There is growing concern regarding septic tank systems in our Northwest Indiana waterways. Septic tank systems that are not properly maintained can pose a pollution problem affecting humans and our environment. Approximately 25% of United States homes use a septic tank system. If not maintained properly, the contamination could impact not just your property, but the community or even Lake Michigan.
Wastewater, sludge, and scum are naturally digested in septic tanks through stepwise biological reactions. However, over time, the sludge on the bottom of the tank slowly builds up. Additives, such as Rid-X, have not been shown to work and may even be harmful to the septic tank system and the environment. As the sludge builds up and the floating scum on the top grows, the storage capacity for the middle liquid layer of wastewater shrinks. This causes the solids and scum to escape and potentially plug the system causing failure.
Untreated wastes from septic tanks carry bacteria such as Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Salmonella. This waste may also contain damaging chemicals from cleaning detergents, pharmaceuticals, and even motor oil. These pollutants can affect your water quality, health, and environment.
To keep Northwest Indiana and our Indiana dunes healthy, Save the Dunes is developing an outreach and education program for septic system maintenance in Indiana’s Lake Michigan watershed. This work will help advise septic tank system owners, elected officials and realtors about proper maintenance and what everyone can do to protect human health and water quality.
Thanks to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) through Indiana Lake Michigan Coastal Program for providing grant funding.
For more information on septic system maintenance, watch this short video by Allen County’s Health Department.