EPA launches consultation on management of septic systems

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is launching a 60 day consultation on its draft guidelines for the management of onsite or decentralised wastewater systems.

Onsite systems, isolated systems that treat sewage from homes and businesses not connected to a centralised wastewater treatment plant, are often significant contributors of germs that impair thousands of waterbodies nationwide, according to the EPA. At least 10% of onsite systems have stopped working, says the EPA, with some communities reporting failure rates as high as 70%. According to state agencies, these failing systems are the third most common source of groundwater contamination.

The draft guidelines are a set of recommended practices needed to raise the performance of management programmes of onsite wastewater systems. The document includes five model management programmes, each sharing the common goal of protecting human health and the environment:

  • system inventory and awareness of maintenance needs;
  • management through maintenance contracts;
  • management through operating permits;
  • utility operation and maintenance;
  • utility ownership and management.

The EPA has separate webpages on which interested parties can make comments on the Management Guidelines, and on the Guidance Manual Outline.

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