Effects of Septic Effluent Components on Soil & Water in the Environment
The chart below, discussion, and nearly forty research reference citations address the effects on soil or land and water environments of the discharge of nitrogen, organic compounds, water discharged in onsite wastewater disposal systems such as common septic tanks, drainfields, seepage pits, drywells, and soakaway beds disposing of both graywater and blackwater or sewage effluent.
Biocompatibility Chart of the Effects of Septic / Wastewater Ingredients on Soil & Water
Effects on Soils
Effects on Water
Comments & References
Arid Land Soils
Wet, Temperate & Tropical Soils
Highly toxic to plants at typical wastewater concentrations
1. Chlorine / bleach impacts: at sufficient concentrations chlorine may kill off or reduce the level of septic tank bacteria that are needed for effective wastewater processing. At normal home usage levels we do not expect to see an effect. Some septic systems require disinfection of wastewater before it is discharged to the environment.
2. Industrial toxins in ocean water: Even though diluted, may bio-concentrate in various life forms, moving up food chain to humans
3. Organic compounds: at a particulate level such as food waste, organic material in wastewater may add to septic tank volume and require more frequent pumping to avoid disposal field clogging where private septic systems are involved. Grease discharged into septic systems and sewers can cause clogging and failures.
4. Nitrogen impact on water: Nitrogen is potentially harmful in ocean water by encouraging growth of algae, but dilution in ocean envrionment probably means there is no measurable effect
5. Pathogenic microorganism discharge in wastewater impact on wastewater, septic tanks, soils: "harmlessly biodegrade" in soils is probably accurate in general but may not be in septic tanks and wastewater treatments connected to health care facilities. A corrolary problem is the high concentration of antibiotics in wastewater produced by health care facilities, nursing homes etc., - at levels that can damage or destroy essential bacteria in septic tanks and in the soils receiving wastewater.
6. Phosporous impact on ocean water: Phosphorous is potentially harmful in ocean water by encouraging growth of algae, but dilution in ocean envrionment probably means there is no measurable effect
7. Salt impact on soils & waterways: Burks & Minnis (1994) and others have researched the impact of salt on septic system failure.
8. Water impact on soils: although water volume discharge may be beneficial in general, water discharge in a volume sufficient to flood a septic disposal field is highly undesirable as results include septic system failure, sewage backups even into the building, and the discharge of un-treated wastewater into the environment.
Original source: Adapted from "Table 6: Biocompatibility Chart", p. 38 of unidentified document - citation needed. Also see the research citations found at REFERENCES
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"Biocompatibility Chart", "The chart below summarizes the biocompability of common wastewater constituents with the four most common disposal environments. Table 6: Biocompatibility chart[ - adapted and expanded by InspectApedia.com editor, with additional citations below [source unknown, under further research, apparently page 28 of a document, presentation or textbook]
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Qadir, Manzoor, Dennis Wichelns, Liqa Raschid-Sally, P. G. McCornick, Pay Drechsel, Akissa Bahri, and P. S. Minhas. "The challenges of wastewater irrigation in developing countries." Agricultural Water Management 97, no. 4 (2010): 561-568.
Riordan, M. James. Septic system checkup: the Rhode Island handbook for inspection. Department of Environmental Management, 2000.
Shon, H. K., S. Vigneswaran, and S. A. Snyder. "Effluent organic matter (EfOM) in wastewater: constituents, effects, and treatment." Critical reviews in environmental science and technology 36, no. 4 (2006): 327-374.
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"Bacterial Pathogens Recovered from Vegetables Irrigated by Wastewater in Morocco", Y. Karamoko, K. Ibenyassine, M. M. Ennaji, B. Anajjar, R. Ait Mhand, M. Chouibani, Journal of Environmental Health, June 2007.
Abstract: The authors obtained 50 vegetable samples from various regions in Morocco and examined them to determine the micro biological quality of these products. Aerobic count, coliform, enterococci, and Staphylococcus areus were evaluated. This analysis revealed high levels of enterococci, fecal coliforms, and total coliforms. No coagulase-positive Staphylococcus aureas was detected in any of the samples analyzed. Biochemical identification of Enterobacteriaceae showed the presence of Citrobacter freundii (28 percent), Enterobacter cloacae (27 percent), Escherichia coli (16 percent), Enterobacter sakazakii (12 percent), Klebsiella pneamoniae (17 percent), Serratia liquefaciens (11 percent), and Salmonella arizonae (0.7 percent). The results clearly demonstrate that vegetables irrigated with untreated wastewater have a high level of microbiological contamination. Consequently, these vegetables may be a threat for the Moroccan consumer and may be considered a serious risk to Moroccan public health. ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR Copyright of Journal of Environmental Health is the property of National Environmental Health Association and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. This abstract may be abridged. No warranty is given about the accuracy of the copy. Users should refer to the original published version of the material for the full abstract. Contact Us to request a copy of this article stored as BacterialPathogens.pdf if you have difficulty obtaining a copy of this full article for private use.
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treatment systems, Bennette D. Burks & Mary Margaret Minnis. Textbook and reference manual on all aspects of onsite treatment. This is one of the best books we've reviewed on the subject, with an excellent balance of clear simple explanation and solid engineering. Topics: Soil & Site Selection, Hydraulics, System Selection & Design, Wastewater Biology, History & Mythology of Onsite Wastewater
Treatment. $49.95, Hogarth House, Ltd., 800-993-2665 x327 order a copy from the InspectApedia bookstore (Amazon.com) or order by telephone 800 -993-2665 x327 (Univ. Wisc. Bookstore)
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Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
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Builder's Guide to Wells and Septic Systems, Woodson, R. Dodge: $ 24.95; MCGRAW HILL B; TP;
Quoting from Amazon's description: For the homebuilder, one mistake in estimating or installing wells and septic systems can cost thousands of dollars. This comprehensive guide filled with case studies can prevent that. Master plumber R. Dodge Woodson packs this reader-friendly guide with guidance and information, including details on new techniques and materials that can economize and expedite jobs and advice on how to avoid mistakes in both estimating and construction. Chapters cover virtually every aspect of wells and septic systems, including on-site evaluations; site limitations; bidding; soil studies, septic designs, and code-related issues; drilled and dug wells, gravel and pipe, chamber-type, and gravity septic systems; pump stations; common problems with well installation; and remedies for poor septic situations. Woodson also discusses ways to increase profits by avoiding cost overruns.