Small Flow Stream Discharge System – My only Option?
As civil engineers we have seen many situations where property owners are lead to believe that a small flow stream discharge system is their only option. They find out this when a Sewage Enforcement Officer (SEO) looks at some soil profiles (test holes) on their property, and can’t find a spot with enough good soil to support a conventional trench or sand mound system.
This is NOT to say that the SEO wrong. He has evaluated the soil and it won’t support a conventional system that he can issue a permit for. If there is a stream nearby, then a small flow stream discharge system could be a viable option. I am just suggesting that it may not be your only option.
Why Do I Need Other Options If the Stream Discharge System Will Work?
That’s a valid question. Let’s look at what a stream discharge system entails.
Having a small flow stream discharge system is much like owning and maintaining a small sewage treatment plant. While this could be said of any on-lot sewage disposal system, such as a sand mound, it goes much deeper with the stream discharge system.
As the name implies, the stream discharge system will in fact discharge the effluent (water treated by your sewage disposal system) directly to a stream. The streams are waters of the Commonwealth and therefore regulated by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). DEP requires that your effluent be disinfected before discharging to the stream. They also require certain permits and periodic maintenance.
The disinfection is generally achieved by chlorination or an ultra violet light. Either way adds another component to system which adds cost and brings with it another layer of maintenance. The maintenance of a stream discharge system is regulated by DEP through your local municipality. The municipality is ultimately responsible for the upkeep of the system. The property owner must enter into a written maintenance agreement with the municipality. This agreement will be passed on to any subsequent owners if you should sell the property. Anyone who is aware of s stream discharge system may consider these facts as a potential buyer. This may tend to lower your property value.
Other considerations with a stream discharge system may include crossing a road or a neighboring property. This would require an easement from the road owner and property owner(s). If the road is owned by the local municipality you will need to deal with them to secure the easement. If it is a state road you will need to obtain a Highway Occupancy Permit from PENNDOT. PENNDOT will generally require you to bore under their road in order to pipe your discharge to the stream. All of these extra steps take time, money and coordination. It is not unusual for it to take up to a year or more in order to get a permit to construct a stream discharge system.
What Are My Options?
There are a few options, but in January of 2010 DEP approved a system that was used experimentally in PA for years: Drip Dispersal Micro-mound. This is not the only option, but now that it is approved as an alternate system it can be approved at the local SEO level. This coupled with other advantages, make it a good choice.
The micro-mound is similar to a sand mound. It uses a system of small tubing to disperse the effluent to a thin bed of sand, generally about 10 inches in depth. It costs less to install and it avoids all of the permits and maintenance agreements. It can be approved as quickly as a conventional system. The micro-mound has been used for successfully for years in other states.
How Do the Options Compare?
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