Avoiding Septic Shock

Elena Mihaly

Climate change poses a number of difficult challenges to New England’s infrastructure. The most commonly discussed impacts include flooding of roads, bridges, and culverts, or water damage to buildings and electric utilities. A less discussed, but equally alarming challenge to infrastructure is how climate change is impacting onsite wastewater treatment systems, more commonly known as septic systems. Almost half of homes in New England depend on septic systems to dispose of wastewater. When functioning properly, these systems filter out harmful bacteria and pathogens to ensure nearby groundwater and surface waters are safe for human health and the environment. But rising sea levels, increased precipitation, and warmer temperatures due to climate change are all adversely impacting these systems. This white paper addresses whether states in New England are adequately addressing the issues presented by climate change in septic system regulation.