RCAP among partners that renew agreement with EPA on septic-system improvements

November 10, 2011 | Clean Water Act, EPA

Published Nov. 9

By Paul Quinlan, E&E reporter

US EPA photo by Eric VanceThe EPA renewed and expanded a six-year-old agreement with industry and government organizations today aimed at improving the performance of septic systems.

EPA and 16 partner organizations [including RCAP] signed a nonbinding memorandum of understanding at EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C., aimed at addressing pollution from the nation's 26 million septic systems.

About 20 percent of U.S. residences discharge 4 billion gallons of sewage daily into septic systems. Between 10 and 20 percent of those systems are not working properly at any time and may not be adequately treating sewage, EPA says.

While such pollution poses a major environmental and human health hazard, EPA says, it is a problem that is difficult to monitor or regulate.

The MOU signed today seeks to join the agency, state and local governments and industry groups in an effort to encourage proper management of septic systems. The agreement is the second three-year renewal of an MOU first signed in 2005 between EPA and eight partners.

Six new partners joined the group in 2008. And two more — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and NSF International, formerly known as the National Sanitation Foundation — were added today.

Preceding these agreements was a 1996 report to Congress in which EPA concluded that despite several major impediments to improving their performance, septic and other decentralized sewage systems are "an integral component of our nation's wastewater infrastructure and can protect public health and water quality if they are properly planned, sited, designed, installed and maintained."

EPA says its partnerships since have supported credentials for septic-system installers and a model performance code, training opportunities and improved curriculum consistency for installers and maintenance professionals.

"The purpose of the renewed MOUs, first in 2008 and now again in 2011, is to continue and expand the ongoing collaborative relationships and to add organizations which focus on public health protection, product testing, and professional accreditation," EPA said in a statement. "The addition of both CDC and NSF International will enhance the partnership's access and understanding of relevant public health research, priorities, and initiatives along with state-of-the-art product certification and testing and professional accreditation."