The Impacts of On-Site Sewage Systems on Coastal Areas of Texas
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On-site sewage systems facilities (OSSF), also known as septic systems, play a significant role in treating wastewater in rural areas that lack centralized wastewater treatment systems and are considered one of the main non-point source pollutions with significant impacts on coastal areas of Texas. OSSFs play a critical in our wastewater infrastructure by accepting and treating wastewater generated in areas not served by centralized sewer. These systems collect, treat, and release about 4 billion gallons of treated effluent per day from an estimated 26 million homes, businesses, and recreational facilities nationwide (USEPA 2002). However, improper installations, operation, and maintenance may lead to significant problems releasing untreated effluent into the surrounding environment. Failed and malfunctioning systems can contribute bacteria contamination and nutrient inputs to surface and groundwater. USEPA estimates that 168, 000 viral illnesses and 34, 000 bacterial illnesses occur each year as a result of consumption of drinking water from systems that rely on improperly treated groundwater (USEPA 2002). To combat non-point source pollution, Texas A and M AgriLife Research in cooperation and funding from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) implemented OSSF reconnaissance, training, and replacement project in four coastal counties of Texas. Eight (8) homeowner courses on Introduction to Septic Systems offered to 203 attendees with 420 hours of classes. Sixty-three (63) septic systems were inspected resulting in the removal of 39, 150 gallons of septage with a cost savings of about $18, 752 to homeowners. Additionally, 19 critically failed systems were replaced. The estimated total Nitrogen and Phosphorus reductions were about 50% (from 450 lbs down to 225 lbs annually) and 61% (from 120 lbs down to 77 lbs annually) respectively. The estimated reduction of total suspended solids was 99% (from 1, 935 lbs down to 1, 919 lbs annually) and estimated potential bacteria release was about 72E+12 CFU annually. The objectives of the project were to (1) conduct reconnaissance in Galveston County and other coastal counties identified by Section 6217 jurisdictional areas to identify areas of chronic OSSF failure, (2) conduct public outreach to notify homeowners of assistance provided to address malfunctioning septic systems in coastal counties, (3) conduct visual OSSF inspections of anaerobic OSSFs, (4) pump solids from primary septic tanks, if needed, and (5) replace failing OSSFs, if needed. The paper summarizes implementation of OSSF projects in Texas Coastal Counties to identify failed systems through education and outreach and inspect, replace selective ones through site evaluations, design, and constructions. Note: conventional system, anaerobic unit, and septic tank are used interchangeably. However, OSSF applies to both anaerobic and aerobic treatment units (ATU).
author list (cited authors)
Karimov, A. K., Gerlich, R., Bonaiti, G., & Jantrania, A.