Valuable New Planning Document
TMACOG’s Water Quality Planning department is making final alternations to a valuable report for the communities of the western Lake Erie basin. The Nutrient Source Inventory of Septic Systems and Package Plants maps household sewage treatment systems and small semi-public systems (package plants) in 19 Ohio counties. It is an analysis of nutrient loads in unsewered areas and complements the work completed by Ohio EPA in their Mass Balance Studies of 2016 and 2018.
Every community in the Lake Erie basin is taking necessary steps to reduce the amount of nutrients reaching the lake and feeding the harmful algal blooms. This report will provide valuable information to elected officials and agencies as they decide how best to target efforts.
Areas where the only wastewater treatment is through septic systems and package plants are known to be potential sources of excess nutrients and bacteria. In the region studied, many systems are older and near the end of their useful life with a large proportion known to be failing. Governments are making efforts to connect as many residences and businesses as possible to sewered systems and municipal treatment plants. However, the cost of connecting rural areas and small towns far from large populations is a significant hurdle. Ensuring that home septic systems and package plants are safe and in good repair will remain important part of efforts to reduce nutrient loading to Lake Erie.
Kris Barnswell, TMACOG water quality planner, compiled the data to prepare the report. He contacted health departments and county engineers, referenced existing permits and reviewed aerial photographs. He mapped unsewered areas and estimated the population living in these areas and is completing estimates of the amounts of nutrients reaching waterways.
The Nutrient Source Inventory of Septic Systems and Package Plants will be a resource for local government planners and for health departments. It will assist governments and non-governmental groups creating 9-Element Nonpoint Source Implementation Strategic Plans which qualify a municipality or organization to apply for state and federal grants to address water quality. Going forward, TMACOG is building on the information assembled for this report. TMACOG will be working with health departments in Ottawa, Sandusky, Wood, Lucas counties for the next few years to locate and map existing septic systems. This will assist health departments to complete new state requirements for implementing an Operations and Maintenance Program for home sewage treatment systems.
The draft report is here. The final report will be updated in July.