Thursday, June 6, 2013

Septic Systems and Groundwater

When you flush the toilet, wash clothes, wash dishes, take a shower… where does that water and everything along with it end up?
For many of us that are not connected to a sewage treatment plant, the wastewater from our homes ends up in our own backyards.  All of that wastewater is treated by an on-site septic system and as long as they are working properly, septic systems do a pretty good job of treating sewage.
Septic systems are designed with a septic tank that works as a settling chamber to treat sewage by holding it in the tank while it breaks down with the help of bacteria.  The “gray” water then passes through that settling chamber and goes out into the drainfield where it slowly filters through the soil.  The soil treats the bacteria that filter through it before the treated water joins the groundwater below it.
In Thurston County, we drink groundwater!
Septic systems that are not functioning properly can contaminate the drinking water supply for an entire community. When this happens, bacteria from the septic system can make their way into the water supply that is then pumped into private wells. These contaminants can make people sick with hepatitis, giardiasis, dysentery and other water-borne illnesses. 
Even well-functioning septic systems are not very effective at removing nitrates and many household chemicals from the treated water.  This is one reason why there are regulations about how close septic systems can be to one another and how close they can be to wells.
A functioning, well placed, and well maintained septic system will protect the groundwater quality and the health of your family and neighbors.
To be sure that your drinking water from your well is safe, you can have it tested through Thurston County Environmental Health Division. Read about how to do this on our Blog Post, “How to test your well water.

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