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Alana33
(@alana33)
Expert

Many septic tanks and their leech fields were built more than 5 decades ago using cast iron pipes.

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Posted : December 1, 2015 10:11 pm
Phizz
(@Phizz)
Advanced Member

Hmmm. I wonder if all of the VI government informs cruise ship passengers about the beach/water issues. I see the beaches covered with tourists assuming they are in a pristine paradise...

Just wondering.

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Posted : December 2, 2015 11:03 am
OldTart
(@the-oldtart)
Expert

The big warning advisory is posted at the entrance to Magens this morning ...

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Posted : December 2, 2015 11:42 am
LiquidFluoride
(@LiquidFluoride)
Trusted Member

(tu)

"Middle Ages" is actually the first thing that comes to mind when the subject of failing septic systems is mentioned. That can be some pretty serious stuff.

Septic systems are actually fairly new (late 1800's).....

Mouras patented his invention (septic tank) in 1881. Following the success of his invention, the septic tank was first introduced to the USA in 1883 and to England in 1895.

Many septic tanks and their leech fields were built more than 5 decades ago using cast iron pipes.

Do you understand how a septic tank & leech field work?

My house was built in the 50's and though one of my septic tanks failed, the Iron pipes didn't (and were a PAIN to replace; ended up using a sledge hammer for most of them). But if a pipe HAD failed in any significant way it would be replaced almost immediately as the system would no longer function ( people kind of like having bathrooms /showers etc..) so the system sort of protects the environment on it's own, as any failure of delivery to the septic tank or failure in the system itself causes it to no longer function.

it's actually a genius design, the leech field works on the same principle as the roman fountains (a method that was lost before the middle ages for quite some time) and thus by their very design do not contaminate the ground water & definitely won't contaminate water above ground. The only possibility (from the only study ever done) is that there might be a nitrogen release into the water, but that would be evident by large algae blooms following rainfalls that we don't have.

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Posted : December 2, 2015 12:55 pm
tedc
 tedc
(@tedc)
Advanced Member

LF,

You're wrong on this one. In the perfect world, with nice deep soil with good percolation, septic systems work fine, and yes you'll see when one is no longer treating effluent - it's either clogged and it comes back up to you, or the leach field is saturated and your back yard is a mushy poo-swamp.

Here, we have such thin, poorly percolating soils that even a perfectly operational septic tank is pushing semi-treated waste through its leach field, or more likely, a cesspool, which is basically just a catch basin full of holes which lets the semi-treated wastewater leak out into the surrounding soils.

Since the surrounding soils can't absorb everything being pushed into them, the waste water slides down until it finds rock. When it finds this often well-defined boundary between soil and rock, it flows downhill until it finds a depression in the rock, or the ocean. Go find a new house excavation in a dense hillside area sometime - if the uphill cut the excavator makes passes below a few septic tanks of neighboring properties, you can literally see which septics are not treating the waste - as there will be a slimy, stinky black line of waste water continually leaking out just above the impervious rock.

So, here, when your septic tank is no longer treating effluent, you may see no sign of the problem, but your downhill neighbors, and Alana's fishies, will. While they have some of their own problems with regard to maintenance and power use, many have moved on to packaged aerobic treatment plants to treat waste, as they don't rely at all on the soil to complete the job.

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Posted : December 2, 2015 1:37 pm
LiquidFluoride
(@LiquidFluoride)
Trusted Member

LF,

You're wrong on this one.

I'm not guessing, I'm basing it off the only study done on septic ground water pollution (linked above).

microbes and bacteria love what's in septic tanks, the "pollution" is food to them & they won't let it get far from the system (assuming you don't use a TON of harsh chemical cleaners, but then you'll kill off the microbes in your septic tank and it will back up... you will know). The leech field works very very well & is, like I said; using the same technology that allowed the Romans to spread like the plague (though they used sedimentary filtering for drinking water).

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Posted : December 2, 2015 2:01 pm
Scubadoo
(@Scubadoo)
Trusted Member

(tu)

"Middle Ages" is actually the first thing that comes to mind when the subject of failing septic systems is mentioned. That can be some pretty serious stuff.

Septic systems are actually fairly new (late 1800's).....
.

The reference to middle ages was relative to "failed" septic systems which are akin to "no" septic system as in the middle ages when raw sewage ran down the street gutters in cities.

The effluent that comes out of a traditional low-tech septic "tank" is not "treated", it's still raw sewage minus the solids. The primary function of the septic tank is to allow the solids to breakdown and settle to the bottom so they do not flow out to the leach field and clog it all up. This is why tanks need to be pumped/cleaned periodically, to remove the build up of solids. If the solids are allowed to build up from the bottom of the tank to the tank outlet at the top and then flow out into the leach field they will ruin the leach field. Most of the anaerobic work of our microbes and bacteria friends is done in the leach field. So we definitely don't want stuff flowing out of our leach fields. OK enough with the poop lesson.

Septic System Basics
Septic Tank

High tech residential systems with multi-stage tanks, filters, oxygenators, etc actually treat the sewage to the point that what comes out has little of the bad stuff or even none, where it's theoretically safe to drink. Those are very expensive systems, typically only used where it's not possible to install a leach field. Like on the space station.

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Posted : December 2, 2015 8:48 pm
Alana33
(@alana33)
Expert

Sewage runoff causes Magens to close.
http://stthomassource.com/content/news/local-news/2015/12/03/sewage-runoff-causes-magens-bay-close

Additionally, as I was driving around today there were many areas where runoff from something that was not rainwater was quite visible on portions of the roads which should have been completely dry (as was the other half of the road) since it has not rained in 2 days.

Here's an excerpt of an email I received earlier today.
.

In 2010 we also knew there were over a dozen sewage 'hot spots' on St. Thomas alone that needed massive sewage infrastructure replacement. Old Tutu, for instance, leeches unknown quantities daily because the 50-year-old buried pipes are almost completely collapsed. (The sewage treatment plant was removed years ago and what sludge reaches the basin is now pumped elsewhere).

WMA has trucks in the area several times a week clearing collapsed pipes and pumping out clogs. The system cannot be nitrogen or phosphorous mitigated without a total replacement, a cost estimated at just over $200 million in 2009. WAPA also has to be involved to removed electrical poles improperly placed throughout backyards (not in easement areas!) and within a foot of concrete sewage culverts in hundreds of areas. WAPA knows it must remove the poles, but has no budget to do so. WAPA tried forcing property owners to bear the costs of moving weatherheads from backyards to street fronts and was stopped by Senators who viewed it as a form of 'Taking' since the power company in 1965 illegally placed those poles and weatherheads, not the home owners. The sewage problem cannot be addressed with electrical lines in the way. WAPA claimed to need close to $70 million. This represents hundreds of homes tax assessed in the $60,000 to $120,000 range, the majority of which are owned by people over aged 70.

Bordeaux, Contant, Hidden Valley, Tutu Valley, Nadir and Bovoni, Fortuna and a few other areas need serious funding to meet current standards much less new standards. Community septic collection basins in Lerkenlund have failed and cracked and run sewage down guts past Botanical Gardens to Hull Bay every day. I measured the flow today at 7.5 gallons a minute from just one cracked above-ground concrete septic basin overlooking Spring Road.

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Posted : December 4, 2015 6:17 am
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