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“People, Water and Septic: A Coastal Case Study”

By: NCSU Dad
12/12/2019 1:48 PM

See attached story.

Since moving here I've believed "the elephant in the room" one day would be the consequences of using septic systems on OBX. Maybe it is not a problem. I do know in the summertime there are sound-side areas identified by State water testing that are posted to stay out of due to increased bacterial levels. It'll be interesting to read the report when it is released.

obxtoday.com/top-stories/...

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By: obxmini
12/13/2019 5:18 PM

NCSU Dad, I absolutely get what you mean. I've been wondering/worrying about this for years but even more now that I live down here and am more aware of what I consider the "northern obx" as in north of Hatteras Island. Granted HI has its own issues and challenges and may well fall into the septic abyss as well.

Did you attend the talk? I didn't but should have. Need to hope that ECU's Coastal Institute will have the presentation available online: Click to follow link...

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By: NCSU Dad
12/14/2019 4:51 PM

obxmini I didn't attend. I will watch the online presentation.

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By: Laszlo
12/18/2019 9:29 PM

See attached story.

Since moving here I've believed "the elephant in the room" one day would be the consequences of using septic systems on OBX. Maybe it is not a problem. I do know in the summertime there are sound-side areas identified by State water testing that are posted to stay out of due to increased bacterial levels. It'll be interesting to read the report when it is released.

NCSU Dad


All I know is it can get pretty freaking gross. My wife and I rented a house here..... Click to follow link...@35.9704127,-75.633111,64m/data=!3m1!1e3

We were down there a few days after the hurricane in September. The gully that ran down both sides of the street had raw sewage in and smelled like you know what. Some yards were flooded with you know what. By our house was a drainage pipe that ran from the street to the beach into the surf. I don't think anyway was testing the water at the outlet but I know there was fecal matter coming out. Will be picking another location next year Lol

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By: Beachmark
12/19/2019 9:49 AM

What info/indications are there that the bacterial levels have anything to do with septic systems? There is plenty of surface 'material' to consider.

FWIW, it is normal for well to septic system separations to be set at 100' as common practice all over the country. So septic leaching distance are not all that far. So that begs the question of what any significance there may be in any interaction groundwater levels and septic fields.

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By: Laszlo
12/19/2019 11:53 AM

What info/indications are there that the bacterial levels have anything to do with septic systems? There is plenty of surface 'material' to consider.

FWIW, it is normal for well to septic system separations to be set at 100' as common practice all over the country. So septic leaching distance are not all that far. So that begs the question of what any significance there may be in any interaction groundwater levels and septic fields.

Beachmark


It is common practice at least at the NJ beaches to test for bacteria levels after a lot of rain. Why? Because crap flows into the water. Some areas get more than others, its not uncommon for certain beaches to be closed for 2-3 days until the levels drop

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By: Indy
12/22/2019 12:35 PM

Several years ago my wife and I stayed at the Fin 'n Feather on the Nags Head/Manteo causeway. Our room happened to be on the ground floor and the end of the building. After waking up one morning, I walked outside to drink my morning coffee and noticed an awful stench of raw sewage very close by, then noticed the source of the stink. Raw brown water and solids were bubbling up from the lid on the septic tank just outside our room and running downhill to the sound behind the motel. Needless to say, I called the Dare County Soil and Water people that day (we also checked out the same day).

About a year later when we returned, we noticed a brand new septic field with a monitor well adjacent to the motel.

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By: Beachmark
12/23/2019 12:18 PM

Several years ago my wife and I stayed at the Fin 'n Feather on the Nags Head/Manteo causeway. Our room happened to be on the ground floor and the end of the building. After waking up one morning, I walked outside to drink my morning coffee and noticed an awful stench of raw sewage very close by, then noticed the source of the stink. Raw brown water and solids were bubbling up from the lid on the septic tank just outside our room and running downhill to the sound behind the motel. Needless to say, I called the Dare County Soil and Water people that day (we also checked out the same day).

About a year later when we returned, we noticed a brand new septic field with a monitor well adjacent to the motel.

Indy
Glad you posted this! You have ID'd the actual issue .... a defective septic field and tank situation. Needed to be fixed. You did the right thing... the county folks took corrective action.

But individual septic issues does not mean a broad general issue with septic systems.

