Shelter Masthead

Septic Bulletin Board

The Truth About Septic Systems
Vested interests are making on-site wastewater disposal more costly than it needs to be

Mother Earth News article by Lloyd Kahn.

Feedback from Readers

Feedback (mostly horror stories) from readers in response to Lloyd Kahn's letter in the Mother Earth News.

The Septic System Owner's Manual
Sample Chapters

– Chapter 5

In the last chapter we talked about what goes down the drain. Here we’re going to cover long-term periodic maintenance, which consists mainly of septic tank inspection and pumping when necessary. We’ll also discuss drainfield inspection.

People often say, “Oh, I’ve never had to pump my tank,” as if that were proof that their septic system works fine. But be aware, failure to pump tanks is (next to improper siting and design) perhaps the greatest single cause of septic system failure. Here’s what can happen- more -

– Chapter 6
Red Alert! System Failure

Your system has failed — that’s presumably why you’re reading this chapter. Water has backed up into the shower, the toilets won’t flush, and/or drains won’t drain. This means wastewater has backed up from the tank through the main drain into the house. It’s going the wrong way! Or — untreated effluent is surfacing on the ground. In this chapter we’ll talk about different types of failures, their causes, and what to do when your system fails.- more -

– Chapter 9
Advanced Systems

The beauty of a typical standard system — comprised of a septic tank and a drainfield — is that it uses no electricity or mechanical devices. Aside from periodic pumping of accumulated septic tank solids, the system operates by natural processes. Gravity — that deceptively elegant and often overlooked principle — provides all the power needed for water and wastes to flow through the system. Treatment and disposal of the wastewater is accomplished by natural physical, chemical, and biological processes in the soil of the absorption system. - more -

– Chapter 10
Excessive Engineering and Regulatory Overkill

You might say it all started with the Clean Water Act of 1972, when billions of dollars were allocated to clean up America’s water. With all that money floating around, it didn’t take long for some engineers and some regulators to devise a methodology for extracting the maximum amount of grant money available. It was all so easy. First, septic systems are underground and out of sight; low visibility. Second, who could argue with the idea of “clean water”? - more -

– Chapter 11
A Tale of Two Sewers

For the first group of folks it happened suddenly: regulatory agencies breezed into town, and announced that everyone was going to have to reduce the bacteria in the local bay by 75 percent … or else! - more -

Online, Magazine, and Newspaper Articles

City Sewer vs. Septic Systems (this one will make you angry)

“I have received numerous calls and emails from people voicing their concerns about being forced to hookup to the city sewer. Although I support septic, when addressing a group I try to be fair and balanced pointing out the advantages and disadvantages of both treatment facilities and onsite systems and stayed away from the political side of the debate, primarily because I work with numerous government agencies and learning institutions.

However I can no longer remain quiet because I have seen too many abuses of the process that are going to affect all of us for years to come.” - more -

Jim vonMeier

Northport Sewer Dispute’s Hard Lessons

“Elected officials typically have little, if any, background knowledge in geology or wastewater treatment, and must rely on the advice of private engineering firms. That's exactly the case in Northport: The firm that assessed the village's need for the sewer is the same one that then designed it and is now planning to build it. Public policy experts point out that such arrangements create the potential for conflict of interest, especially when public tax dollars are involved.” - more -
Michigan Land Use Institute