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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

Septic Systems as Potential Pollution Sources in the Cannonsville Reservoir Watershed, New York


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 33 No. 6, p. 1989-1996
    Received: Oct 2, 2003

    * Corresponding author(s): larry-day@ny.nacdnet.org
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  1. Laurence Day *
  1. Delaware County Soil and Water Conservation District, 44 West Street, Walton, NY 13856


On-site septic systems require appropriate soil characteristics to provide effective wastewater treatment. The objective of this study was to evaluate siting practices and treatment efficacy of on-site septic systems within the Cannonsville Reservoir watershed (115900 ha) in the state of New York. Using digital soil survey data, a database of on-site conditions was developed from more than 1100 existing septic system siting records. Soil map units were grouped into four classes based on their suitability to meet common septic system design criteria. A geographic information system was found to be a useful tool for assessment and visual display of septic system and landscape information. Geographic information system analysis indicated that while 80% of soils in the watershed were found to have characteristics that interfere with septic system function, 69% of septic systems installed were of designs suited for soils with no or few restrictive parameters. Since the designs of many septic systems have relied heavily on horizontal distance to streams (mean = 130 m) to provide adequate treatment, potential failures would lead to discharge of compounds of environmental concern, such as phosphorus, with public health implications. The results imply that many septic systems functioning in the watershed are in need of design improvements.

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