United States
Environmental Protection
Case Studies of Individual and

Clustered (Decentralized) Wastewater

Management Programs
State and Community Management Approaches
                       U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
                           Office of Wastewater Management
                                         June 2012

Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies

 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acknowledges the many state and local officials who helped
 develop this report, especially those who shared information about their programs and provided photographs.
 EPA commends the case study sponsors highlighted in this report for developing site-specific approaches that
 enhance the management of individual and clustered (decentralized) wastewater treatment systems.

 For more information on decentralized wastewater systems or how to start a management program, visit EPA's
 Decentralized Wastewater Management website at The website
 contains information on treatment system technologies, links to partner organizations, a discussion forum on
 wastewater management issues, publications for homeowners, and guidance manuals, including additional
 resources that supplement this report. Electronic copies of this report can  also be downloaded from the EPA
 Decentralized Wastewater Management website.
   Cover photos courtesy of:
   Training system owners: Deschutes County Environmental Health Department, Oregon
   Installing a treatment system: Florida Department of Health
   Keuka Lake: Keuka Watershed Improvement District, New York
                                                                      Office of Wastewater Management

Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies

 Executive Summary	1
 Introduction	3
 What is in This Report	3
 Who Can Use This Report	4
 Community Management Programs	5
 Management Models	6
 Case Study Structure	9
 Management Model 1: Homeowner Awareness	10
     Jamestown, Rhode Island	12
     Fairfax County, Virginia	13
 Management Model 2: Maintenance Contract	14
     Albemarle Region, North Carolina	15
     Keuka Lake Watershed, New York	16
     Lake Panorama, Iowa	17
 Management Model 3: Operating Permits	18
     Hamilton County, Ohio	19
     Monroe County, Florida	20
     The Sea Ranch, California	21
     Auburn Lake Trails, California	23
 Management Model 4: Responsible Management Entity (RME) Operation and Maintenance 	25
     Otter Tail Lake, Minnesota	26
     Pena Blanca, New Mexico	27
 Management Model 5: RME Ownership	28
     Blacksburg, Virginia	30
     Phelps County, Missouri	31
     Shannon City, Iowa	32

 Appendix A: Glossary of Terms	33
 Appendix B: Management Program Elements and Activities 	36

 Table 1: Community Wastewater Issues	6
 Table 2: Decentralized Wastewater System Management Models for Use by Local Communities	7
 Table 3: Wastewater System Management Program Activities Supported by the Case Studies	10
                                                                     Office of Wastewater Management

Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
 Executive Summary

 More than one in five homes in the United States are served by individual or small, clustered wastewater
 systems, which collectively treat more than four billion gallons of sewage every day. Proper management of that
 vast, decentralized wastewater treatment infrastructure helps to protect drinking water sources and helps to keep
 our waters clean so that people can swim and fish in our streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans.

 EPA intends this document to serve as a resource for decision makers in rural, exurban, and suburban
 communities across the country who want to provide effective, efficient wastewater treatment. Local decision
 makers know the wastewater management challenges they face: 1) in existing developed areas with old,
 undersized, or malfunctioning septic systems; and 2) in newer developments that need high-performance
 treatment facilities to  protect groundwater and nearby lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands,  and coastal waters.

 This compendium of case studies illustrates how a few communities met—and bested—those challenges.
 Although the approaches varied considerably, the communities featured in this document assessed existing
 system performance, created new development requirements, and instituted management measures to ensure
 that all systems were operated and maintained appropriately. The communities considered a wide variety of
 treatment technologies, from simple septic systems  to advanced treatment clustered units, as noted in the
 examples in the following sections.

 The communities used a mix of public and private sector resources to identify which existing systems needed
 attention, what type of repair or replacement service was required, and how new development would be served.
 Local leaders also used new treatment technologies, such as  high-performance, clustered treatment facilities for
 areas with small lots and challenging site conditions (e.g., poor soils, steep slopes, high groundwater table). An
 added benefit for many communities was the opportunity to create green jobs while improving treatment system
 management and performance.

 The communities highlighted in this document differ in many ways, but they all followed a fairly simple process in
 crafting and implementing their wastewater management programs. This process, which any community can
 appropriately adopt, includes the following steps:

    • Conduct initial scoping and outreach—find out what and where the problems are, who is affected and
      interested, and what some of the potential solutions might be.
    • Analyze existing information and resources—identify existing and potential funding sources, collect data on
      water quality, identify existing treatment system locations and their operating condition, and project future
      development patterns; use this information to further refine treatment options given the local climate, soils,
      slopes, hydrology, water quality, and available resources.
                                                                         Office of Wastewater Management

Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
     •  Enhance the existing management program or develop a new one—sometimes improvements can be made by
       fine-tuning local regulatory practices and ordinances. Other cases may require new management entities.
     •  Implement the management program—keep in mind that adopting new ordinances, instituting user fees to pay
       for services, and starting a system inspection program require a great deal of support.

  EPA has provided additional detail on how to develop management programs for individual and clustered
  systems in the Handbook for Managing Onsite and Clustered (Decentralized) Wastewater Treatment Systems,
  which can be found at The website also provides other resources
  and tools.
             Non-gravel systems, like this one on a slope, account for half of the onsite systems installed in North Carolina.
                                                         Photo: Department of Natural Resources, North Carolina.
                                                                           Office of Wastewater Management

Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
   What do Otter Tail County, Minnesota, and Fairfax
   County, Virginia, have in common? These two
   communities, like many others across the country, are
   working at the local level to better manage some of
   the nation's 26 million individual wastewater systems.
   Elected officials and agency staff in these
   communities reviewed the problems posed by
   existing, malfunctioning systems, as well as the
   opportunities presented by proposed new
   developments outside the currently sewered area,
   and decided that action to protect water quality and
   public health required a different approach to
   wastewater management.

   Although each community—and each community
   wastewater management program—differs, certain
   commonalities exist which are illustrated in this report.
   In each case, communities identified problems and
   took deliberate action to deal with them. Both
   individuals and organizations collected assessment
   information  on system types and locations, water
   quality conditions, soils and slopes, the future and
   direction of growth, and other factors. Technicians
   inspected existing systems and organized the
   requisite repair/replacement work,  and wastewater
       I Community Program
       I State Program
  State and Local Decentralized Wastewater Case Studies

professionals partnered with planners to identify ways
to serve new development.

Elected officials and public agency staff can learn
from the experiences of Fairfax County, Otter Tail
County, and other communities highlighted in this
document. The case study examples on the following
pages briefly describe the approaches taken by each
community and contain contact information and
resources for more details.
   What is in This  Report

   This report builds on EPA's Voluntary National
   Management Guidelines for Onsite and Clustered
   (Decentralized) Wastewater Treatment Systems (see
   green box on page 4), and demonstrates how
   management programs can be crafted with existing
   resources. The case studies are grouped under Five
Management Models (see page 6) as outlined in the
guidelines. Note that management intensity or level of
activity increases proportionally with increases in risks
posed to public health and the environment, as well
as system numbers/densities, and treatment system
complexity (i.e., use of pumps, timers, float valves).
                                                                        Office of Wastewater Management

Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
   This document includes 14 community case studies.
   The case studies range from very basic to more
   advanced, reflecting the specific management needs
   of the community. The exact configuration of each
   management program varies based on available
   resources, the nature of the public health and water
   resource threat(s), and the creativity and  involvement
   of the regulatory agencies and stakeholders. A
   glossary of terms used in this document and
   throughout the decentralized wastewater field of
   practice is also included as an  appendix (See
   Appendix A).
  EPA's Voluntary National Guidelines for
  Management of Onsite and Clustered
  (Decentralized) Wastewater Treatment
  Systems (EPA 832-B-03-001, published in
  2003) was developed to provide guidance
  on improving the performance of individual
  and clustered wastewater systems. The
  guidelines contain Five Management
  Models (see section on Community
  Management Programs, and Table 2) that
  can be combined and tailored to meet
  specific program needs.
                                                     You can view the document at EPA's
                                                     Decentralized Wastewater website at
                                                     Table 2 summarizes the management
                                                     models and describes how local agencies
                                                     might apply them in areas with varying
                                                     environmental sensitivities (e.g., high-risk
                                                     potential for water contamination).
   Who Can  Use This Report
   Community planners, elected officials, health
   department staff, state officials, and interested
   citizens can use this document to explore what other
   communities are doing and can find examples that fit
   their own unique needs. No two communities are the
   same, but program managers can learn what works
   from each other, who is available to help, and where
   to find the necessary tools. In many cases, local
   communities have significant flexibility in developing
   and implementing wastewater management
   programs. The case studies contain examples of how
   some local programs responded to the need for
system inspections, pump-outs, and repairs/
replacements, among other services. In all the
presented cases, people made the difference.

Local Officials
The case studies in this report highlight the wide
range of management choices available to
communities with wastewater issues. The case
studies show how communities can modify EPA's
Five Management Models to meet local management
needs. Additionally, the case studies provide an
opportunity for peer-to-peer interaction and support
                                                                     Office of Wastewater Management

Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
   among local health and environmental officials via the
   contact information listed for each community. Each
   case study lists a point of contact that can answer
   questions and provide additional information about
   that particular community's program.

   Community Members
   Community members, including elected officials,
   planners, citizens, service providers, and
   practitioners, are important stakeholders in
   developing a wastewater management program.
   The many different system management approaches
   presented in this report can help community members
   solve local problems.

   State Officials
   State and tribal health and environmental agency
   officials can also use this report to enhance local
   capacity to manage or regulate individual and
   clustered wastewater systems. State Revolving Fund
   (SRF) program managers can also use this report to
                    Photo: University of Rhode Island.

educate loan applicants on the types of decentralized
wastewater management options used around the
country and encourage better management of
decentralized systems.
   Community Management Programs
   The case studies highlight approaches used by
   communities across the nation to manage individual
   and clustered wastewater systems. They are grouped
   under EPA's Five Management Models (see page 6)
   and describe how communities have crafted
   management programs using mostly existing staff,
   funding, and other resources. Readers may recognize
   elements of their own local situations in these case
   studies, which include examples from a variety of
   community types, locations, and environmental
Community Wastewater Issues
While the management programs presented in this
report differ, many common issues motivated each
one. Table 1 (see page 6) lists some of the
wastewater issues that prompted local action in the
14 communities. This chart can be used as a starting
point to help pinpoint case studies of interest.
                                                                     Office of Wastewater Management

Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
 Table 1: Community Wastewater Issues*
_ .. Inadequate, Poor soils, Population Risks to the Real/potential Real/potential
Community , ... .... ..... - ,., r ,. . A
. . ' poor, or no slopes, site growth in the environment/ surface water groundwater
case s u y treatment conditions project area public health contamination contamination
Fairfax County
Albemarle Region
Keuka Lake
Lake Panorama
Hamilton County
Monroe County
The Sea Ranch
Auburn Trails
Otter Tail Lake
Pena Blanca
Phelps County
Shannon City





















                                                        * As identified by the 14 case study communities, 2009.
   Management Models
   The Five Management Models developed by EPA
   describe system management approaches (see page
   7). In general, the approaches are flexible and range
   from local regulatory agency support for homeowner
operation/maintenance (e.g., through inventories and
service reminders) to more rigorous programs that
involve maintenance contracts, operating permits, and
system operation by trained professionals hired by a
responsible management entity.
                                                                         Office of Wastewater Management

Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
 Table 2: Decentralized Wastewater System Management Models for Use by Local Communities
Typical applications Program description Benefits Limitations
1. Homeowner Awareness: Local agency service reminders, educational information, and inventory
• Areas of low
environmental risk
• Systems sited and
constructed according to
prescribed criteria
• Maintenance reminders
• Inventory of all systems
• Ease of implementation
• Inventory of systems that is
useful for tracking and area-
wide planning
• No compliance tracking or
monitoring mechanism
• Limitations on advanced
treatment systems due to
operation and
maintenance (O&M)
2. Maintenance Contract: State/local requirements that certain systems be professionally managed
• Areas of low to moderate
environmental risk where
sites are marginally
suitable for individual
• Small clustered systems
• Use of advanced treatment
options and clustered
• Service contracts for
system O&M
• Tracking system for
services provided
• Inventory of all systems
• Previously unbuildable lots
can be served
• Prompt attention to
treatment system problems
• Lower risk of treatment
system malfunctions
• Higher level of expertise
and resources needed by
regulatory agencies and
system service providers
• Requires compliance
assurance mechanism
3. Operating Permit: Revocable/renewable state/local permit specifying operation/maintenance requirements
• Areas of moderate to high
environmental risk
• Systems treating high-
strength wastes, or cluster
• Renewable, revocable
system operating permits
• Performance and
monitoring requirements
• Regulatory agency directly
checks system operation
and performance through
permit issuance program
• Agency resource
requirements are
• Effluent monitoring can be
4. Responsible Management Entity (RME) Operation & Maintenance (O&M): Professional, third-party O&M
• Areas of moderate to high
environmental risk
• Clustered systems
• System operation,
performance monitoring,
and repair/replacement is
handled by a third party
• RME holds operating or
NPDES permit;
homeowner retains
• Same as #2 above, but
removes homeowner from
responsibility role
• Regulatory agency tracks
fewer system managers
• May require code changes
to allow RME to hold
operating or NPDES
• RME financial and
payment assurance
5. Responsible Management Entity (RME) Ownership: Ownership and O&M by third party entity
• Areas of greatest
environmental risk
• Same as #4 above, but
RME also owns system
• RME has full access to
system and all components
• Same as #4 above
   Table 2 describes the approaches used in the
   Management Models, including various methods for
   addressing the component parts of a management
   program structure. EPA's Guidelines for Management
   of Individual and Clustered (Decentralized)
Wastewater Treatment Systems identify 13 key
program elements (see Appendix B) that can
compose a management program (see http://
                                                                        Office of Wastewater Management

Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
   How to Ensure the Success of Your
   Management Program
   The case studies in the following sections offer
   examples of planning, implementing, and maintaining
   a wastewater management program. As stated
   previously, while the programs differ in their
   management approaches, each example addresses
   some common themes:

   1.  Spend time at the outset with stakeholders to
      understand the issues.
   In each of the  case studies, community leaders took
   the time to understand their communities' wastewater
   issues. Local officials worked closely with state
   agencies, service providers, planners, homeowners,
   and other stakeholders to collect data and information
   in order to identify issues and  management options.
   An important part of the process of setting up a
   management program is to understand key issues
   and provide stakeholders—citizens, system owners,
   service providers, and staff from sister agencies—with
   an opportunity to participate.

   2.  Research the applicable regulatory framework
      and legal authority to determine how to
      support a management program.
   Effective decentralized wastewater management
   programs derive their structure from appropriate legal
   authorities. In these case studies, local health
   departments and local governments used existing
   authorities or newly adopted powers to address
   wastewater management challenges posed by
   existing and new development. In some of the case
   studies, local health departments, authorized under
   state law, used their powers to implement
   management program measures. Other communities
   adopted new local ordinances to ensure authority for
   management in the face of public health or water
            Installation of an advanced treatment system.

resource threats. Communities can determine the
type of program allowed under existing statutes and
evaluate whether they need additional authority to
implement their desired program.

3.  Adopt a process that targets environmental
    risk and supports sustainable technologies.
A key action in each case study is matching the
wastewater treatment system(s) to site conditions,
such as soil, slopes, geology, and hydrology. For
example, clustered facilities that collect wastewater
from dozens—or even hundreds—of septic tanks can
be used to provide advanced treatment in areas with
small residential lots and environmentally sensitive
receiving waters. The case studies describe methods
used to sustain more complex technologies (e.g.,
those with timers, pumps, float switches), such as
more frequent inspections and  greater attention from
better-trained service professionals.
                                                                        Office of Wastewater Management

Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
   4.   Design a sustainable program.
   A long-term strategic plan to monitor and continually
   assess the performance of wastewater treatment
   systems will enable a community to more effectively
   meet its public health, resource protection, and other
   water quality goals. Water quality and  performance
   monitoring are common tools for determining the
   effectiveness of a management program and
   identifying additional issues and needs. Securing a
sustainable source of program funding is critical to the
success of a program. Communities may collect user
fees or secure loans and grants to create and sustain
management programs (see
infrastructure/septic for more information on funding
   Case Study  Structure

   The 14 case studies reflect each community's efforts
   to identify relevant public health or environmental
   threats, assess the local situation, set goals for
   system management, and  craft an appropriate
   wastewater management program. Each of the
   case studies includes the following:
    • An overview of the problem(s) facing the
    • The proposed system management solution
    • A general description of the program and its key
    • Funding sources
    • Results
    • Resources and contacts

   The program summaries offer a synopsis of the
   Five Management Models  reviewed in the previous
   section. Each program generally follows the
   Management Model descriptions provided in Table 2,
   on page 7. Table 3 (see page 10) identifies some of
   the common program activities featured in the case
                         Installing a treatment system.
                   Photo: Florida Department of Health.
                                                                        Office of Wastewater Management

Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
 Table 3: Wastewater System Management Program Activities Supported by the Case Studies
Fairfax County
Albemarle Region
Keuka Lake
Lake Panorama
Hamilton County
Monroe County
The Sea Ranch
Auburn Trails
Otter Tail Lake
Pena Blanca
Phelps County
Shannon City

















                                                                            Office of Wastewater Management      10

Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
   Management Model 1: Homeowner Awareness
   Management Model 1: Homeowner Awareness
   targets the maintenance of individual wastewater
   systems in jurisdictions with limited resources.
   Communities may want to select this model where
   systems pose a relatively low risk to public health and
   water resources—such as low-density development in
   upland areas away from surface waters, where soil
   moisture is low to moderate, groundwater tables are
   low, and slopes do  not exceed 15-25%.

   Elements of Management Model 1

   Management Model  1 includes  three principal

    • A system inventory and database to identify the
      location, type, and  condition of systems
    • Training and certification of design, installation,
      and operation/maintenance professionals
    • Regular maintenance and service attention
      reminders to encourage system management

   Focus on System Maintenance

   Management Model 1  programs promote appropriate
   system maintenance through  requirements,
   reminders, or provisions for periodic inspections
   by trained and certified maintenance providers.
   Management Model 1  programs typically consist of:

    • Local public agency permits for construction of
      new systems and system repair/replacement
    • A database containing  system locations, types, and
    • Inspection of systems, based on type and/or
    • A tracking system for residuals treatment, reuse, or
    • Permit compliance schedules issued by the
      regulatory agency to ensure remediation of
      identified problems
    • Maintenance reminders for inspections, pump-outs,
      and other maintenance activities
  Program Characteristics

     • Easy to implement, low administrative

     • Wastewater data and information available
       for use in local and regional planning

     • No additional compliance mechanisms
       beyond conventional public health and
       nuisance powers

     • Limited ability to review, inspect, and
       regulate complex advanced treatment

     • Largely dependent on homeowners
       for operation and maintenance (O&M)
       of systems
Two Case Studies
Many homeowner awareness programs are operating
across the country. The most successful ones not only
involve homeowners, but also support the homeowner in
conducting maintenance (e.g., checking septic tank sludge
levels). This section reviews two such programs:

 • Jamestown, Rhode Island
 • Fairfax County, Virginia
                                 Fairfax, Virginia
                                 requires all new
                                   and repaired
                              systems to install a
                                  flow diversion
                              valve, like this one
                                pictured, to allow
                                 the drainfield to
                                dry out and avoid
                                                                      Office of Wastewater Management

  Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
   Jamestown is a small, island town dependent on private drinking water wells and
   individual wastewater systems. Poorly maintained onsite wastewater systems on
   undersized lots with high seasonal water tables were affecting groundwater quality.
   Studies revealed that 32% of the wastewater treatment systems in the area were
   contributing to nutrient and pathogen problems in private water wells (Legislative
   Press and Public Information Bureau, 2006).

   Jamestown adopted an ordinance requiring routine inspections of individual
   wastewater systems. A High Groundwater Table District also guides future
   development to protect drinking water quality.
                                                                                     Town of Jamestown
                                                                                     44 Southwest Avenue
                                                                                     Jamestown, Rl 02835
                                                                                     Justin Jobin
                                                                                     p: (401)423-7193
  Est. Population: 5,400
                 Jamestown is located
                 on a small island
                 situated in the middle
                 of Narragansett Bay
                 in Rhode Island. It is
                 approximately nine
                 miles long and one mile
wide. In 2001, Jamestown passed an
ordinance to better accommodate growth
and manage individual wastewater systems
to protect its fresh water supplies. The
program consists of:

  •    Routine inspections
  •    Maintenance reminders
  •   Web-based system database
  •   Siting and installation rules
  •    Designation of a High Groundwater
     Table District

Jamestown's program provides a framework
for the  inspection, maintenance, and repair
of individual wastewater systems. The town
conducted an initial round  of inspections in
2003 aimed at identifying and evaluating the
condition of 1,608 individual systems.
Jamestown then began a routine
maintenance inspection program in 2006
under which systems are inspected every
three or five years based on size, type of
system, and water use. Inspectors record
the inspection information in the town's
web-based database. The town has the
authority to pump tanks at the owner's
expense and,  if necessary,  can place liens
on property for failure to reimburse the
town for the pump-out.

Jamestown adopted a High Groundwater
Overlay Zone  and Impervious Layer District
Ordinance in 2003. The ordinance applies to
designated areas in the town that have
substandard-sized lots served by private
wells. Provisions of the ordinance include a
total impervious surface  area limit of 15%
(calculated for individual lots and excluding
wetlands), a requirement to control  runoff
volume—using low-impact techniques—to
maintain predevelopment infiltration for a 25
-year storm, and a mandate to use
advanced wastewater treatment
technologies capable of 50% nitrogen

Jamestown's program is funded through an
annual user fee of $30 paid by system
                                                                                  owners. The fee funds the town's part-time
                                                                                  wastewater management specialist.
  •    To date, 94% of all septic systems
      have had an initial maintenance
  •    Of the systems inspected:
      - 35 failed (2%)
      - 85 (5%) were found to be
       substandard systems (e.g.,
       cesspools, systems with steel
      -1,488 passed (93%)
  •    Since 2003, 50 systems have been
      subject to repair/replacement
      actions initiated by the town.

