HomeHome ImprovementAre Septic Tanks A Major Source of Emerging Contaminants in Drinking Water?

Are Septic Tanks A Major Source of Emerging Contaminants in Drinking Water?

Septic Pumping Dover NY

Are Septic Tanks A Major Source of Emerging Contaminants in Drinking Water?

A new report into septic tanks shows that in the United States, tanks routinely output consumer product chemicals, pharmaceuticals and other hazardous chemicals into the environment. The study that can be found in the Environmental Science & Technology, is probably the most thorough assessment to date. It raises health concerns, as many of these chemicals; end up in groundwater and drinking water supplies. With the help of Jones Septic, and their expert Septic pumping Dover NY team, you can help avoid this damage to the environment and ensure your tank is working as expected.

What Are These Emerging Contaminants?

Known as contaminants of emerging concern (CEC’s), these types of pollutants are often found in US lakes, rivers and drinking supplies. However, the US Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t currently regulate CEC’s in drinking water. Many of these emerging contaminants cause disruption amongst hormones. Their ongoing presence in nature is obvious and is linked with a reduction in wildlife species and the feminization of male fish. Further studies show that humans can be affected too with development disorders, thyroid disease, decreased fertility and even cancer.

“These are chemicals found in the products we use every day, and eventually they make their way down the drain,” says Laurel Schaider, an environmental chemist at Silent Spring Institute and the study’s lead author. “What’s concerning is that we are potentially re-exposed to these chemicals as mixtures through our drinking water and we have no idea what the health effects from those exposures are.”


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When it comes to households in the US, roughly 20% rely on a septic system to process their waste and wastewater. In some more rural areas, the percentage is far higher. It’s commonly known that septic tanks are a source of nutrient pollution and have been linked with disease outbreaks in other countries. This means that the question remains; to what extent do septic tanks contribute emerging contaminants to the environment and surrounding area?

An Experiment Into The Effectiveness Of Septic Tanks

In order to assess the effectiveness of septic systems at removing contaminants, Schaider conducted a thorough analysis of 20 different studies on septic systems. This was able to create the most comprehensive and accurate dataset on emerging contaminants commonly found in the environment. The study was able to identify 45 contaminants in total that were damaging to the environment. These include personal care products, chemicals commonly found in cleaning products, hormones, flame retardants, pharmaceuticals and common substances such as caffeine.

Continuing the study, Schaider found that septic systems do a good job at removing chemicals commonly found in household cleaning products. However, they are much less effective at removing other contaminants. Chemicals that often tend to slip through the net include an anti-epilepsy drug, the antibiotic sulfamethoxazole, a carcinogenic flame retardant and TCEP.

These chemicals become especially problematic when these particular residents rely on shallow and private groundwater wells for their drinking water. This is often the case in states that include Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Delaware and Massachusetts.


According to Schaider, the best way in which we can protect drinking water is to keep septic systems well away from areas that provide local drinking water wells. “It’s also important that people follow guidelines for maintaining their septic systems to make sure they’re in good working order,” she says. “And avoiding household products with harmful ingredients by switching to safer alternatives can make a real difference.”

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