Septic Systems

Sewage Discharge from Municipal Sources (See Chapter 11, “Sewage Disposal Systems”)

Spills and Runoff from Stored Chemicals and Storage Tanks

Ground or surface water is readily contaminated when petroleum products and chemicals are mishandled and spills occur, resulting in the chemicals seeping into the ground and into the water supply or becoming part of runoff and going into surface bodies of water. A single spill or leakage can spread out into the ground and become a source of contamination for many years. In many areas, there are a substantial number of underground storage tanks which have been used over many years for holding a variety of products including substances which are very hazardous. These tanks may be found in gas stations (most common place), airports, dry cleaners, homes, agricultural areas, etc. An immediate problem occurs when there are leaks and spills because of poor housekeeping, overfilling of the tanks, sloppiness in loading and unloading the product, and poor maintenance and inspection of the facility. A long-term problem occurs when the tanks become corroded and start to leak product into the ground.

Best Practices for Spills and Runoff from Stored Chemicals and Storage Tanks

  • • Inspect all pumps, hoses, and connections between pipes for leaks monthly.
  • • Check for loose fittings, worn gaskets, or damaged rubber nozzles monthly.
  • • Check underground storage tank equipment and dispensers for leaks and structural problems monthly.
  • • Inspect all storage tanks and facilities, more frequently than normally scheduled, during very cold weather and very hot weather.
  • • Inspect above-ground storage tanks weekly for leaks and monthly for deterioration.
  • • Check secondary containment areas for any sheen, which would indicate spillage.
  • • Keep an inspection log with the results of the inspections, dated and signed.
  • • Contain in a special area, any contaminated stormwater and treat it prior to releasing onto the land or into a body of water.

Surface Impoundments for Farm Waste or Other Wastes

The most significant concerns are leakage from the ponds into the groundwater or a body of surface water, overflow due to heavy rain, potential breeding areas for mosquitoes, and odors.

Best Practices for Surface Impoundments for Farm Waste or Other Wastes

  • • Containment ponds should have impermeable liners to prevent leakage.
  • • Oxygen should be introduced into the organic mass to enhance the biodegradation of the material.
  • • Runoff from surrounding areas should be redirected from the containment area.
  • • The containment area should be built in such a manner that major rainfall will not cause it to overflow.


Temperature has a major influence on cold bodied aquatic organisms causing them to rapidly react to external temperature change. Increases in temperature because of thermal pollution due to hot runoff from urban areas or discharge from industrial plants or municipal sewage systems can cause problems in small bodies of water.

Best Practices for Temperature Problems

  • • Determine if fish, other aquatic life, or plants are being affected by increased temperature in a given area.
  • • Determine if there are industrial plants or municipal treatment plants with discharge pipes going into the waterway near the problem area and take the temperatures of the outfall liquid.
  • • Use voluntary and then enforcement techniques to reduce the outfall liquid to appropriate temperatures.

Total Suspended Solids (See the Section above on "Sediment")

Total suspended solids include inorganic materials such as sediment, metals, and organic material such as animal and vegetative wastes and debris that have been washed or blown into the bodies of water. They smother fish eggs and larva, make the water turbid, clog fish gills, affect growth of vegetation, increase the cost of water treatment, transport pollutants, and may increase the effects of toxic chemicals which may bioaccumulate in fish and in humans. They are frequently one of the most damaging pollutants found in water.

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