Property owners are responsible for
ensuring that their system is operating
properly and that it is maintained in
good repair. Systems that do not meet
applicable performance requirements can
be subject to a repair or replacement order.
Addressing  malfunctioning systems helps
to reduce nitrogen and pathogen pollution
that pose threats to Jamestown's drinking
water sources.
References and Resources
Jamestown Source Water Assessment and Wastewater Needs Analysis. University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension.
    James_Chapters%203,4.pdf. Accessed August 9, 2010.
Legislative Press and Public Information Bureau. 2006. Senate passes Paiva Weed bill stemming from Jamestown well contamination. State of Rhode Island, General Assembly. Providence, Rl.
Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. 2008. Rules Establishing Minimum Standards Relating to Location, Design, Construction, and Maintenance of Onsite Wastewater Treatment
    Systems. Town of Jamestown. High Groundwater Ordinance, plan/hgwt.html. Accessed March 31, 2010.
Population data—Town of Jamestown, Rhode Island,
                                                                                  Office of Wastewater Management

  Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
   During the past three decades, the population of Fairfax County has grown to more
   than one million people. With sanitary sewers at or near capacity, the number of
   individual wastewater systems began to multiply, eventually rising to more than
   24,000. Inappropriately sited, improperly designed, and/or poorly managed
   individual systems have the potential to contribute to the pollution and degradation
   of the county's 900 miles of perennial and  intermittent streams and  a number of
   freshwater lakes and ponds.

   Fairfax County adopted an ordinance requiring routine pumping of septic tanks
   every five years and alternating drainfields and drainfield reserve areas to ensure
   system performance.
                                                                                      Onsite Sewage and Water
                                                                                      Division of Environmental Health
                                                                                      Fairfax County Health Department
                                                                                      10777 Main Street
                                                                                      Fairfax, VA 22030
                                                                                      John Milgrim
                                                                                      p: (703) 246-8457
     Est. Population: 1,101,000
                       Fairfax County's
                       program has
evolved since the first measures to improve
onsite treatment were enacted in 1928. The
program now includes:

  •   A treatment system inventory
      and database
  •   Requirements for alternating
      drainfields and reserve areas
  •   Tank pump-outs at least once
      every five years, and pump-out
      manifests provided to the county
      health department

The Fairfax County Health Department
issues permits and provides  inspections and
evaluations for new and existing individual
wastewater system repairs and expansions.
All new and repaired systems are  designed
with a flow diversion valve to allow portions
of the drainfield to dry out; this improves
treatment and avoids soil saturation
problems.  A suitable reserve area is
required in the event that the system needs
to be repaired or replaced.
An ordinance specifies that septic tanks
must be pumped every five years. The
service provider and the system owner
both provide copies of the pump-out
manifests to the county health department
which tracks maintenance. The information
is maintained in a database and is used to
track compliance with the local ordinance.
The database generates  five-year pump-out
reminder notices that the Health Department
mails to system owners. The health
department also offers $200 individual
system inspections if required by a
mortgage lender at the time of property

Fairfax County sustains its annual $1.5
million onsite program through user fees
and dedicated funds. The fees cover
approximately 30% of the program costs.
The remainder is financed through
dedicated state and local funds.
A recent study found that the average
malfunction rate for systems in the county
was only 2.1% of the 15,401 systems
reviewed. In addition, many systems thought
to have outlived their life expectancy are still
functioning satisfactorily.

The creation of a database for system
inventory has allowed the county to track
septic tank pump-outs and  categorize all
systems according to system type, greatly
assisting the enforcement of existing codes
and regulations. The use of alternating
drainfields has increased the average
lifespan of sewage disposal systems.

The five-year pump-out requirement has
resulted in better maintained systems and
the identification of system  malfunctions that
would otherwise go undetected. As a result
of these measures, fewer owners are facing
costly major repairs or system

Through its program, Fairfax County now
better understands and  manages its many
onsite systems even in light of a fast-
growing population.
References and Resources
Fairfax County Stream Quality Assessment Program,
Fairfax County, Virginia. 2008. Environmental Improvement Program (El P) Section E: Fact Sheets. Fiscal Year 2010.
Hill, D. 1999. Onsite Waste Management—A Case Study, Fairfax, Virginia,
The National Onsite Demonstration Program (NODP). Phase 4 Final Report,
Population data—Census Bureau, State and County QuickFacts, Fairfax County, 2011.
                                                                                   Office of Wastewater Management

Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
   Management Model 2: Maintenance  Contract
   Management Model 2: Maintenance Contract
   targets areas at higher risk of environmental
   degradation due to higher system densities, more
   complex treatment technology maintenance, or other
   factors. Local authorities establish site evaluation
   criteria, identify appropriate treatment technologies,
   and require that certain systems (e.g., electro-
   mechanical, advanced treatment, disinfection) submit
   to ongoing and regularly scheduled operation and
   maintenance efforts via contracts with approved
   service professionals.

   Elements of Management Model 2
   Management Model 2 includes three key elements:
    •  Minimum performance criteria for all approved
       systems and components
    •  Maintenance contracts for clustered systems and
       advanced individual systems
    •  Responsibility for system maintenance with service
       professionals trained and certified by the
       appropriate regulatory agency, and in accordance
       with relevant O&M procedures, standards, or

   Focus on Maintenance Contracts
   Management Model 2 promotes proper performance
   of advanced and clustered systems through the use
   of required maintenance contracts. Management
   Model 2 programs typically consist of:
    •  A certified and licensed contractor inspects and
       maintains the system as appropriate given the type,
       size, and location
    •  System owners must submit a copy of the system
       O&M manual or standards of practice after
       installation to the regulatory authority, enter into an
       ongoing maintenance contract with a certified
       service provider, and submit a signed report
       directly to the regulatory agency after each
       inspection or service event
   Program Characteristics
     • Problems identified quickly in order to
       lower risk of malfunctions
     • Systems have longer life spans and better
       overall performance
     • Homeowner or service provider maintains
       contract and reports issues to regulatory
     • Regulatory agency develops a procedure
       to track current and delinquent contracts
     • Regulatory agency may have limited
       authority to remedy problems and assure
    The program uses databases to track maintenance
    contract status, services provided, and overall
    system compliance
Case Studies
The most effective Management Model 2 programs
employ mechanisms to ensure that maintenance
contracts are kept current and implemented properly.
This section reviews three of these programs:
 • Albemarle, North Carolina
 • Keuka Lake, New York
 • Lake Panorama, Iowa
                                                                       Office of Wastewater Management

  Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
   Rivers and streams of the Albemarle Region of North Carolina are nutrient-
   sensitive and require nutrient input controls such as upgrades for wastewater
   treatment plants and septic systems. Both strategies are being pursued by state
   and local officials. Much of the area is unsuitable for conventional gravity-flow
   individual systems due to low-permeability clay soils and high water tables.
   In past decades, these limitations prompted the extensive use of sand-lined
   trench leaching systems in the region. A 1991 study found that 30% of
   those systems were malfunctioning and posing risks to groundwater and
   surface water quality.

   Local governments authorized a regional management entity to inventory and
   monitor individual wastewater systems, improve system management, and
   develop site-specific design criteria for new and replacement systems
   incorporating advanced treatment technologies.
                                           Albemarle Environmental Health
                                           P.O. Box 1899
                                           Elizabeth City, NC 27909
                                           Ralph Hollowell, Director
                                           p: (252) 338-4490
water quality risks, and the explosive growth
experienced in the Albemarle Region
prompted 11 North Carolina counties to form
the Albemarle Septic Management Entity
(ASME) in 1993. ASME has instituted a
management program that consists of:

    •  Routine inspections

    •  Use of advanced treatment system
      designs for difficult site conditions

    •  Maintenance contract requirements
      and reminders
    •  Operating permit requirements
      for advanced units
    •  Alternating drainfields and
      reserve areas

ASME oversees individual and clustered
systems in  an 11-county area. ASME
requires owners of all advanced and
innovative systems to enter into inspection
and maintenance agreements with the
program. In addition, ASME requires that all
repaired or replaced systems be included in
the system management service area.

ASME works with low-income system
owners to identify grant and low-interest
loan funding to address repairs and
replacements for problem systems using
a combination of Community  Development
Block Grants, the North Carolina Clean
Water Trust, and other sources.

ASME inspects systems in its jurisdiction
at least annually. The system owner must
complete all repair and maintenance
activities. If an owner fails to make repairs,
ASME is authorized to make the needed
repairs and bill the owner and, if needed,
place a lien on the property until payment
is secured.

ASME allows the use of advanced pressure-
dosed systems, which incorporate fixed
aerobic film and/or suspended growth
pretreatment followed by soil  absorption.
Advanced systems require an operating
permit. The local health department issues
operating permits in accordance with state
and local rules.
The annual budget for the ASME
wastewater program is $290,000. The
program is sustained through its $300 per
home permit fees, annual $50 system
inspection fees, and county funds.
Local officials note that the management
entity has prevented system malfunctions
through more rigorous design, inspection,
and operation/maintenance requirements.  In
the early 1990s, estimates of system
malfunctions ranged as high as 30%. During
2007-2008, the program inspected 2,153 of
the 4,240 systems under its management
purview, and fewer than five of the newly
installed systems were found to be

New system installations and increasing the
number of properly functioning systems
through inspections will help to reduce
nutrient pollution in the Albemarle
References and Resources
Hollowell, R. 2001. The Public Management Entity Program: Albemarle Regional Health Service. 2001 National Onsite Wastewater Recyclers Association Meeting,
    Preconference Workshop; Virginia Beach, VA.
Hughes J., and Simonson, A. 2005. Government Financing for Onsite Wastewater Treatment Facilities in North Carolina,
                                                                                Office of Wastewater Management

  Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
   Approximately 20,000 residents in the Keuka Lake watershed rely on groundwater
   and the lake for their drinking water. Nearly all of the residents in the watershed
   also depend on  individual wastewater systems that are densely positioned and that
   discharge to the soil for treatment. However, testing revealed that poorly
   maintained individual onsite systems were contributing excessive levels of bacteria
   to the lake and contaminating drinking water wells.

   Eight municipalities formed a regional watershed cooperative that implemented a
   uniform permitting and inspection program to identify and repair or replace
   malfunctioning treatment systems. As a result, Keuka Lake's water quality ranks
   among the highest of the water bodies in the  Finger Lakes region.
                                           Keuka Watershed Improvement
                                           1 Keuka Business Park
                                           Penn Yan, NY 14527
                                           Paul Bauter, KWIC Manager
                                           p: (315) 536-0917
                       In 1994, eight
                       Milo, Penn Yan,
                       Pulteney, Urbana,
                       and Wayne—
 bordering Keuka Lake formed the Keuka
 Watershed Improvement Cooperative
 (KWIC) to better manage individual and
 decentralized wastewater systems in the
 region. KWIC has instituted a  management
 program that consists of:

  •   Uniform regional ordinances
  •   System inspection requirements
      based on health and environmental
      risk factors
  •   Maintenance contract requirements
      for mechanized units
  •   Operating permit requirements for
      new or modified systems

 Municipalities participating in the KWIC
 program  must adopt a uniform wastewater
management ordinance and hire a
coordinator to inspect treatment systems in
their communities. All 3,000 wastewater
systems within 200 feet of Keuka Lake or its
tributaries are inspected at least  once every
five years.  Inspection reports are filed with
KWIC. Aerobic and advanced treatment
systems are inspected annually,  at which
time the system owner must show evidence
of an active maintenance contract. Systems
are also inspected when property is sold.

