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Adams County health officials have released information as they seek to make the public aware of sewage-disposal issues in the county.
Terry Smith, a longtime county health department leader, said, To be more proactive in dealing with severe and costly pollution problems that can result from inadequate, illegal, or improperly-maintained septic systems, the local health board directed us to provide to the local media recommended guidelines for operation and maintenance of septic tanks and septic systems in hopes that the public, especially in rural areas, could be better informed.
"The Adams County Board of Health holds regularly-scheduled meetings every two months. At almost every meeting, sewage disposal issues are discussed, [involving] pollution problems caused by improper and illegal disposal of sewage from residential, agricultural, or commercial buildings," Smith said.
"The costs to abate 'problems' are always quite high, often $10,000 or more. We have seen cases in which this could have been avoided with knowledge of laws that pertain to sewage disposal and adherence to recommended guidelines for septic system operation and maintenance."
Smith made the following points:
• Draining sewage from a property to county or state waterways is illegal and violates state laws and the county's sewage ordinance.
• It is unlawful to dispose into any streams or waters of Indiana any organic or inorganic matter that causes or contributes to a polluted condition of any water.
• The state health department and Adams County prohibit disposing into any surface or ground water any type of pollutant that would cause or contribute to a health hazard or to water pollution.
• Many ailments can develop from water contaminated by sewage: campylobacteriosis, cryptosporidiosis, Escherichia coli diarrhea, encephalitis, gastroenteritis, giardiasis, hepatitis A, leptospirosis, methaemoglobinaemia, polio, salmonellosis, shigellosis, typhoid fever, and yersiniosis.
• A septic system is an individual wastewater treatment system that uses soil, sometimes in combination with sand, to treat and absorb wastewater. A septic system has two main parts: a septic tank and an absorption area. Sometimes, a third step can be added between the septic tank and the absorption area for further treatment.
• A septic tank should be inspected by a licensed professional every two or three years, depending on the number of people in a house." Septic tanks also should be pumped out regulatly by a licensed professional.
• Garbage disposals are not recommended for use with a septic system because they add twice as many solids, require much more frequent pump-outs, and can endanger the performance of the septic system.
• Do not put anything down toilets or drains that will not break down easily, such as oil, grease, coffee, paper towels, cigarette butts, [prescription drugs], feminine products, diapers, household cleaners, bleach, cat litter, fertilizers, pesticides, paints, or paint thinner."
• Minimize excess water use and divert runoff from lawn, roof, and basement drains away from the absorption area."
For more details, Smith recommends reading a 27-page Septic Systems Booklet available from the health department, which is located in the Adams County Service Complex at Decatur.