Clean water is something many of us take for granted. We assume, for the most part, that the water we intake is free from harmful chemicals and pathogens and is basically safe to drink. For those who draw their water from a private well, though, there is a continual need to monitor the water supply for purity. This is especially the case for private wells located near septic systems.
Septic systems are a larger threat to water supplies than many of us might first assume. Improper septic system design or installation, or lack of septic system maintenance can lead to the leakage of waste material—including hormones and pharmaceutical chemicals, as well as parasites and pathogens—onto land or into ground or surface water. Most septic systems are installed in suburban and rural areas, putting homeowners, communities, and local ecosystems in these areas at risk.
What is causing the problem? For one thing, septic system maintenance is not systematically regulated. While states and counties do have strict standards for design and installation of septic systems, maintenance is a different matter. And most problems with septic systems begin after installation.
On the other hand, most states do not require inspections of septic systems. Rather, homeowners are responsible for that. Here in Georgia, homeowners and real estate agents are not required to disclose whether a home is on a septic system when it is sold unless it is known that there is damage to the system. If you’re a homeowner, you should always ask, because if the home is on a septic and the owner doesn’t know that, no maintenance will be done. This puts the homeowner and others drawing from the same well at risk.
In our next post, we’ll continue looking at this issue, especially how an experienced environmental law attorney can help those harmed by septic system contamination.