The regional ordinances require a KWIC
operating permit for all new or modified
individual wastewater systems. A system
that is malfunctioning must be repaired to
meet specific performance requirements.
Additionally, KWIC could require the system
owner to upgrade or replace the
malfunctioning system using the  best
available technology.

KWIC utilizes a computerized database to
track inspections and system compliance.
KWIC reviews lake water quality information
and evaluates the performance of advanced
systems. KWIC's enforcement authority
includes fines and compliance timetables in
addition to  corrective actions.
The KWIC program is financed by permit
fees and dedicated funds from each
municipality's budget. The program's annual
budget is $70,000.
Water quality monitoring results indicate
very good lake conditions, though runoff
from stormwater and agricultural sources
after storm events can result in high bacteria
levels. The relatively clear water in the lake
contains low nutrient levels and supports
excellent fisheries. Monitoring results from
2005-2009 show lake water quality
improving or holding steady for nearly all
parameters. The local lake association
attributes this progress, in part, to the septic
system inspection program.
References and Resources
Keuka Lake Association. 2001. Phase II, Keuka Lake Sewage Study,
Landre, P. 1995. The creation of Keuka Lake's Cooperative Watershed Program. Clearwaters Magazine, Summer 1995, 28-30.
Smith, J.C. 1995. Protecting and Improving the Waters of Keuka Lake. Clearwaters Magazine, Summer 1995, 32-33.
Population data—Keuka Lake Association,
                                                                                Office of Wastewater Management

  Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
   Residential growth is a challenge in unsewered resort communities like Lake
   Panorama, Iowa, due to the need to protect lake water quality from septic system
   impacts. Lake Panorama is one of the largest private lake resort communities in
   Iowa. Installing conventional, soil-discharging wastewater systems is difficult in  this
   community because of steep slopes, ravines, low-permeability soils, and small and
   oddly shaped lots.

   The community created a management district to accommodate growth and protect
   water resources through the use of advanced, clustered, and innovative onsite
   wastewater treatment systems.
                                             Guthrie County Health Department
                                             200 North 5th Street
                                             Guthrie Center, IA50115
                                             Stephen Patterson
                                             p: (641) 747-8320
                                             e: envhlth(S)
                   In 1980, the Lake
                   Panorama Association
                   and the Guthrie County
                   Board of Health worked
                   together to create the
                   Lake Panorama Onsite
Wastewater Management District. A county
ordinance authorized the district's formation,
which operates under the supervision of the
Guthrie County Health Department. The
program consists of:

  •   Routine inspection requirements
      for treatment systems
  •   Maintenance contract requirements
      and service reminders sent from
      the management district
  •   Licensing requirements for system
      inspectors and septic tank
  •   System inventories to track
      installations, repairs, and

The Lake Panorama Onsite Wastewater
Management District manages  six clustered
systems, 17 sand filter facilities, 25 aeration
units, 25 aeration/drip dispersal systems,
one mound unit, and one gray water
collection/treatment system.

Inspections are authorized through the
homeowners' association  and performed by
the county sanitarian. Individual systems are
inspected every three years for full-time
residents and every six years for part-time

Maintenance contracts with manufacturer-
certified technicians are required for
mechanical aerobic systems.  Inspections
are conducted quarterly for those systems,
and reports are filed with the county.
Owners are responsible for system
maintenance, including pumping and
repairs. The district has the authority to
request that the homeowners' association
terminate water service for owners with
noncompliant systems.

Guthrie County Health Department funds
the program through the collection  of annual
fees. The annual fee for conventional
system owners ranges from $5 to $10, plus
any repair or pumping costs. The fee for
permitting a system is $225, and the
inspection fee is $30. Tank pumping
averages $225. Cluster system users are
billed at a rate of $50 a year.
The management programs for Lake
Panorama have likely provided  ongoing
protection for Lake Panorama as indicated
by water quality monitoring results. Bacteria
concentrations at the Lake Panorama outlet
are lower than that of other reaches of the
Raccoon River system. Over the past few
years, the district has logged only one
aeration treatment unit malfunction annually,
out of more than 1,000 homes on line.
Additionally, system costs—though a bit
higher initially—are lower than previous
totals overall, as costs focus more on
routine maintenance than replacement of
malfunctioning systems.

The communities of Lake Panorama now
better understand their onsite systems and
can manage these systems appropriately to
accommodate growth in the area.
References and Resources
Mancl, K. 2000. National Onsite Demonstration Program Case Study Report: Lake Panorama, Panorama, Iowa. Prepared for the National Onsite Demonstration Program,
    West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV.
Mancl, K. 2001. Onsite Wastewater Management: A Model for Success. In Proceedings of the 9th National Symposium for Individual and Small Community Sewage Systems,
    American Association of Agricultural Engineers, St. Joseph, Ml. March 11-14, Fort Worth, TX.
Mancl, K., and Patterson, S. 2001. Twenty Years of Success in Septic System Management. In Proceedings of the 9th National Symposium for Individual and Small Community
    Sewage Systems, American Association of Agricultural Engineers, St. Joseph, Ml. March 11-14, Forth Worth TX.
Population data—Lake Panorama Association,
                                                                                   Office of Wastewater Management

Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
   Management Model 3:  Operating Permits
   Management Model 3: Operating Permits is
   recommended for situations in which the ability to
   verify system performance is critical to protect public
   health and water quality. Management Model 3
   includes regular review of system operation and
   performance by a regulatory agency and is
   appropriate for areas of moderate to high
   environmental risk.
   Program Characteristics
      • Design based on performance objectives
        rather than standard system types
      • Sustained resources and technical ex-
        pertise needed to implement an effective
        permitting program
   Elements of Management Model 3
   Management Model 3 includes three key elements:
    • Renewable or revocable operating permits issued
      to the system owner
    • Specific and measurable performance criteria and
      regular submission of compliance reports
    • An inventory and tracking system for system
      permits and inspection/compliance reports

   Focus on System Performance and
   Licensed Inspectors
   Because of the focus on  performance criteria, this
   management model allows the use of individual or
   clustered systems at sites with a greater range of site
   characteristics. Systems must meet performance
   criteria established to protect public health and water
   quality resources for the  receiving waters (i.e.,
   groundwater or surface waters).

   Management Model 3 programs typically consist of:
    • Operating  permits for continuous oversight of
      system performance
    • Inspections by licensed inspectors usually required
      before permit renewal
    • Permits that are valid for a specified period (e.g.,
      three to five years), as determined by the regulatory
      entity based on performance (determined via
      effluent samples), surface water quality, or
      compliance with specific operational parameters
Case Studies
Effective Management Model 3 programs often
reward good system performance with extended
permit renewal terms while requiring shorter permits
and more frequent inspections for owners with poorly
performing systems. This section reviews four such
 •  Hamilton County, Ohio
 •  Monroe County, Florida
 •  The Sea Ranch, California
 •  Auburn Lake Trails, California
          Sand filter systems, like this one being installed
           in Hamilton County, use sand to treat effluent.
       The effluent from the sand filter is then discharged,
           in pressurized doses, to a soil absorption bed.
                                                                       Office of Wastewater Management

  Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
   Potential public health threats posed by bacteria and viruses in surface waters
   prompted the Hamilton County Board of Health to investigate some 10,000
   mechanized onsite wastewater systems. The inspections revealed that 3,400
   (34%) of the systems—mostly serving individual homes—were substandard or

   The Hamilton County General Health District upgraded its onsite wastewater
   program to include operating permits and routine inspection requirements to
   maintain system performance.
                                            Hamilton County General
                                            Health District
                                            250 William Howard Taft
                                            Cincinnati, OH 45219
                                            Christopher Griffith,
                                            Director Water Quality
                                            p: (513)946-7866
                   In 1993, the Hamilton
                   County Board of Health
                   adopted more stringent
                   rules to better manage
                   an estimated 20,000
                   individual wastewater
 systems, half of which were aeration units
 discharging to soil absorption fields  or
 surface waters. The board has since
 adopted additional changes to its program,
 which now consists of the following:

  •   Routine inspections for treatment
  •   Renewable operating permit
  •   Maintenance contract requirements
  •   An integrated database and
      geographic information system
      (GIS) used to track system location
      and  condition

 The Hamilton County General Health District
 approves plans, issues permits, and
 conducts inspections for all individual and
 small flow treatment systems (with the
 exception of the cities of Cincinnati,
 Norwood, Springdale, and Sharonville).
Individual systems are inspected every five
years, while mechanical systems, such as
mounds, dosed leach lines, and aerobic
treatment units, are inspected once per
year. The Health  District issues one-year or
five-year renewable operating permits based
on the system's complexity. The county is
authorized to revoke permits for
noncompliance; penalties include injunction,
criminal prosecution, or other measures if
required corrective actions are not taken.
Owners of mechanical systems are required
to have annual maintenance, monitoring,
and service contracts.  Maintenance
providers must be registered, bonded, and
must meet specific training requirements.

Hamilton County  developed an integrated
GIS database to track the location and
condition of individual and clustered
systems. The county also uses the database
to compare any waterborne disease
outbreaks with the latest system inspection
surveys and collector line sampling results.

The county's 2008 decentralized  wastewater
program budget was $1.24 million, funded
by $850,000 in user fees and $390,000 from
the Hamilton County Storm Water District.
Fees include $40 for inspecting mechanical
systems and $85 for inspecting
conventional, gravity-flow, individual
systems. Legislation authorizing property
liens has helped to eliminate delinquent
inspection fees.
The program has identified and required the
repair/replacement of thousands of
noncompliant systems, many of which were
discharging poorly treated sewage to area
streams or directly to the ground surface.
Since its inception, more than 2,300
malfunctioning  systems have been  replaced
and over 32,000 system repairs have been

Studies  conducted in 2000 and 2001  found
a 54% improvement in suspended solids, a
36% improvement in biochemical oxygen
demand, and a 60% improvement in fecal
coliform over baseline data collected  five
years earlier.

In addition, mechanical system malfunctions
dropped from a high of 44% to a consistent
and predictable rate  of around 18%. Non-
mechanical system malfunctions were over
23% in 2003 and have currently dropped to
2.6%. Onsite sewage treatment system
nuisance complaints dropped from 371  in
2003 to  258 in 2009.
References and Resources
McKenzie, M.C. Hamilton County Ohio: An Onsite Wastewater Management Success Story. Small Flows, Vol. 12, No. 4, Fall 1998.
Ingram, T. 1999. Onsite Wastewater Management - An Integrated Approach to Improving Water Quality and Preventing Disease. Journal of Environmental Health, Vol. 62, 1999.
Sweeney, M., Quinn, T., Quinn, B., and Allen, R. 1998. GIS Involving the Community: The Hamilton County Environmental Priorities Project. ESRI Annual Conference, 1998.
    Nbrary/userconf/proc98/proceed/TO550/PAP510/P510.HTM. Accessed March 31, 2010.
Population data—Census Bureau, State and County QuickFacts, Hamilton County, 2011.
                                                                                   Office of Wastewater Management

  Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
   Monroe County, Florida, is home to the Florida Keys and a complex and dynamic
   marine ecosystem—including the world's third-largest coral reef. The county is also
   home to 30,000 individual wastewater systems that may contribute to excessive
   nutrients in near shore and offshore waters, leading to the deterioration of the reef
   and marine resources. Additionally, more stringent wastewater treatment standards
   adopted by the state also created challenges for conventional onsite systems.