The study cited says it is looking at groundwater effects, interactions with leach fields, etc. But what seems to be missed here is that in every rain, water soaks down through the leach fields and moves on down lower and into the water tables. That has not ever been any general issue.

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By: Beachmark
12/23/2019 12:31 PM

What info/indications are there that the bacterial levels have anything to do with septic systems? There is plenty of surface 'material' to consider.

FWIW, it is normal for well to septic system separations to be set at 100' as common practice all over the country. So septic leaching distance are not all that far. So that begs the question of what any significance there may be in any interaction groundwater levels and septic fields.

Beachmark


It is common practice at least at the NJ beaches to test for bacteria levels after a lot of rain. Why? Because crap flows into the water. Some areas get more than others, its not uncommon for certain beaches to be closed for 2-3 days until the levels drop

Laszlo
Understood; no news there. But what is the connection between septic fields and that issue?

And I'm honestly not picking on you at all....But the exact mechanisms are not being identified here. Is it surface 'stuff' or fertilizers and other nutrients being washed into the waters and promoting bacterial growth? Is it because of septic tanks overflowing like the above observation? Or what exactly? 'crap flows into the water' is just not a useful statement of the issues, and no one should make some presumed connection.

Manny/most folks don't even know how a septic system works. If they did, they would know that no solids should exist in the leach field, only 'digested' liquids. So if real solids are showing up, then the issue is in the tank area. Or there is an old existing connection from an old waste system into the storm drains....which has nothing to do with septic systems.

OBTW, that discharge pipe that you were near is probably one that has been discussed here somewhere in past threads....Unfortunately, I can't recall the explanation.

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By: CoolBreezeKDH
12/23/2019 8:27 PM

Our field failed because it filled with sand over 30 years. I wouldn't be surprised if the field at the Fin and Feather was in similar shape. NJ beach communities seem more suburban than OBX towns to me, curb and gutter and all. I wonder how much of their problem with bacteria has to do with older storm water management practices.

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By: ish
1/2/2020 9:50 AM



It is common practice at least at the NJ beaches to test for bacteria levels after a lot of rain. Why? Because crap flows into the water. Some areas get more than others, its not uncommon for certain beaches to be closed for 2-3 days until the levels drop

Laszlo
Understood; no news there. But what is the connection between septic fields and that issue
Manny/most folks don't even know how a septic system works. If they did, they would know that no solids should exist in the leach field, only 'digested' liquids. So if real solids are showing up, then the issue is in the tank area. Or there is an old existing connection from an old waste system into the storm drains....which has nothing to do with septic systems.

OBTW, that discharge pipe that you were near is probably one that has been discussed here somewhere in past threads....Unfortunately, I can't recall the explanation.

Beachmark


You might also be surprised to learn that many areas with sandy soil perk so quickly that they don’t even have leeching fields. The systems are designed with a collector box and one or two perforated tanks.

Even more disgusting than that are cesspools, look that one up on an empty stomach

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By: bobbyg
1/5/2020 8:05 AM

See attached story.

Since moving here I've believed "the elephant in the room" one day would be the consequences of using septic systems on OBX. Maybe it is not a problem. I do know in the summertime there are sound-side areas identified by State water testing that are posted to stay out of due to increased bacterial levels. It'll be interesting to read the report when it is released.

NCSU Dad


I live in Gallery Row and was interviewed for the project. Yes, it will be an interesting read. It should also address the Matthew flooding from the lack of upkeep to the outflow next to Red Drum (NCDOT). It has since been updated. My family went through 6 weeks of detour hell while it was being reconstructed at the beach road. If it works...then it was worth it.

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By: obxmini
1/8/2020 7:41 AM

Thought you all might be interested in this article from The Coastal Review Online: Click to follow link...

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By: manteoman
1/9/2020 4:45 AM

Thanks obxmini for posting the link. I watched the presentation on-line, but hadn't noticed this article.

P.S. Kudos to you for giving folks a heads up on where your links are sending them.

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By: obxmini
1/9/2020 8:08 AM

Glad to be of help, manteoman. Yes, I really dislike the new software's way of not showing the link itself...and having to click on something "unknown".

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By: Crunch
1/10/2020 7:48 PM

Thought you all might be interested in this article from The Coastal Review Online: Click to follow link...

obxmini


Thanks, obxmini! I like Mayor Cahoon's motto, which seems to be that everything works fine until it doesn't. Seen that from him a few times now. Seems to be pragmatic.

