Water: Source Water Protection
Septic Systems and Source Water Protection
Septic systems treat and disperse relatively small volumes of wastewater from individual homes or small numbers of homes and commercial buildings. When properly sited, designed, constructed and operated they pose a minimal threat to drinking water sources but when improperly used or operated, septic systems can be a significant source of ground water contamination. Septic system regulation is usually a state, tribal or local responsibility.
- EPA's septic system program
- Memorandum of Understanding to Improve the Management of Septic Systems Nationwide (PDF) (9 pp, 274K)
EPA and eight partner organizations signed a Memorandum of Understanding to address environmental problems resulting from failures of septic systems.
- Septic and decentralized wastewater systems program strategy (PDF) (16 pp, 3MB)
Presents EPA's vision, mission and actions to improve the performance of septic systems, thereby providing better protection of public health and water resources.
- Information is available to help homeowners understand the function and maintenance of septic systems.
A Section 319 Success Story
The Coverdale Crossroads Community is in Sussex County, Delaware. Failing septic systems were resulting in contaminated drinking water wells and nutrient loss to surface water and ground water supplies. Most residents used a cesspool, a failed septic system or no system at all. Find out how Cloverdale Crossroads met this challenge at partners upgrade septic systems in coverdale crossroads.
Septic System Fact Sheets
- Managing Septic Systems to Prevent Drinking Water Contamination (PDF) (5 pp, 133K)
- New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC): Source Water Protection for Municipalities
This Manual focuses on five key areas of vulnerability identified in New England State Source Water Assessments -- inadequate local regulations and ordinances, underground storage tanks, onsite sewage disposal systems, hazardous materials storage, and stormwater runoff.
- Fact Sheet on Septics for Municipal Officials, New England Interstate Pollution Control Commission (PDF) (2 pp, 203K)
Local Ordinance Examples
Many communities have ordinances in place to protect source water from contaminates from failing septic systems.
- Electronic ordinance compendium
- Clarke County, Virginia: standards and procedures for the siting and installation of subsurface septic systems (PDF) (5 pp, 15K)
- New Jersey: Sparta Township subsurface sewage disposal systems zoning ordinance (PDF) (14 pp, 30K)
- Olmsted County, Minnesota: sewage and wastewater treatment regulations (PDF) (15 pp, 30K)