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Septic Systems for Small Communities

National Information
Related Mid-Atlantic Information
Large Capacity Septic Systems

Large capacity septic systems receive solely sanitary waste either from multiple dwellings, or from a non-residential establishment, where the system has the total capacity to serve 20 or more people per day. EPA is trying to improve the performance of these systems across the country to protect our drinking water sources. More...

3 Major Documents | EPA's Mid-Atlantic Strategy
Demonstration Projects | State Contacts

Approximately 25% of the existing households and 33% of new development in the Mid-Atlantic Region rely on an individual onsite or small cluster system to treat wastewater. Many of these systems are installed and largely forgotten until problems arise. It is estimated that at least 10% might not be functioning properly.

Onsite, clustered and decentralized systems (septic systems) include a wide range of wastewater treatment technologies all designed to process household and commercial sewage. Most discharge treated wastewater to the soil, but some discharge to ditches, streams, lakes and other water bodies and need special federal or state permits.

Onsite, clustered and decentralized wastewater treatment systems are known by many names, such as

In its 1997 Report to Congress, EPA concluded that "adequately managed" onsite, clustered and decentralized wastewater treatment systems (septic systems) are and should be considered a cost-effective and long-term wastewater treatment option for meeting public health and water quality goals, particularly in less densely populated areas.

3 Major Documents

Voluntary National Guidelines for Management of Onsite and Clustered (Decentralized) Wastewater Treatment Systems ("Guidelines") - consists of 5 models that are structured to reflect an increasing need for more comprehensive management as the sensitivity of the environment or the degree of technological complexity of these systems increases.

Handbook for Managing Onsite and Clustered (Decentralized) Wastewater Treatment Systems ("Handbook") - assists with implementing the "Guidelines"; It provides information on what an onsite/decentralized management program entails; a flow chart details the management development process.

Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems Manual ("Design Manual") - information on onsite wastewater treatment system technologies, siting, design, installation practices, maintenance and replacement.

EPA's Mid-Atlantic Strategy

EPA's goal is to have our States either "formally' or "functionally" adopt the "Guidelines" by declaring that they embrace the concepts associated with comprehensive onsite/decentralized management. "Formal" and "functional" adoption by the States is intended to reflect both the voluntary nature of State adoption under the formal, functional definitions and the ability of the States to exercise its judgment in adopting the Guidelines to reflect local and regional needs and conditions.

EPA Mid-Atlantic intends to meet with its state representatives to evaluate their onsite/decentralized programs and come to an agreement on deficiencies that would need to be addressed in order for the state to receive approval.

In addition, EPA Mid-Atlantic will:

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Mid-Atlantic On-Site Demonstration Projects Managed by the Mid-Atlantic EPA Regional OfficeExit EPA Click for Disclaimer



Additional Demonstration Projects

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Mid-Atlantic State Contacts


Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental ControlExit EPA Click for Disclaimer

Dave J. Schepens (Dave.Schepens@state.de.us)
Section Manager
Ground Water Discharges Section

District of Columbia

None; 100% sewered


Maryland Department of the EnvironmentExit EPA Click for Disclaimer

Eric Dougherty (edougherty@mde.state.md.us)
Onsite Well and Septic Systems
Liaison with Local Health and Residential Wells and Septics

Jay Prager (jprager@mde.state.md.us)
Deputy Program Manager
Bay Restoration/Onsite Disposal Systems


Pennsylvania Department of Environmental ProtectionExit EPA Click for Disclaimer

John Borland (jborland@state.pa.us)
Bureau of Water Standards and Facility Regulations
Division of Planning and Permits


Virginia Department of HealthExit EPA Click for Disclaimer

Don J. Alexander (Don.Alexander@vdh.virginia.gov)
Division of Onsite Sewage and Water Services
Office of Environmental Health Services

Anish Jantrania (Anish.Jantrania@vdh.virginia.gov)
Technical Services

West Virginia

West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources - Bureau for Public HealthExit EPA Click for Disclaimer

Rick Hertges (rickhertges@wvdhhr.org)
Public Health Sanitation Division

Ellen Herndon (eherndon@wvdep.org)
West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection
Septic Tank Registration
Division of Water and Waste Management

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