Onsite Wastewater Systems

What are Onsite Wastewater Systems?

Onsite wastewater systems, also known as decentralized treatment systems, recycle wastewater and restore it to the groundwater table. Onsite systems usually serve singular units or clusters of homes and businesses. They provide water treatment for a small, localized community. These systems may sometimes be owned and operated by individuals rather than by the city or county. Wastewater includes sewage from homes and businesses as well as some industrial-level effluent. So how do these systems work?  

The Water Recycling Process 

Onsite wastewater systems are often used in areas that run on well-water. A home or business gets well-water pumped up from the underground water table and it is used to flush away sewage and wastewater. The wastewater collects in an underground tank where solid waste is sorted out and certain bacteria are introduced to make the water cleaner. Next, the water goes into a leech-field, which is a system of underground pipes that allow water to percolate through into the soil. The toxins are naturally taken in by the soil as the water passes through layers and layers underground. Then the water rejoins the natural underground water table. From there it can be pumped into wells, purified with a filter, and used again.    

How is This Treatment Different?

Most towns and cities use centralized sewage treatment rather than onsite systems. Centralized treatment plants treat water for entire cities or towns rather than just a few houses. The water is treated much the same way as it is in decentralized systems, except that there is more chemical treatment of the water and not a lot of natural filtering through soil layers. The water is not left to drain into the underground water table in centralized systems. Instead, it is poured into rivers, wetlands, or golf courses after treatment. This means that the water from centralized systems will have more of a direct impact on ecosystems.   

When are Onsite Systems Beneficial? 

The following are examples of situations where onsite wastewater systems can supplement or replace standard sewage treatment.

  •  Centralized treatment systems have reached or gone over their capacity. They cannot handle any additional water. If a new small community is added to the county, they will need to use onsite systems. Existing communities can switch to onsite systems to lessen the load on centralized systems.
  • The town or city is losing a lot of money tying keep centralized systems working. Decentralized systems can save money for the city, and ultimately, for you as well. 
  • The homes or businesses that need water treatment are in remote locations. If a cluster of houses or a large farm is too far away from the city, it may not receive tap or toilet water. If onsite systems are used, however, the community can have access to clean water again. 
  • Onsite systems may pose less of a threat to the environment, though this is still a subject of debate.