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Septic systems being inventoried
Experts say septic systems are good at getting rid of waste from homes where there are no treatment community systems, but they have to be maintained. - photo by Stock photo

A planned inventory of septic systems is supposed to help officials in coastal Georgia counties locate and manage failing systems that are a threat to groundwater.

The inventory, compiled by Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, also will serve as an resource for understanding sewage infrastructure.

"Septic tanks are an integral part of wastewater treatment," says Jessica Alcorn, a postdoctoral fellow at Carl Vinson Institute of Government who manages the inventory. "When properly installed and maintained, they effectively remove excess nutrients and potentially dangerous pathogens from wastewater."

The inventory includes a description of the size, location and site characteristics of all septic tanks in Bryan, Glynn, Liberty, Long and McIntosh counties, including proximity to bodies of water.

"This information will allow county officials to gain a better understanding of how septic tanks impact water resource quality," Alcorn said.

Some areas of coastal Georgia are experiencing more frequent and severe floods due to rising sea levels. With increased flooding, traditional septic systems might not be the most effective method for treating sewage. When saturated, soils are unable to treat wastewater properly, which allows pathogens and other contaminants to enter ground and surface waters.

"The septic tank inventory presents opportunities for both the state and local governments to better prepare for future challenges by adopting best practices for wastewater management," Alcorn said.

Data collected for the septic tank inventory will be incorporated into an existing online mapping platform, WelSTROM.

Funding for the project was provided by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Incentive Grant Program.

For information, contact Alcorn at or 706-542-2926.

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