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By: Crunch
1/10/2020 8:53 PM

Thought you all might be interested in this article from The Coastal Review Online: Click to follow link...

obxmini


Thanks, obxmini! I like Mayor Cahoon's motto, which seems to be that everything works fine until it doesn't. Seen that from him a few times now. Seems to be pragmatic.

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By: obxmini
1/11/2020 5:50 PM

Definitely a truism "Everything works fine, until it doesn't." I would think the next part would be "plan ahead" before it's "goodbye and thanks for all the fish"*

*courtesy of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. Lucky

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By: Crunch
1/11/2020 8:00 PM

Yes, obxmini, from what I have read about Mayor Cahoon he seems to be peering out into the future and planning ahead for those times when current stuff doesn't work.

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By: obxmini
1/22/2020 4:24 PM

I think so, too, Crunch. Certainly makes sense for all.

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By: KHbiker
2/2/2020 8:01 AM

Our field failed because it filled with sand over 30 years.

CoolBreezeKDH


Another reason drain fields fail is if there are trees close by. The roots grow toward the "food" and clog the field.

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By: SandyPaws4
2/18/2020 10:35 AM

obxmini I didn't attend. I will watch the online presentation.

NCSU Dad
Interesting topic. I've had the same concerns regarding so many septic systems on the very narrow OBX strip of land bordered by the ocean on one side and estuarine waters on the other. I've personally seen fetid and clearly contaminated standing flood waters (after storms) being pumped directly into the ocean. Yikes!

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By: jsncrso
4/11/2020 4:04 PM

A properly maintained septic system works great, the problem is many people don't do the proper maintenance and only attend to an issue when literal crap is overflowing. Say what you want about septic systems, but I've seen sewage lift station overflows that would dwarf and regional issues with leaking septic systems. Lift stations also become health nightmares in flood prone areas if they every get flooded (which is often since they must be geographically low). Thousands of gallons of raw sewage can flood out. When a septic tank goes under water, most of it's contents stay put, and even if some spill out, it's much less concentrated than a lift station. Also, septic systems are the #1 reason the OBX isn't built up like Myrtle or Virginia Beach. Lots of setbacks and lot coverage regulations go along with a septic tank that keep the building density down and keep the charm with the area. The only large sewage system in Dare County is the stretch from the YMCA to Kmart; notice the building density along there versus anywhere else.

Stumpy Point, the smallest village in Dare County also went on sewage a few years ago due to sanitation issues. The land was so low there, many houses had a lot of issues with tanks draining properly, but the biggest issue was many houses on the north side of Bayview Dr didn't have septic systems, all they had was a pipe out the back of their house to the ditch, which is a state heath hazard. I remember going up the canal once in a boat years ago and seeing toilet paper and poop floating...not a good sight! Fortunately most of the OBX has sandy soil which is a perfect soil mixture to septic systems to work great.

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By: smlobx
4/13/2020 4:28 PM

I have built over 200 homes in VA and most of them were built on clay/loam soils which are not the best for installing septic systems. The soils we have at the OBX are some of the best as far as drainfields are concerned.

The key is properly maintaining them which can be a foreign idea to some folks. Up in VA where I live on a lake we are required to have our tank pumped out at a minimum of every 5 years. They inspect the system at that time as well.

At the OBX when I was discussing the system with our builder he recommended every 2 years do to the extremely heavy use during the summer then months of inactivity. I have been following his suggestions for the past 11 years and plan on continuing doing so. It’s cheap insurance if you ask me...

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By: jsncrso
4/15/2020 10:00 PM

I have built over 200 homes in VA and most of them were built on clay/loam soils which are not the best for installing septic systems. The soils we have at the OBX are some of the best as far as drainfields are concerned.

The key is properly maintaining them which can be a foreign idea to some folks. Up in VA where I live on a lake we are required to have our tank pumped out at a minimum of every 5 years. They inspect the system at that time as well.

At the OBX when I was discussing the system with our builder he recommended every 2 years do to the extremely heavy use during the summer then months of inactivity. I have been following his suggestions for the past 11 years and plan on continuing doing so. It’s cheap insurance if you ask me...

smlobx


The big problem here is everyone flushing crap down the toilets and sinks that a septic tank cant handle. Sewage plants can screen out foreign debris and the lift pumps can handle trash thrown down the pipes, a septic tank cannot and will back-up if this happens

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