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Do septic tank systems pose a hidden threat to water quality?

Withers, Paul J.A.; Jordan, Philip; May, Linda; Jarvie, Helen P.; Deal, Nancy E.. 2014 Do septic tank systems pose a hidden threat to water quality? Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 12 (2). 123-130. 10.1890/130131

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Abstract/Summary

Aquatic ecosystems are being degraded by anthropogenic pollution on a global scale. Septic tank systems (STS), which are widely distributed in rural and peri-urban areas, are one potential source of water pollution. Although generally regarded as the most efficient method for onsite treatment of domestic wastewater, we question whether current regulation and management of these systems is sufficient to guarantee that they function effectively. Here, we present watershed-specific examples that illustrate some of the problems that arise when many years of inadequate regulation and management result in a legacy of failing STS that can become long-term, chronic sources of nutrient pollution. Our data suggest that more accurate accounting of the location, performance, and degree of failure of STS, and more research into their impacts on water quality, would improve source attribution of pollutants within rural watersheds. This would ensure that education of homeowners, mitigation, interdisciplinary research, and technological innovation could be targeted in a cost-effective way.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1890/130131
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Biogeochemistry
CEH Sections: Watt
Boorman (to September 2014)
ISSN: 1540-9295
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 27 Mar 2014 11:42 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/505428

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