   A state wastewater treatment standards law targeting Monroe County now requires
   the countywide use of advanced nutrient reduction systems, renewable operating
   permits, maintenance contracts, and annual inspections.
                                           Monroe County Health Department
                                           333 Oversees Highway
                                           Marathon, FL 33050
                                           Bobbi Sleighter, Administrator
                                           p: (305) 289-2724
                        Protecting the
          ^            health of coastal
                        waters and
                        marine habitats is
              \         paramount to the
            Monroe County
                        economy, health,
    Est. Population: 74,000        3 n d q U 31 ity Of I if 6.
                        In 1999,  Florida
 adopted more stringent treatment standards
 for wastewater systems in Monroe County

  •   Renewable operating permit
  •   Routine treatment system
      inspection requirements
  •   Homeowner requirement to enter
      into a contract with an O&M entity
  •   System inventory, maintenance
      contract requirements, and delivery
      of service reminders

 Regulations enacted by the Florida
 Department of Health's Bureau of Onsite
 Sewage Programs and implemented by the
 county health department set effluent
 standards, dispersal requirements,  and
 associated compliance schedules for
 existing and new individual/clustered
 systems in Monroe County. All systems are
now required to use advanced treatment
technologies to meet stricter wastewater
treatment standards for nutrients. New
systems in the Florida Keys must be
designed to achieve an effluent limit of 10
milligrams per liter (mg/L) or less for
nitrogen. Systems are regulated by the
county through the use of renewable
operating permits, required maintenance
contracts, and annual inspections.

System owners must renew a one-year
operating permit annually at a cost of $100.
The health department also issues
construction permits for new systems and
repair permits for existing systems.

Individual treatment system owners must
enter into contracts with a maintenance
entity to oversee the system's operation.
System owners must renew the
maintenance contract each year for the life
of the system. Maintenance entities are
registered  contractors certified by the
product manufacturer to conduct
maintenance services. The maintenance
entity submits inspection reports and
sampling results to the state as specified in
the operating  permit.

Maintenance contractors inspect permitted
systems at least semiannually, and the
county health department inspects the
systems annually. The county health
department maintains system data in a
statewide, web-based database that tracks
all permits and inspections.

The Monroe County program has eight full-
time employees and an annual budget of
$330,000. The program is funded through a
statewide trust fund supported by fees
collected from permits and contractor
licensing. Since 1999, the local
governments in Monroe County have
received nearly $50 million in federal and
state funds to improve wastewater treatment
at the nearly 50,000 residences in the
Florida Keys region.

Currently, 3,065 individual wastewater
treatment systems have been permitted,
including 327 advanced treatment units.
Florida Department of Health effluent limits
for new systems discharging less than
100,000 gallons per day to the soil-
including individual and clustered systems—
include 10 mg/L for biochemical oxygen
demand, total suspended solids, and total
nitrogen, and 1 mg/L for total phosphorus,
representing greater than 75% reductions
over conventional septic systems. Effluent is
sampled prior to soil discharge.
References and Resources
Sherman, K.M., Chase, P.K., and Ebelherr, D. 2003. Implementation of Model Programs 3 and 4 of the USEPA Voluntary Management Guidelines in the state of Florida.
    National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association Annual Conference, Franklin, TN.
Population data—Census Bureau, State and County QuickFacts, Monroe County, 2011.
                                                                                  Office of Wastewater Management

  Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
  Just a two-hour drive from San Francisco, The Sea Ranch community extends 10
  miles along the northern California coastline. Built in the 1960s and 1970s, many of
  the homes relied on individual wastewater systems. Half of the homes were built in
  areas susceptible to high groundwater, with coastal meadows and terrace soils
  causing wastewater system malfunctions. Aging infrastructure, challenging
  conditions, and poor system maintenance in the upscale resort community posed a
  threat to local and coastal waterways. As a  result, a moratorium was placed on
  future development in the community.

  Sonoma County, the California Water Resources Control Board, and The Sea
  Ranch community reached an agreement to improve performance and track
  compliance of new and existing wastewater systems by forming a wastewater
  management zone. The moratorium was lifted after the solutions were
 The Sea Ranch
                 The residents of The
                 Sea Ranch are served
                 by a combination of
    \           clustered and individual
                 wastewater systems.
                 Of the 2,300 platted lots,
 Est. population: 1,300  !   approximately 1,500
                 have homes with
individual systems and about 600 are on two
large clustered systems. Treated effluent
from the clustered systems is used to
irrigate golf courses and other areas. In
1987,  Sonoma County authorized The Sea
Ranch Association  Onsite Wastewater
Disposal Zone (the Zone) to operate the
individual and clustered system
management program. The program
consists of:

 •    Operating permit  requirements and
      performance standards
 •    Routine inspection requirements
 •    Maintenance contract requirements
 •    Establishment of  an enforcement
 •    Maintenance of inventory and
      record keeping
 •    Surface and groundwater quality
The Zone inspects conventional and
advanced systems to ensure compliance
with permits and performance standards.
The Zone conducts inspections of
conventional septic systems every three
years. Inspections of advanced designs—
including mounds, sand filters, and pressure
distribution dispersal units—are conducted
annually and include monitoring for nitrates,
ammonia, and fecal/total coliform. The Zone
sends system owners an inspection notice
one month before the inspection date.

Homeowners are responsible for obtaining
permits from the Zone and installing and
repairing systems as required under county
regulations. Inspectors from the Zone
conduct regular system inspections using an
online template tailored for this use. The
Zone issues a renewable operating permit
for advanced systems and holds the system
owner accountable for proper operation and
performance. If the system is operating
properly and does not require preventive
maintenance or repairs, the Zone issues a
renewable, three-year operating permit. If
the system functions but is not operating
optimally, the Zone issues a one-year
operating permit and monitors the system
performance. Performance indicators
                                           The Sea Ranch
                                           P.O. Box 16
                                           Sea Ranch, CA 95497
                                           Randy Burke, Director of Works
                                           p: (707)785-2411
                                                                                      Photo: Sea Ranch Water Company.

                                                                               include standard hydraulic parameters (no
                                                                               backups, no sewage surfacing), as well as
                                                                               wet and dry weather groundwater and
                                                                               surface water monitoring in the vicinity of
                                                                               some drainfields. Monitoring parameters
                                                                               include biochemical oxygen demand,
                                                                               bacteria, some metals, and total suspended
                                                                               solids. If the system has structural integrity
                                                                               problems or leachfield malfunctions, the
                                                                               owner must obtain a sewage disposal repair
                                                                               permit from the Zone. If the owner does not
                                                                               repair the system in a timely manner, the
                                                                               county can attach a notice to the land
                                                                               records or revoke the building's certificate of
                                                                               occupancy. Moreover, the Zone is
                                                                               authorized to revoke an operating permit at
                                                                               any time for noncompliance. In these cases,
                                                                               Office of Wastewater Management

  Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
 the Zone can compel the repair or
 replacement of a wastewater system under
 county rules. The Zone also operates the
 potable water supply system and can
 suspend water  service if its requirements
 are not met.

 The annual budget of the wastewater
 management program  is $250,000 as
 approved by the Sonoma County Board  of
 Supervisors. The budget is funded through
 an annual, per-system fee of $180.
Surface and groundwater monitoring results
have found no evidence of groundwater
pollution associated with the hundreds of
individual systems and two clustered
wastewater systems in The Sea Ranch
community. System malfunctions, such as
the sewage surfacing and groundwater
contamination that spurred the creation of
the program no longer pose a significant
threat due to routine operation,
maintenance, and management
References and Resources
Hantzsche, N., Moore, R.A., and Smiell, J. No date. Data Management System for Onsite Wastewater Inspection Program at The Sea Ranch, California. National Onsite Demonstration Program,
    West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV.
The Sea Ranch Association. 2004. Onsite Wastewater Disposal Zone Homeowner's Guide. The Sea Ranch Association, Sea Ranch, CA.
Population data—derived from Census Bureau, The Sea Ranch, 2010. and
                                                                                         Office of Wastewater Management

  Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
   The Auburn Lake Trails Subdivision in California was developed during the 1970s
   and 1980s as a recreational community near Auburn Lake, with more than a 1,000
   relatively small lots in an area with shallow, low-permeability soils and steep
   topography. When developers discovered that local soils could not treat the waste
   adequately to protect water resources upon full build-out, they proposed building a
   centralized sewage collection and treatment system. However, it was opposed by
   residents as too costly.

   The community authorized the Georgetown Divide Public Utility District (PUD) to
   design and manage conventional and advanced treatment individual and clustered
   wastewater systems. The PUD developed an  approach that links the  required
   performance levels for treatment systems to health and environmental risk and
   where maintenance and monitoring schedules depend on the system type.
                                                                                  Georgetown Divide Public
                                                                                  Utility District
                                                                                  P.O. Box 4240
                                                                                  Georgetown, CA 95634
                                                                                  Becky Siren, Operations Manager
                                                                                  p: (530) 333-4356
  Est. Population: 3,000
                 The Auburn Lake Trails
                 Subdivision lies between
                 the Middle and South
                 Forks of the American
                 River in El Dorado
                 County. In 1985, the
                 Auburn Lake Trails
                 Onsite Wastewater
Disposal Zone (the Zone) was formed to
support the management of individual and
small community systems in the subdivision
in lieu of a centralized sewage system.  The
Georgetown Divide PUD has jurisdiction
over the Zone. The program consists of:

  •    Operating permit requirements
      with performance standards
  •    Routine inspection and
      maintenance agreement
  •    System inventory
  •    Groundwater and surface water
      monitoring data collection

The subdivision's hydrology and geology
was mapped and classified in order to divide
the area into five management units based
on environmental risk. Wastewater systems
in each unit were designed to achieve
certain water quality performance levels.
The technologies included mounds,
intermittent media filters, and pressure-
dosing, soil-dispersal systems. One
clustered system serves 134 homes using a
gravity sewer collection line and a series of
dispersal fields.

The PUD has the authority to investigate,
design, inspect, monitor, operate, maintain,
and repair treatment systems. Because of
liability concerns and costs, the district no
longer maintains the systems. Homeowners
or contractors are required to make any
necessary repairs under the oversight of the
PUD.  If repairs are not made, the PUD can
pump or repair the system and place a lien
on the property for noncompliance. The
district conducts annual inspections of all

The 2008/2009 annual budget for the
program was $365,000, funded through
monthly user fees that range from $14.63-
$22.51 for individual onsite systems, to
$50.87 for septic tank effluent pump/septic
tank effluent gravity (STEP/STEG) systems.
Property taxes also contribute to program
support. A loan program was established to
help residents repair or replace their tanks.
Typical management services include an
annual system inspection, issuance of
permits, performance of repairs, and
collection and analysis of monitoring data.
"It is critical that septic tank and
pump tanks be watertight and
constructed with a level of uniformity
to facilitate pump installation,
operation, and maintenance. This
requires watertight testing on all
new construction.

