Mt street res


Septic Tank Cleaners: Their Effectiveness and Impacts on Groundwater Quality

Mass Department of Environmental Quality Engineering, 5/1/84-6/30/86

PIs: Noss, Reckhow & Veneman
Student: Robert Drake

The objectives of this research were to determine if "septic tank" cleaners are effective in alleviating leaching field clogging and to assess the concentrations and amounts of septic tank cleaners discharged to groundwater. The approach consisted of the design of a laboratory model which simulated the operational properties of septic systems and quantified the level of toxic pollutants that reach the water table under variable soil conditions and depths to the water table. Soils representative of Massachusetts were analyzed using appropriate regulatory distances from the leach field to the water table.

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Additional Background: A large percentage of the population in New England remains unsewered, relying upon subsurface sewage disposal systems for the treatment and disposal of household wastes. A septic system operates by holding the solids in a tank (the septic tank) and releasing the liquid effluent to a drainage field. For various reasons grease and particulate matter can clog the soil
absorption system, resulting in the owner's use of degreasing chemicals. The use of various toxic organic chemicals as septic tank cleaners is widespread in New England. The specific problem that has resulted from the use of these chemicals has been the contamination of private and public drinking water supplies, and the overall increase in the background concentrations of organic chemicals in the groundwater. In August 1982, EPA, Region I, Water Supply Branch Staff, prepared a compilation of past and present drinking water-related, organic chemical contamination incidents in New England. Of the 100 water supplies identified, approximately 10 percent of tie wells were
contaminated by the disposal of cleaning solvents into septic systems. It is safe to assume that a large number of private wells are currently contaminated with organic chemicals from septic tank cleaners but are not detected due to the infrequent testing of private water supplies.



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