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Here in Steuben County, there’s a threat to our quality of life. Failing septic systems are endangering our supply of clean water. Untreated sewage and harmful bacteria are contaminating our wells, streams, rivers and lakes.

Evidence of Failing Septic Systems

The combination of aging residential septic systems and inadequate soil quality has created a groundwater crisis in our region. The symptoms of failing septic systems are in widespread evidence:

  • Plumbing backups and slow draining sinks
  • Sewage odors, both indoors and outdoors
  • Mushy ground or ponding sewage above the absorption fields
  • High levels of bacteria in nearby streams or wells
  • Algae blooms or excessive plant growth in nearby ponds and lakes
  • Gurgling sounds in the plumbing

Consider an article written by Dr. Joan Rose, Homer Nowlin Endowed Chair in Water Research, Michigan State Unitversity. "The notion that septic tanks prevent fecal bacteria from seeping into rivers and lakes simply doesn’t hold water, says a new Michigan State University study." 
            Continue Reading the Article . . 

Untreated wastewater poses a serious threat to public health and the environment. Typhoid, cholera, hepatitis A, polio and viral gastroenteritis are a few of the diseases that can be contracted from pollutants in wastewater. Wastewater can also carry E. coli and parasites. In recent years, outbreaks of giardiasis and cryptosporidiosis have brought attention to these threats.

Elevated levels of nitrates in water can also be dangerous. Nitrates are the cause of methemoglobinemia, or blue baby syndrome, a condition that prevents the normal uptake of oxygen in the blood of young babies. It is also suspected of causing miscarriages.

While monitoring the regular maintenance of an on-site septic system is certainly a positive step in the right direction, it is very challenging to certify that an on-site septic system is functioning properly. And, as a whole, it would be more costly to the homeowner, compared with a Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW).

There are basically three types of on-site septic system failures: hydraulic failure, sub-surface failure, and proper treatment failure.

Hydraulic failure is the easiest to determine, because the wastewater erupts to the surface area. However, this issue is difficult to address, because hydraulic failure cannot be adequately repaired on a small lot that does not have a set-aside area.

Sub-surface failure is where partially treated sewage plumes move through the soils, posing a threat to sub-surface waters as well as surface waters. This type of failure would be difficult to both test for and certify.

Proper treatment failure is that the soil does not adequately treat the wastewater for nutrients such as nitrates. Again, it would be very difficult to test and certify an on-site system for this type of failure.

The combination of aging residential septic systems and inadequate soil quality has created a groundwater crisis in our region. The symptoms of failing septic systems are in widespread evidence


The SLRWD sanitary sewer system helps relieve a number of stressors on the environment. Because wastewater may contain high levels of the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus, excessive release to the environment can encourage the overgrowth of weeds and algae. Algal bloom is a rapid growth of algae that is unsustainable, causing most of the algae to die. The decomposition of the algae by bacteria uses up so much of the oxygen in the water that most or all of the  animal life dies, which in turn, creates more organic matter to be decomposed. Some algal species also produce toxins that contaminate drinking water supplies.

In addition, because centralized wastewater treatment facilities can be closely monitored, they provide control over how treated effluent is returned to the ground. Because the wastewater of thousands of homes and businesses is combined into just a few controlled points of discharge, state regulatory agencies, environmental groups and conservationists strongly prefer centralized sewer systems over the proliferation of many individual septic tanks.

The SLRWD sanitary sewer system offers significant benefits to homeowners, including:

  • Eliminates one source of possible contamination of the environment and drinking water
  • Provides a positive impact on property value & home inspections for selling or refinancing your home
  • Connecting to a municipal sanitary sewer system generally increases the usable property area for home additions, new homes or outbuildings
  • Eliminates the worry concerning the over use of the on-site septic system
  • Normal maintenance costs are included in the monthly charges

Angola Area Chamber of Commerce
National Rural Water Association
Indiana Regional Sewer District Association
Indiana Rural Water Alliance
Orland Chamber