In addition, the Georgetown Divide
PUD has initiated watertight testing
on all septic tanks that are connected
to the STEP (septic tank effluent
pump) clustered system that are 20
years or older and/or prior to property

We have found an 80% failure rate
on all tanks 20 years or older.
These leaking tanks have contributed
significant inflow/infiltration into this
STEP system, which can result in
sanitary sewer overflows and can
hydraulically overload the dispersal

Becky Siren, Operations Manager,
Georgetown PUD
                                                                               Office of Wastewater Management

  Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
 Of the 134 septic tanks inspected in 2009,
 five were found to be defective and were
 replaced. The inspection and management
 program has prevented onsite system
 malfunctions and has been an effective
 alternative to costly centralized sewers.
 The annual inspection of all systems
 provides for early detection of problems
 that could lead to a  malfunction. Water
 quality sampling since 1985 has found no
 degradation of groundwater or surface

 Of the 999 systems in the subdivision, most
 of them (63%) are more than 20 years old,
 and 36% are more than  30 years old. Only
 10 systems have malfunctioned in  the last
 25 years; malfunctions were mostly due to
 tree roots, hydraulic overloading and other
 problems such as improper grading,
 construction activities, etc.

 By identifying the location of systems and
 ensuring their proper operation, the
 community can make smart decisions to
 accommodate residential development.
Photo: Florida Department of Health.
References and Resources
Georgetown Divide Public Utility District. Website
Mancl, K. 2001. Onsite Wastewater Management: A Model for Success. In Proceedings of the 9th National Symposium on Individual and Small Community Sewage Systems,
    American Society of Agricultural Engineers, Fort Worth, TX.
Population data—Auburn Lake Trails Property Owners Association.
                                                                                        Office of Wastewater Management

Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
   Management Model 4: Responsible
   Management Entity (RME)  Operation and
   Management Model 4: Responsible Management
   Entity (RME) Operation and Maintenance is best used
   in areas with high environmental risk and a need for
   professional oversight to ensure consistent system
   operation and  maintenance. The model applies to
   situations where site,  soil, or other environmental
   conditions present a need for complex treatment units
   and customized system designs (e.g., high-strength
   wastes, advanced treatment clustered  systems).
   Communities typically use Management Model 4
   where the density of systems (e.g., more than two per
   acre) can pose a threat to water resources and/or
   public health.

   Elements of Management Model 4
   Management Model 4 includes two key elements:
    • Professional operation and maintenance services
      provided through  an RME (public or private)
    • Regulatory agency oversight provided through
      operating permits issued directly to the RME

   Focus on RME Operation and Maintenance
   Management Model 4 programs use an RME to
   operate and maintain  individual and clustered
   treatment systems. The RME can be a private or a
   public utility, a private company, or other
   governmental or nongovernmental organization. Rural
   electric cooperatives,  sanitation districts, and other
   special districts can all serve as RMEs under
   Management Model 4. Many RMEs contract out
   certain tasks, such as maintenance and septic tank
   pumping, to service providers.
  Program Characteristics
     • RME responsible for long-term system
       performance and accountability
     • RMEs, not homeowners, conduct
       operation and maintenance
     • Local authority adopts legislation enabling
       the RME to conduct O&M and ensure
     • Homeowner/local jurisdiction grants
       easement/right of entry approval
Management Model 4 programs typically involve:
 • The RME has responsibility and legal authority to
   operate the systems in order to meet regulatory
   and performance requirements
 • The regulatory agency oversees and issues permits
   to the RME in order to ensure compliance
 • The RME inspects systems and conducts routine
   operation and maintenance
 • System owners pay for new construction, repairs,
   upgrades, and system replacement that the RME

Case Studies
Effective Management Model 4 programs ensure that
the RME has sufficient authority to conduct operation
and maintenance activities that assure system
performance. This section reviews two such
 • Otter Tail Lake, Minnesota
 • Pefia Blanca, New Mexico
                                                                   Office of Wastewater Management

  Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
   The community around Otter Tail Lake in western Minnesota saw a decline in lake
   water quality. An environmental assessment revealed that substandard wastewater
   systems, untreated sewage discharges to surface waters, and intensive shoreline
   development contributed to high levels of phosphorus in the lake, causing elevated
   algae growth and an overall decline in water quality.

   The community formed a management district to identify and repair/replace
   malfunctioning systems and manage the wastewater treatment systems of four
   townships situated on six area lakes.
                                                                 Otter Tail Water Management
                                                                 27234 368th Avenue
                                                                 Battle Lake, MN 56515
                                                                 Roland Mann, Executive Director
                                                                 p: (218)864-5533
  Est. Population: 4,200
Otter Tail Lake—a
popular fishing and
recreational lake—
lies in the heart of
Otter Tail County.
Residential and
 development surrounds the majority of the
 lake. In 1984, the Otter Tail Water
 Management District (OTWMD) was formed
 under the authority of the Minnesota statute
 which governs the formation of subordinate
 sanitary sewer districts. The OTWMD
 assumed responsibility for maintaining 1,640
 individual wastewater systems and 13
 clustered systems.  The program consists of:
  •   Operating permit requirements
  •   Routine inspection and
      maintenance contract requirements
  •   Maintenance of a system inventory
  •   Collection of groundwater and
      surface water monitoring data

 The district's authority includes planning,
 design, construction, operation,  and
 maintenance of wastewater treatment
 systems. The district maintains systems for
 active (permanent) customers. Permanent
 systems are inspected every two years.
 System owners maintain passive (seasonal
use) systems, with oversight by the district
and inspections every three years. The
OTWMD contracts with independent, state-
licensed, service providers in order to
provide management services. The district
also maintains a list of accepted installers
and pumpers that homeowners can hire.

The preventive maintenance program
includes inspecting tanks and  checking lift
stations to ensure proper functioning. The
OTWMD has the authority to issue
compliance orders and to assign repair
costs and penalties to customers' property
tax statements.

Monitoring wells around  clustered drainfields
sample groundwater quality. The OTWMD
also conducts surface water monitoring.

The annual operating budget for the
OTWMD is $200,000, funded by user fees
ranging from $43 for seasonal residences to
$151 for permanent residences. The  district
has one full-time and two part-time
                      After the program's inception in 1984, the
                      OTWMD upgraded 850 treatment systems.
                      The district installed 16 clustered systems
                      for 260 connections and repaired or
replaced 590 other treatment systems. The
district also serviced a total of 350 other
systems, including full inspections, septic
tank pumping, and installation of new tank
risers and covers. In the past decade, the
district has replaced or repaired only 17
systems (out of nearly 1,500).

The district's actions resulted in documented
water quality improvements. For example,
surface water monitoring of the lake has
revealed declining phosphorus and algae
concentrations and  overall improved water
quality. Nitrate concentrations have dropped
from 1 mg/L to approximately 0.2  mg/L;
Secchi depth has increased from  2.4 feet to
about 4 feet.
References and Resources
Christopherson, S. and Anderson, J.. 2004. Twenty Years of Successful Onsite Wastewater Management, The Otter Tail, Minnesota Water Management District. National Onsite
    Wastewater Recyclers Association Conference, Albuquerque NM.
National Onsite Demonstration Program. No date. Phase IV Case Study.
Population data—Otter Tail County Coalition of Lake Associations.
                                                                                 Office of Wastewater Management

  Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
   Outdated, neglected, or nonexistent wastewater systems posed a public health risk
   to the 800 citizens of Pefia Blanca, New Mexico. Open cesspools and seepage pits
   emptied into yards and irrigation canals. Surveys revealed that 86% of the
   individual wastewater systems needed  repair or replacement. Residents rejected a
   proposed centralized sewer system that would have cost $3.1 million.

   The community opted to repairer replace 133 of the existing 185 treatment
   systems with the water and sanitation district serving as the operator/manager
   of the upgraded and new facilities.
                                                                                  Construction Programs
                                                                                  New Mexico Environment
                                                                                  P.O. Box 5469
                                                                                  Santa Fe, NM 87502-5469
                                                                                  Richard Rose, Chief
                                                                                  p: (505) 827-9691
  Est. Population: 800
                Local officials worked
                closely with federal and
                state agencies to
                establish the Pena
                Blanca Water and
                Sanitation District (WSD)
                and to develop a
wastewater management program with an
emphasis on maintenance. This
Management Model 4 program features:

  •    Operating permit and maintenance
      contract requirements
  •    Requirement to  pump tanks every
      two years
  •    Maintenance of system records
      and reporting requirements

The Pena Blanca community received an
EPA Clean Water Construction Grant of
about $760,000 to repair and replace
individual wastewater systems and develop
new clustered systems. The WSD was
formed in 1990, under the authority of a
New Mexico statute, to  manage the
systems. The WSD adopted an ordinance
that provided for the operation,
maintenance, and repair of wastewater
treatment systems. The district maintains an
inventory of the systems, collects user fees,
requires pumping of all tanks at least once
every two years, contracts pumping
services, maintains all active systems, and
coordinates with the City of Albuquerque to
accept septage pumped from the tanks.

The WSD ordinance essentially serves as a
maintenance contract and authorizes the
district to pump septic tanks every two
years. Homeowners retain the  option of
hiring their own pumpers but must maintain
documentation of the service and pay a
base fee of $4 per month. Residents
installing new individual wastewater systems
must sign an easement allowing for
maintenance. All systems must also  obtain
an operating permit from the New Mexico
Environment Department. The  WSD is
responsible for maintaining pumping
records. Systems are inspected in response
to citizen complaints.

According to septic tank size, WSD charges
a monthly service fee, which ranges  from $9
to $20 per month. The 2008-2009 operating
budget was $27,000.
                                                                                   Pena Blanca Water and Sanitation
                                                                                   Karman Kleinschmidt
                                                                                   p: (505)465-1208
                                                                                The decentralized wastewater option was
                                                                                less than half of the projected cost of central
                                                                                sewage treatment for the 133 homes served
                                                                                by repaired or replaced systems. Sewage
                                                                                surfacing and cesspool discharges
                                                                                throughout the community no longer occur.
                                                                                Post-construction groundwater monitoring
                                                                                found nitrate  levels at 1 mg/L or less in the
                                                                                project area,  far below the 10 mg/L standard
                                                                                for groundwater used as drinking water.
References and Resources
FalveyC. 2001. Cleanup at Pena Blanca. Small Flows Quarterly 2(1):30-32.
New Mexico Environmental Finance Center. 2006. How to Form a Water and Sanitation District in New Mexico.
                                                                                Office of Wastewater Management

Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
   Management Model  5:  RME Ownership
   Management Model 5: Responsible Management
   Entity (RME) Ownership takes decentralized
   wastewater management to a high level of
   accountability. Under the model, the RME serves as
   owner and manager of the onsite wastewater
   systems, in a manner similar to centralized systems.
   Instead of the homeowner, the management entity
   takes responsibility for operation and maintenance
   and for scheduling needed repairs or service.
   Communities experiencing high-density growth in
   areas with close proximity to sensitive or high-quality
   water resources (e.g., recreational waters, cold water
   aquatic habitat, drinking water sources) may want to
   consider utilizing Management Model 5. Additionally,
   communities with excessive compliance problems
   may be interested  in adopting this approach.

