Water Technology

This week is EPA’s national Septic Smart Week.  Septic Smart Week is an annual event designed to raise awareness and actions that protect both the environment and public health from septic systems that don’t function well. There are all sorts of things households can do to optimize performance of onsite septic systems and prevent some of the common causes of septic failure.  See https://www.epa.gov/septic/septicsmart-homeowners. However in areas where nutrient pollution is a problem as it is in lake front communities and communities near estuarine waters we often need to consider innovative and advanced septic systems that do a better job at removing nutrients from household wastewater.

New York State Center for Clean Water Technology

New York State Center for Clean Water Technology

I want to use this year’s Septic Smart Week to highlight the work of the newly created New York State Center for Clean Water Technology located at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, New York (http://www.stonybrook.edu/cleanwater/). The work of the Center is a nationally unique resource poised to make significant contributions to the field of advanced onsite and decentralized wastewater treatment. As the Center itself says, their mission is to marshal “the best science and engineering to develop and commercialize innovative solutions that will protect our waters regionally, and beyond.” The Center brings a lot of brain power to the challenge of developing innovative and affordable onsite wastewater treatment systems that reduce nutrient, and in particular nitrogen pollution to groundwater and surface waters. Stony Brook graduate students along with Professors Harold Walker and Chris Gobler — Hal is a civil engineer and Chris is a marine scientist –  have a lot of knowledge and experience that they apply and will continue to apply to developing decentralized wastewater treatment solutions in watersheds sensitive to nutrient pollution. You can follow the work of the Center by signing up for their listserv at: http://www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/cleanwater/Listserv.html

I am pleased that we have this nationally unique resource right here in our own backyard!

Three of the Nature Conservancy Videos Explaining the Link Between Septic Systems and Nutrient Pollution on Long Island

Three of the Nature Conservancy Videos Explaining the Link Between Septic Systems and Nutrient Pollution on Long Island

For those who want know more about septic systems on Long Island and the effects of nitrogen pollution on ground and surface waters, the Long Island Chapter of the Nature Conservancy developed several excellent videos that educate and tell a compelling story about the importance of our water resources. See:  http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/newyork/places-preserves/long-island-water-quality-videos.xml and enjoy!

One in five U.S. homes have septic systems. Yours may be one of them. If your septic system is not properly maintained you may be risking your family’s health, hurting the environment, and flushing thousands of dollars down the drain. EPA’s SepticSmart initiative is a nation-wide public education effort with resources for homeowners, local organizations, and government leaders.

About the Author: Kristina is the Decentralized (Septic System) Wastewater Treatment Coordinator for EPA Region 2.  Kristina lives on Long Island, New York where she is the not so proud owner of two antiquated onsite wastewater disposal systems also known as cesspools.  Kristina looks forward to upgrading her septic system to an innovative and advanced onsite treatment system in the near future!

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