We often don’t think of septic systems as a source of groundwater contamination, as they are normally well-built and maintained as contained systems. However, a new article in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry may suggest otherwise. You can read the abstract here: http://bit.ly/8Z4eNu (An academic account may be required to download the complete article).
Most septic systems “recharge” water via a leach field, where liquid effluent is percolated back into the soil after treatment. The author made measurements in aquifers of both high and low residential density in Cape Cod, where 85% of wastewater is treated via septic system, to measure how much of an impact this leachate has on the groundwater system. They found a significantly higher instance of estrogens and pharmaceutical compounds in higher residential areas, suggesting that there may be a link between the two.
This is an interesting article, as it suggests an avenue of groundwater contamination many not currently taking into account. While the overall percent contribution of septic systems to groundwater contamination by trace organics may be small, it’s certainly worth thinking about.
You could write the story of man’s growth in terms of his epic concerns with water.