Conservative estimates indicate that septic systems discharge well over 100 million gallons of wastewater every day to New Jersey's groundwater supplies. While septic systems can provide a cost-effective, environmentally-safe and sustainable way to treat and dispose of wastewater, many homeowners neglect their systems, putting off preventive maintenance until the systems threaten public health, property values, and the environment.
The improper disposal of wastewater threatens the health and well being of residents in areas served by septic systems. Large numbers of disease causing bacteria, viruses and other organisms are present in sewage. When untreated effluent from a malfunctioning septic system surfaces, insects, pets and people can bring disease causing organisms into our homes. Rainwater flushes pollutants into swimming waters and in some cases, shellfish beds. Drinking water wells can also be contaminated by malfunctioning septic systems. Regular pumping of septic tanks greatly reduces the risk of septic system backups.
Dollars and Cents
Home ownership represents the single most valuable asset of most families. A properly maintained septic system adds to a home's value and alternatively, property values decline in areas where septic system problems are known to occur. A relatively small investment in regular septic tank pumping can avoid very expensive costs to repair a malfunctioning septic system.
Quality of Life
While a properly functioning system is virtually invisible in a lawn, a malfunctioning septic system is unsightly and offensive. When you are the owner of a malfunctioning system, it can also be an embarrassment. It's difficult to enjoy your home and surroundings when you are confronted with a septic system backup.
Both groundwater and surface water quality are threatened by improperly operating septic systems. Malfunctioning systems can also harm local populations of wildlife. Environmental quality is improved through proper system management. Septic system management is a part of keeping neighborhoods in the Pinelands vibrant and healthy.
Septic Systems in the Pinelands
The Pinelands Area is an ecologically-unique region covering approximately one million acres, including portions of seven counties and 53 municipalities. The area features high quality surface and ground waters, including the 17-trillion gallon Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer. The Pinelands landscape provides habitat for 43 threatened or endangered animal species and 54 threatened or endangered plant species.
The region's sensitive environment is protected through a comprehensive management plan that guides land-use, development and a variety of natural resource protection programs.
Within the Pinelands Area, land-use planning rules permit the use of septic systems (more appropriately known as onsite wastewater treatment systems, or OWTS) provided these systems are sited at appropriate densities which are protective of water quality objectives. Traditional septic tank/disposal field systems are authorized for use on large lots - those of at least 3 acres. More advanced, nitrogen reducing systems may be used on smaller lots - down to a minimum of 1 acre.