   Elements of a Management Model 5
   Management Model 5 includes these key elements:
    • RME ownership and management of treatment
    • Risk evaluation and prioritization when planning
      and designing systems
    • Permit requirements with performance criteria for
      system operation
    • Procedures for conducting compliance monitoring
      and tracking
    • Certification program requirements for service
    • Oversight of rate structure and financial

   Focus on Accountability through
   Professional Management
   This management model provides a high level of
   accountability through professional management and
   ownership of the wastewater treatment systems.
   States or other regulatory authorities may need to
  Program Characteristics
     • RME provides a high level of system
     • RME owns systems, thus reducing entry/
       access concerns
     • RME ensures O&M instead of homeowner
     • RME may need legal authorization to form
       a management entity
     • Community makes a significant financial
       investment, including higher homeowner
     • Community achieves economies of scale
       for multiple system O&M and financial
establish a legal basis for oversight through statute
or regulation and develop procedures for

Management Model 5 programs typically consist of:
  •  Operating permits, regular inspections, and
    monitoring of both treatment systems and water
    resources to better ensure achievement of
    performance criteria
  •  Regulators oversee the RME to ensure compliance
  •  Similar to centralized wastewater treatment
    systems, user fees sustain system operation and
  •  Regulatory authority reviews rate structures,
    ensures independent financial oversight, and
    executes performance audits

Case Studies
Effective Management Model 5 programs have RMEs
that respond to  community needs, resource issues,
and market opportunities. For example, in Tennessee
and New Jersey, privately owned RMEs are serving
                                                                      Office of Wastewater Management

Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
   local communities and expanding into other states.
   SFQ_sp04_PDF/Brothers.pdf and http://
   WWMgtSummary_web.pdf). Iowa has taken
   advantage of its network of independent rural water
   districts to serve as RMEs. The districts are well
   suited as RMEs because they have the capability to
   issue financial  bonds, secure bonding for services
   and infrastructure components, receive state and
federal grant and loan dollars, and provide services
across municipal and county borders. This section
reviews three Management Model 5 programs:
  •  Blacksburg, Virginia
  •  Phelps County, Missouri
  •  Shannon City, Iowa
                        The Water Supply District serves as the RME in Phelps County, Missouri. The district owns and
                                                                      operates eight recirculating sand filters.
                                                                          Office of Wastewater Management

  Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
   Blacksburg, Virginia, like many growing communities, faced the challenge of
   meeting development needs with a decentralized system or extending the existing
   centralized sewer system. The town considered factors such as cost, construction-
   related traffic disruptions, floodplain and creek impacts due to centralized sewer
   main construction, collection system infiltration/inflow and leakage, treatment
   effectiveness, and other factors.

   The town established a workgroup to evaluate wastewater treatment system
   alternatives. After careful review, Blacksburg chose to conduct a pilot project to
   test the feasibility of a decentralized, clustered system.
                                                                                    Town of Blacksburg
                                                                                    2700 Prosperity Road
                                                                                    Blacksburg, VA 24060
                                                                                    Kelly Mattingly, LEED AP, CRM,
                                                                                    Director of Public Works
                                                                                    p: (540)961-1825
      Est. Population: 42,600
                       When Blacksburg,
                       Virginia, began
                       alternatives in
2000, it recognized that management was
the key to the success of the system
(Mattingly and Tremel 2002). The town
selected Management Model 5 as a pilot
approach for the Tom's Creek community.
The program consists of:

  •   Operating permit requirements
  •   RME with enforcement authority
  •   Requirement for the use of trained
  •   Remote monitoring and routine
      inspections conducted by RME
  •   System database maintenance

Blacksburg chose to have its existing public
works department assume the role of
wastewater utility—or RME—for the
community of Tom's Creek.  The town's
public works  department both owns and
manages the clustered system as it does
other wastewater infrastructure. The RME
chose a hybrid collection system including a
Septic Tank Effluent Pump (STEP) pressure
system combined with a Septic Tank
Effluent Gravity (STEG) system.  Users of
the clustered system pay the same
residential water and wastewater rates as
customers served by centralized sewers in
the area.

Approximately 200 homes in the Village of
Tom's Creek are served by the STEP/STEG
system. Trained RME personnel inspect
each tank every two years. Each house
must have an individual septic tank for
which residents have maintenance
responsibilities, including avoiding practices
such as dumping  large  quantities of fats,
oils, grease, chemicals, or solid waste down
drains or toilets. When inspections reveal
recurring problems, the RME notifies the
resident and takes corrective action.

Blacksburg uses internet-based,  remote
monitoring to relay system operating
problems. The system sends emails or page
alerts to designated maintenance personnel
when it detects problems.
Selection of the STEP/STEG system has
saved the community more than $1  million
in construction, with operation and
maintenance costs similar to that of
conventional centralized systems. The
town's public works department conducts
annual inspections of each STEP/STEG
system and pumps the 200 septic tanks
as needed. The program estimates that
pumping should occur every seven years
and estimates an average cost of $150
per tank.

One of the town's concerns was centralized
sewer collection system leakage. During
heavy rains, the STEP/STEG system, by
design, shows no infiltration/inflow or
leakage and maintains a stable level of
treatment. Also, the town is using septic
tank effluent gravity collection systems  for
new developments, where possible, rather
than the pump (STEP) approach, in order
to minimize costs for maintaining and
operating pumps and other equipment.
References and Resources
Mattingly K., and Tremel, M. 2002. A Unique Public Management Entity in the Town of Blacksburg, Virginia.
    Accessed March 29, 2010.
Toms Creek Sewage Options Working Group. 2001. Recommended Decentralized System.
    Accessed March 31, 2010.
Population data—Census Bureau, State and County QuickFacts, Blacksburg(Town), 2010.
                                                                                 Office of Wastewater Management

  Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
   In 1995, Missouri adopted more stringent public health regulations for individual
   systems on lots of three acres or less. To comply with those regulations, property
   owners in Phelps County needed to upgrade their individual systems. The need to
   upgrade systems was underscored by the fact that local lenders would not make
   loans on  houses that were not in compliance with state rules.

   County leaders and the local water supply district expanded services to allow the
   water district to own and operate decentralized systems that provide affordable
   and sustainable wastewater treatment.
                                            Public Water Supply District #2
                                            P.O. Box 160
                                            Rolla, MO 65402
                                            Jim lanke
                                            p: (573) 364-8790
                   Public Water Supply
                   District #2 (PWSD2)
                   provides wastewater
                   management service
                   for residences within
                   its jurisdiction. The
 program consists of:

  •   Discharge authority under an
      individual National Pollutant
      Discharge Elimination System
      (NPDES) permit
  •   District holds bonding authority to
      fund program
  •   Routine inspection  requirement
  •   Financial incentive and low-interest
      loan opportunities

 In PWSD2's first decentralized wastewater
 project, a developer agreed to donate land
 and finance a treatment facility if PWSD2
 would own, design, construct, and operate
 the treatment facility. The system consists of
 a septic tank effluent pump (STEP)
 collection system and recirculating sand
 filter (RSF) wastewater treatment system.
 The system operates under a surface water
discharge (NPDES) permit issued by the
state of Missouri. The STEP/RSF system
serves the new subdivision and other homes
in a nearby community. For subsequent
projects, the district modified the approach,
partnering with developers to construct new
RSFs so that both new and existing homes
could be served. In return, the district
agreed to own and manage the systems.

Residents in new developments must sign a
user agreement, connect to the system, and
grant a utility easement to the water district.
Owners of existing homes with
malfunctioning individual systems may
voluntarily connect to the decentralized
system at the homeowner's expense.
PWSD2 offers incentives (e.g., connection
fee waivers) in order for homeowners to
connect to the system.

PWSD2 issued revenue  bonds and
borrowed money to finance the start of the
decentralized wastewater management
program. PWSD2 charges a flat rate of
$46.50 per month to  fund the program. The
district has the power to terminate potable
water service for nonpayment of fees.
The county now manages eight clustered
systems with septic tank effluent pumps that
serve 415 residential units, rather than 450
individual septic systems. The clustered
systems serve as upgraded systems for the
homes that previously had malfunctioning
systems. Actual effluent quality for the
clustered systems ranges from 4 to 9 mg/L
for biochemical oxygen demand and 1 to 8
mg/L for total suspended solids. Fecal
coliform levels have been in the range of
10 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters
of effluent.

In addition, local officials believe that the
elimination of hundreds of old septic system
leachfields has improved groundwater
quality, based on  the higher quality effluent
being discharged from the new systems.
References and Resources
Dietzmann, E.M., and Gross, M.A 2003. Phelps County Update: Case Study of a Public Water Supply District Providing Centralized Management of Decentralized Wastewater.
    Small Flows Quarterly 4(3):25-34. Accessed March 31, 2010.
Population data—Census Bureau, State and County QuickFacts, Phelps County, 2011.
                                                                                 Office of Wastewater Management

  Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
   Small communities like Shannon City face significant challenges in managing
   individual wastewater systems. The small, rural community had neither the
   technical nor financial resources to support upgrades of substandard systems and
   remove straight pipe discharges draining untreated sewage into city ditches.

   City officials partnered with the Southern Iowa Rural Water Association (SIRWA)
   authority to design, build, own, and operate individual and clustered wastewater
   systems for the community.
                                           USDA Rural Development
                                           210 Walnut Street, Room 873
                                           Des Moines, IA 50309

                                           Jim Carroll, State Engineer
                                           p: (515) 284-4136
                                           Southern Iowa Rural Water
                   The majority of
                   individual systems that
                   served Shannon City,
                   a small town with a
                   population of 76, did
 not meet state code requirements. As a
 result, untreated sewage entered city
 ditches and receiving streams of the Grand
 River Basin. The town commissioned a
 study of wastewater alternatives after the
 Iowa Department of Natural Resources
 (IDNR) required the town to upgrade its
 systems. The study's authors concluded that
 a decentralized wastewater treatment
 system was a viable option for
 the town. Shannon City partnered with the
 SIRWA and the U.S. Department of
 Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development
 Program to design, finance, and construct
 a new wastewater system owned and
 operated by SIRWA. The wastewater
 program  consists of:

  •   Operating permit and routine
      inspection  requirements
  •   Use of site-specific evaluations and
      plans to select and design systems
  •   Maintenance program, reporting,
      and record keeping administration
  •   Collection of water quality
      sampling data
  •   Grant of property easements
  •   Authority to enforce requirements
SIRWA, which provides drinking water to
10,000 customers, assumed the RME role
in Shannon City. SIRWA has experience
with operating wastewater systems in nine
small Iowa communities, mostly consisting
of gravity collection with treatment by
facultative  lagoons.

SIRWA designed a project composed of a
variety of treatment systems so as to
provide affordable and effective wastewater
service for the community. Each property
owner in Shannon City signs an easement
allowing SIRWA to design, finance, install,
own, operate, and maintain a wastewater
treatment system on his/her land.

SIRWA operates the systems under Iowa
Department of Natural Resources operating
permits which specify operating and yearly
sampling requirements. A citywide
ordinance prescribes enforcement
provisions. SIRWA reports annual
inspection  and monitoring results to state
and county health officials.

