There is a well-established connection between septic systems and nitrate and bacterial pollution in drinking water wells. This causes problems. http://”http://www.circleofblue.org/waternews/2015/world/septic-system-pollution-contributes-to-disease-outbreaks/
Two-thirds of disease outbreaks in the United States due to untreated groundwater in the last four decades were linked to septic systems or a poorly designed well, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gwat.12121/abstract;jsessionid=9B4AA8F1A20F27E5E8B40D72290077B8.f02t04
Researchers, were looking for a different type of contaminant on Cape Cod. Pharmaceuticals, flame retardants, and other similar compounds are known as “emerging” contaminants because their health effects are only beginning to be studied and few have federal drinking water standards.
Researchers was careful to note that the concentrations they detected — none of which exceeded health guidelines — were tiny, in the parts-per-billion range, which is thousands or millions of times lower than a medical dose. Even so, the cumulative, long-term effect of drinking water with low pharmaceutical concentrations, especially for children or pregnant women, is poorly understood.
“There are health concerns about the interaction of different chemicals in the body,” Schaider said.
What is a town or a homeowner to do? More than eight out of 10 homes on Cape Cod uses a septic system or cesspool and one in five uses a household well.
Gathering more information about well water quality is one recommendation. That information, however, is expensive. Analyzing one water sample for the 117 contaminants cost $US 1,800.
It’s not routine testing that everyone can do.
The researchers looked for a shortcut that might help homeowners. They analyzed the relationship between different contaminants, to see if the presence of one could indicate the presence of others. Nitrate, which is not removed by traditional septic systems, was a suitable though imperfect match — imperfect because agriculture runoff is also a large source of nitrate pollution. Testing for nitrate is much cheaper, roughly $US 20 per sample.
Other recommendations involve more effort. Local ordinances that require a certain distance between septic systems and household wells could be revised. Or, instead of continuing to build individual wells, new developments could drill a community well to supply many homes. The well would be strategically located away from septic system runoff.
That option, of course, does nothing to address the root cause of the pollution, which is the septic system itself. Some communities on Cape Cod are experimenting with new treatment techniques, but more will be needed. Roughly one in five U.S. households uses a septic system.http://www.circleofblue.org/waternews/2015/world/americas-septic-system-failures-can-be-fixed/
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