Septic Systems and Springs Water Quality: An Overview for Florida

Ichetucknee Springs State Park. Photo taken 01-08-20.  Photo Credits:  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones

Wastewater carries pathogens, nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), and trace organic chemicals that may be harmful to human health and ecosystem functioning. Thus, proper treatment of wastewater is crucial. While septic systems can be one means of effective wastewater treatment, there are some special considerations for their use in Florida because of unique geography and sandy soils. The purpose of this new 6-page publication of the UF/IFAS Department of Soil and Water Sciences is to explain the basics of how septic systems work and how they can affect springs water quality in Florida, with a special emphasis on potential N loading from septic systems. This document is intended for homeowners, the general public, and county, city, and other local personnel tasked with managing water quality in areas with septic systems. Written by Mary Lusk, Andrea Albertin, Whitney Elmore, William Lester, and James Moll.
https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ss693

Wastewater and Septic System Management for the COVID-19 Virus: Frequently Asked Questions

The virus that causes COVID-19

This new 3-page publication of the UF/IFAS Department of Soil and Water Sciences answers common questions about the potential role of wastewater and septic systems in transmission of COVID-19. It is intended as guidance for the general public. Written by Mary G. Lusk.
https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ss692

Landscaping on or near Septic Drain Fields

St. Augustinegrass Lawn. Credits: UF/IFAS

Septic systems are common throughout most rural areas, and their care and maintenance are essential to the health of people, wildlife, livestock, agricultural commodities, and water resources. One way to ensure optimal performance of your septic system is to landscape appropriately near the drain field. The purpose of this new 3-page publication of the UF/IFAS Department of Soil and Water Sciences is to provide landscape management guidance for septic system drain fields. Information presented here will be useful for homeowners, landscape management professionals, and Extension agents who work in horticulture, natural resources, agriculture, and family services. Written by Whitney C. Elmore, William Lester, James Moll, Andrea Albertin, and Mary Lusk.
https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ss687

Onsite Sewage Treatment and Disposal Systems: Trace Organic Chemicals (SL352/SS554)

water dropletTrace organic chemicals are potentially harmful to human and ecosystem health. They frequently occur in wastewater from septic systems and can be found in concentrations orders of magnitude higher than typical concentrations reported in centralized treatment plant wastewater. This 7-page fact sheet identifies common trace organic chemicals of concern in wastewater and their sources, and summarizes current research on the fate and transport of these chemicals in septic systems. Written by Gurpal S. Toor, Mary Lusk, and Tom Obreza, and published by the UF Department of Soil and Water Science, November 2011. (photo CC BY-SA 3.0 Mila)
http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ss554

Onsite Sewage Treatment and Disposal Systems: Viruses (SL351/SS553)

Rotavirus particleKeeping disease-causing microorganisms out of groundwater used for drinking water supplies is important to protect human health. This 7-page fact sheet characterizes the behavior of viruses in septic systems and the soil drain field and summarizes what we know about the extent and character of groundwater contamination with viruses emanating from septic systems. Written by Mary Lusk, Gurpal S. Toor, and Tom Obreza, and published by the UF Department of Soil and Water Science, October 2011.
http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ss553

Onsite Sewage Treatment and Disposal Systems: Phosphorus (SL349/SS551)

man drinking clean water from a glass
Phosphorus (P) in onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems is a concern because P can impair water quality even lower concentrations than nitrogen. This 8-page fact sheet summarizes the sources of P in septic tank effluent and the forms, concentrations, and behavior of P in the septic tank effluent and the drain field. Written by Mary Lusk, Gurpal S. Toor, and Tom Obreza and published by the UF Department of Soil and Water Science, July 2011. (Photo by Milt Putnam)
http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ss551

Onsite Sewage Treatment and Disposal Systems: Bacteria and Protozoa (SL350/SS552)

boy drinking from hose
Keeping disease-causing microorganisms out of groundwater used for drinking water supplies is important to protect human health.This 7-page fact sheet reports the sources of bacteria and protozoa in wastewater, discusses diseases associated with drinking water contaminated with wastewater, and then details their fate in septic systems. Written by Mary Lusk, Gurpal S. Toor, and Tom Obreza, and published by the UF Department of Soil and Water Science, July 2011. (Photo by Tara Piasio)
http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ss552

Onsite Sewage Treatment and Disposal Systems: Nitrogen (SL348/SS550)

In the United States, about 4,800 water bodies are impaired due to excess nitrogen (N), and septic systems are recognized as one source of N pollution. This 6-page fact sheet describes the behavior and transport of N from a conventional septic system and the summarizes the sources of N in sewage, the forms and behavior of N in septic tanks and drain fields, and the fate and transport of N in groundwater. Written by Gurpal Toor, Mary Lusk, and Tom Obreza, and published by the UF Department of Soil and Water Science, June 2011.
http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ss550

Onsite Sewage Treatment and Disposal Systems: An Overview (SL347/SS549)

This 7-page fact sheet introduces common types of septic systems and briefly discusses onsite wastewater flow and the contaminants found in wastewater. Written by Gurpal Toor, Mary Lusk, and Tom Obreza, and published by the UF Department of Soil and Water Science, June 2011.
http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ss549