The Shannon City project cost $468,000—
about $10,400 per home served. A
significant  portion of the cost was covered
   1391 90th Street
   Creston, IA 50801

   Dan Mclntosh, System Manager
   p: (641) 782-5744
by a USDA Rural Development Program
grant and loans from other sources. The
O&M user fee is a flat rate of $18 per month.
In 2003 and 2004, SIRWA placed 34 peat
filters, eight lateral line absorption systems,
and one existing gravity-fed, single-pass
sand filter into operation. SIRWA chose the
peat filter system because of its small
footprint and ease of media replacement
compared with a sand filter. The installed
systems replaced non-functioning septic
systems with appropriate wastewater
treatment units and eliminated straight pipe
sewage discharges into roadsides, other
ditches, and surface waters. The new
systems comply with IDNR operating permit
requirements and function properly with
centralized management.
References and Resources
Carroll, J.A. 2005. Lessons Learned from a Model 5 EPA Management Program for Onsite Wastewater Systems. In Proceedings of 2005 National Onsite
    Wastewater Recyclers Association Annual Meeting, Cleveland, OH.
Population data—City data - Shannon city, 2010.
                                                                                Office of Wastewater Management

Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
 Appendix A: Glossary  of Terms
 Aerobic Treatment Unit (AID): A mechanized unit that provides secondary wastewater treatment for single
 homes, clusters of homes, or commercial establishments by mixing air (oxygen) and aerobic and facultative
 microbes with the wastewater. ATUs typically use either a suspended growth process (such as activated sludge,
 extended aeration, and batch reactors), fixed-film process (similar to a trickling filter), or a combination of the two
 treatment processes.

 Advanced Treatment System: A wastewater treatment system that includes an additional treatment process
 unit or step between the septic tank and final effluent dispersal location. Advanced treatment units are intended
 to improve treatment by increasing aeration, treatment time, and biological decomposition, reducing nutrient
 concentrations in the effluent, or through disinfection. Examples of components that can be used in advanced
 systems include sand filters, aerobic treatment units, disinfection devices, and advanced subsurface infiltration
 designs (e.g., mounds, gravelless trenches, and pressure and drip distribution).

 Centralized Wastewater System: A network of sewers designed to collect wastewater from multiple sources in
 a service area for treatment at a single wastewater facility that typically discharges to a surface water body.
 Traditionally, such a system has been called a publicly owned treatment works as defined in Title 40 of the Code
 of Federal Regulations (CFR) section 122.2.

 Cesspool: A well that receives untreated sanitary waste (i.e., without a septic tank) containing human excreta,
 which can have an open bottom or perforated sides (40 CFR 144.3). Cesspools with the capacity to serve 20 or
 more persons per day (i.e., large-capacity cesspools) were banned by federal regulations promulgated on
 December 7, 1999. The construction of new cesspools was immediately banned and existing  large-capacity
 cesspools must be replaced with sewer connections or individual wastewater treatment systems.

 Clustered System:  A wastewater collection and treatment system under some form of common ownership that
 collects wastewater from two or more dwellings or buildings and conveys it to a treatment and dispersal facility
 near the dwellings or buildings.

 Decentralized System: Individual or clustered system(s) used to collect, treat, and disperse or reclaim
 wastewater from a small community or service area.

 Dispersal System: A system that receives and releases pretreated wastewater into the air (i.e.,
 evapotranspiration),  the soil (below or onto the surface), or surface waters. A subsurface wastewater infiltration
 system is an example of a dispersal system.

 Environmental Risk: The relative susceptibility of surface orgroundwaterto degradation due to chemical,
 physical, or biological inputs from treated, untreated, or poorly treated wastewater or other stressors. The
 impacts can be low,  acute (i.e., immediate and significantly disruptive), or chronic (i.e., long-term, with gradual
 but serious disruptions).

 Individual Wastewater Treatment System: A system relying on natural processes and/or mechanical
 components to collect, treat, and disperse or reclaim wastewater from a single dwelling or building. See also
 Onsite Wastewater Treatment System.
                                                                        Office of Wastewater Management     33

Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
 Maintenance: Routine or periodic actions taken to ensure proper wastewater treatment system performance,
 extend system longevity, or ensure the system meets performance requirements.

 Management Model: An integrated, coordinated program of policies, procedures, processes, and activities
 designed to achieve specified objectives.

 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES): A national program under section 402 of the
 Clean Water Act that regulates pollutant discharges from point sources into waters of the United States. The
 Clean Water Act requires authorization for such discharges under an NPDES permit.

 Onsite Wastewater Treatment System: A system relying on natural processes or mechanical components to
 collect, treat,  and disperse or reclaim wastewater from a single dwelling or building. See also Individual
 Wastewater Treatment System.

 Performance Requirement: An effluent concentration standard, treatment system management practice, or
 other requirement established by a public health, environmental, natural resource, or other public agency to
 address health, environmental, or other risks. Performance requirements can be expressed as numeric limits
 (e.g., pollutant concentrations, mass loads), narrative descriptions of desired conditions or requirements (e.g., no
 visible scum,  sludge, sheen, odors, cracks, or leaks), or specific management practices (e.g., service disinfection
 units weekly or monthly).

 Permit: An authorization, license, or equivalent control document issued by a public agency or other regulatory
 body that authorizes that specified activities may occur in a manner described and limited by the permit, such as
 a septic system installation permit or NPDES discharge permit.

 Prescriptive  Requirements: Mandated specifications for installing a limited set of wastewater treatment system
 types (e.g., septic tank/drainfield systems, mound systems, aerobic units) on sites that meet stipulated criteria
 (e.g., certain soil types, maximum slope steepness, minimum setbacks from property lines). Proposed deviations
 from the stipulated system types or site criteria require formal approval from the regulatory authority.

 Regulatory Authority: The unit of government that establishes and enforces codes related to the permitting,
 design, placement, installation, operation, maintenance, monitoring, and performance of individual and clustered
 wastewater systems.

 Residuals: The solids generated or retained during the treatment of wastewater, including trash, rags, grit,
 sediment, sludge, biosolids, septage, scum, grease,  and treatment system media that have served their useful
 life and require disposal, such as the sand or peat from a media filter.

 Responsible Management Entity (RME): A legal entity responsible for providing various management services
 with the requisite managerial, financial, and technical capacity to ensure the long-term,  cost-effective operation of
 wastewater treatment facilities in  accordance with applicable regulations and performance criteria.

 Secondary Treatment: The second step in most publicly owned waste treatment systems in which bacteria
 consume the  organic parts of the waste. It is accomplished  by bringing together waste,  bacteria, and oxygen in
 trickling filters or in the activated sludge process. This treatment removes floating and settleable solids and about
 90% of the oxygen-demanding substances and suspended solids. Disinfection is the final stage of secondary
                                                                         Office of Wastewater Management     34

Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
 Septage: The liquid and solid materials pumped from a septic tank during inspection or maintenance service.

 Septic Tank: A buried, watertight vessel designed and constructed to receive and partially treat raw wastewater
 prior to soil dispersal or further treatment. The tank separates and retains settleable and floatable constituents in
 the wastewater—such as solids, fats, oils, and grease—and discharges the partially clarified wastewater for
 further treatment or dispersal to the soil.

 Septic Tank Effluent Gravity (STEG): A collection system that uses septic tanks and moves the resulting
 effluent to a treatment facility via gravity flow.

 Septic Tank Effluent Pump (STEP): A collection system that uses septic tanks and moves the resulting effluent
 to a pump vault to convey effluent under pressure to a subsequent treatment system component.
                                                           Photo: Hamilton County General Health District, Ohio
                                                                           Office of Wastewater Management

Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
  Appendix B: Management  Program  Elements
  and Activities
  The table below summarizes the program elements and identifies a range of basic and advanced activities that
  local management programs can adopt. Management programs address each program element as appropriate,
  given their technical, managerial, financial, and other resources and the nature of the public health and
  environmental risks posed by the wastewater treatment facilities in their jurisdictions.
  Table B1: Program Elements and Activities
    i ministration
    Basic activities
            Advanced activities
Link treatment standards to
relative risk and health and
water resource goals.
Prescribe acceptable
site characteristics and
system types allowed.
Stipulate that system performance must meet
defined standards that consider public health,
water resource values, vulnerabilities, and risks.
Consider site and regional
conditions, development
patterns, and effects on
long-term watershed and
public health.
Identify minimum lot
sizes, surface water/
groundwater separation
distances, and critical
areas requiring
Monitor and model regional pollutant loads, tailor
development patterns based on environmental
and physical limitations, require clustering for
large developments.
  and reporting
Create inventory of
systems, operation and
maintenance (O&M) logs,
and produce regular
reports for oversight
Provide inventory
information on all
systems. Submit
performance reports to
health agency.
Provide Geographic Information System-based
comprehensive inventories, including web-based
monitoring and O&M data input for administrative
reporting and watershed assessment studies.
  and funding
Provide financial and legal
support for management
Implement basic powers
to apply for/accept funds
or other revenue-
generation fees; identify
legal authority for a
sustainable program.
Initiate monthly or quarterly service fees, cost-
share or other repair/replacement program, full
financial and legal support for management
program, equitable revenue base and assistance
programs, and regular reviews and modifications.
Consider public input and
solicit public involvement
while developing a
management program.
Sponsor public
meetings, forums,
updates, and education
Maintain public advisory groups, review groups,
and other involvement opportunities in the
Distribute educational and other materials.
Assess system site and
relationship to other
features (groundwater and
surface water).
Characterize landscape,
soils, groundwater and
surface water location,
lot size, and other
Assess site and cumulative watershed impacts,
consider groundwater mounding potential and
long-term specific pollutant trends; accommodate
cluster system development.
                                                                            Office of Wastewater Management

Decentralized Wastewater Management Case Studies
    Basic activities
             Advanced activities
Ensure installation as
Record as-built drawings.
Inspect installation prior
to covering with soil and
enter as-built
information into the file
Provide supplemental training, certification, and
licensing programs for installers.
Provide more comprehensive inspection of
installations. Verify and enter as-built information
into the record.
  Operation and Compliance
Ensure that systems
perform as designed.
Initiate homeowner
education and reminder
programs that promote
Require service contracts or renewable,
revocable operating permits with periodic
reporting. Log service reports into master
Ensure responsibility for O&M.
Document provider
performance, functioning of
systems, and impacts.
Perform inspection prior
to soil cover-up and
property title transfer.
Provide complaint
Conduct regional surface water and groundwater
monitoring, web-based inspection reporting, and
system operational monitoring.
Require installation and periodic operational
Remove and treat
Minimize health or
environmental risks from
residuals handling, use,
and dispersal.
Ensure compliance with
federal and state codes
for residuals dispersal.
Conduct analysis and oversight of residuals
program.  Provide web-based reporting and
inspection of pumping and dispersal facility
activities. Provide assistance in locating or
developing residuals handling facilities.
  Training and
Promote excellence in site
evaluation, design,
installation, O&M, and
other service provider
Recommend use of only
service providers.
Provide supplemental training and certification/
licensing programs, offer continuing education
opportunities, and monitor performance through
Sponsor mentoring programs.
  actions and
Ensure timely compliance
with applicable codes and
performance requirements.
Provide for complaint
reporting under
nuisance laws.
Provide inspection and
prompt response
procedures and
Deny or revoke operating permit until compliance
measures are satisfied.
Set violation response protocol and legal
response actions, including correction and liens
against property by RME.
                                            Adapted from Handbook for Managing Onsite and Clustered (Decentralized)
                                                                       Wastewater Treatment Systems (EPA, 2005)
                                                                                Case Studies of Individual and
                                                                       Clustered (Decentralized) Wastewater
                                                                                         Management Programs
                                                                                                              June 2012
                                                                                Office of Wastewater Management