PHOTO of sewage contamination leaking to a yard surface from a broken sewer pipeNitrogen Contaminants From Septic Systems

  • SEWAGE NITROGEN CONTAMINANTS - CONTENTS: Septic system nitrogen contaminants: identifying pathogens and nitrogen, nitrate, and nitrite contaminants produced in soil or water by onsite waste disposal systems
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about the level of nitrogen contamination in soils, groundwater, and wells traced to septic systems

InspectAPedia tolerates no conflicts of interest. We have no relationship with advertisers, products, or services discussed at this website.

This document discusses nitrogen contamination (excess nitrogen or nitrate/nitrite levels) found in soils due to onsite septic systems.

We discusses further the principal nitrogen contaminants produced by septic systems or on-site waste disposal systems. This article discusses nitrogen and nitrate contaminants and links to sister documents discussing septic tank pathogens and other contaminants as well as to discussions of what to do about sewage backups in buildings and how to inspect and repair a septic system after flooding. We include discussion of health or other concerns with soil and groundwater contamination and with measures adopted to address these problems.

The photo above shows what dirt and sewage effluent may look like in a yard where the sewer line between the house and septic tank is damaged and leaking. Nitrates, nitrites, and sewage pathogens leaking from a septic system to the soil surface and subsoil waters are potential health hazards.

Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved.

NITROGEN CONTAMINATION: nitrogen discharge from sewage treatment plants

Algae growth along the shore of a fresh water lake (C) Daniel Friedman

Generally the discharge of nitrogen into arid land soil is very beneficial, as nitrogen (N) is beneficial to plants. Limits on the nitrogen level in soil may be a limit on the plant's successful growth. The discharge of nitrogen into tropical and temperate soil is also beneficial, but there remains a concern that the leachage of excess nitrogen into the water supply or into ground water is not desirable.

[Click to enlarge any image]

The discharge of nitrogen into the ocean is probably ok. While nitrogen is harmful and forms the limiting nutirient for algae growth, the dilution of the large volume of ocean water makes it unlikely that there is a measurable effect.

Watch out: Conversely the discharge of nitrogen (for example in wastewater or in farmland runoff) into fresh water lakes, streams or similar bodies is highly undesirable. In this environment the nitrogen level is algae's second most limiting nutrient. We see this effect in the excessive growth of algae along the shores of a freshwater lake where sewage effluent (containing high levels of nitrogen and other nutrients) leaks into the lake water.


Photo at above left, algae growth along a freshwater lake shore close to a septic system drainfield. While not water tests nor soil tests were performed at this location, and while there were no septic odors, further along the same shore but more distant from this concentration we did not find the same algae growth even though other conditions were the same.

New York -- January 11, 2006. New York City will spend more than $700 million on advanced water treatment systems to help restore Long Island Sound's water quality by upgrading municipal sewage treatment plants over the coming decade in order to reduce the discharge of nitrogen.

Nitrogen in treated sewage effluent causes a number of problems including excessive algae growth, reduced oxygen in water, and the death of fish, shellfish, and plants. The project will address Jamaica Bay and other water systems in the area. -- New York Times, page B4, 1/11/2006.

NITROGEN REFERENCES - Nitrogen Contaminants in Sewage - Reference List & Excerpts

That nitrogen release is a worldwide concern is evident from these example reports on nitrogen and sewage treatment.

Israel: Evaluation of Pollution in the Gulf of Eilat - Report For the Ministries of Infrastructure, Environment and Agriculture.

"There is consensus that the water clarity and coral reefs of Eilat are deteriorating. The widely suggested explanation for the degradation is that Eilat waters are suffering from sustained inputs of organic carbon and nutrients.

The International Expert Team (IET) was tasked to identify existing and potential sources of pollution; assess the carrying capacity of the Gulf for fish-farming; and formulate recommendations for minimization of pollution and environmental pressures. The IET considered 10 factors contributing to pollution in the Gulf: phosphate dust, sewage, fish-farms, groundwater inputs, siltation, marina activities, oil, tourist diving activities, water temperature, and port-ballast water.

The IET recognizes that there have been multiple stressors on the coral reefs of Eilat over the past 25 years, and these are discussed and ranked in the report. Presently, environmental pressures include: 1) continued inputs of nutrients from Aqaba phosphate dust, Aqaba sewage, and fish farms; 2) siltation from construction; 3) diving activities and, perhaps, 4) increased water temperature."

" In the past 25 years, total nitrogen in the water of the northern Gulf appears to have doubled, but varies seasonally. The large seasonal fluctuations are approximately equivalent to all the nitrogen input from fish-farms over the last 10 years and one-fourth of all the nitrogen input from sewage over the last 30 years;..."

China: The Problems and Countermeasures on Agricultural Sewage Irrigation in China - Yang Jifu (Irrigation and Drainage Department,IWHR)

"Abstract Due to the lack of agricultural water resources and the continuously increasing volume of sewage discharging all over the country, sewage has already become an important water resources for agriculture irrigation in the suburbs near many big cities in the North.In 1991 sewage irrigation area has reached 3 million hectares about 6%of the total irrigation area.

On the one hand, sewage irrigation alleviates agricultural water shortage, and on the other hand, it reduces the harmful impact on water environment by discharging sewage. However,three big problems on sewage irrigation have been existing for many years. They are the low water quality, the blind development on irrigation area and the backward research and management.

Thus, the sewage irrigation has become one of the three sources of water environment worsening in the village.It has been jeopardizing not only the quality of food and drinking water in the irrigation area, but also the food safety of 1.6 billion populations until the 21 st century.The following suggestions and countermeasures are provided in the Paper."


At our continued reading link just below we point to an article on the pathogens or toxins found in sewage.

Sewage Articles for Private Homeowners


Continue reading at SEWAGE PATHOGENS in SEPTIC SLUDGE or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.




Suggested citation for this web page

SEWAGE NITROGEN CONTAMINANTS at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.


Or use the SEARCH BOX found below to Ask a Question or Search InspectApedia


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Click to Show or Hide FAQs

Ask a Question or Search InspectApedia

Use the "Click to Show or Hide FAQs" link just above to see recently-posted questions, comments, replies, try the search box just below, or if you prefer, post a question or comment in the Comments box below and we will respond promptly.

Search the InspectApedia website

Comment Box is loading comments...

Technical Reviewers & References

Click to Show or Hide Citations & References

Publisher's Google+ Page by Daniel Friedman