Big Trouble in Little America

by Paul Tarricone, Assistant Editor; Civil Engineering Magazine, ASCE World Headquarters, 345 East 47th Street, New York City, NY.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1989, Vol. 59, Issue 8, Pg. 57-59

Document Type: Feature article


Traditionally, rural communities in the U.S. have relied on septic systems to treat their wastewater. Many of the nation's 23 million septic systems, however, are failing. Combined with system failure, EPA and state regulators are now cracking down on rural systems after years of dealing with city sewage plants. Small town officials have difficult decisions to make, but many are under the false assumption that only two options exist when treating wastewater: Using on-lot septic systems or relying on expensive sewer lines and plants. Consulting engineers, when advising small town officials, have helped perpetuate this myth. In reality, many options exist but they are sometimes unknown by the local official and even by the consulting engineer himself. Small towns must know their choices because of the high financial stakes involved. Several towns have placed severe financial burdens on their citizens by choosing to install an elaborate network of sewer lines, when the need simply wasn't there. Wastewater treatment options include lagoons, mound systems, and aeration plants.

Subject Headings: Wastewater treatment plants | Consulting services | Rural areas | Sewers | Financial management | Failure analysis | Environmental Protection Agency | Cracking

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