Environmental Impact Of Septic Systems: Cautionary Tale Of The Indian River Lagoon


Does your home use a septic tank system?

Typically, septic tank systems are installed in homes which are too far away to be connected to a wastewater treatment plant. Nearly 1 in 5 homes, along with countless businesses, churches, and other installations — use septic systems as a convenient means of disposing domestic waste.

When properly maintained, the environmental impact of septic systems is minimal. But the problem is, while we are good at installing new systems or even repairing broken ones, we fail to continually maintain them.

Unfortunately, for Brevard County, Florida, home of the Indian Lagoon River Lagoon, there are close to 82,000 permitted septic systems. About 59,500 of those septic systems are contributing to the slow-death of the Indian River Lagoon.

What is the Indian River Lagoon?


The Indian River Lagoon (IRL) consists of the Banana River Lagoon, Mosquito Lagoon, and Indian River. These bodies of water are home a diverse eco-culture and connect Volusia, Brevard, St. Lucie, and Martin Counties.

Historically, the IRL was home to a diversity of rare and widespread species of fish, crabs, shrimp, and clams which gave it clout as an international brand. This reputation brought tourism, increased property value, and generated revenue through commercial fishing.

Here’s the problem:

These areas are now being threatened by storm runoffs from urban and agricultural areas, excess fertilizer applications, and septic system pollution. This has become clearly evident with the recent “Superbloom” in 2011 (an intense algal bloom in Mosquito Lagoon, Banana River Lagoon, and North Indian River Lagoon). These environmental issues have caused the diversity of species in the IRL to deteriorate which has led to a decrease in property value and tourism.

Having said that, what role do septic systems play in the current state of the Indian River Lagoon?

Why Septic Systems Need Maintenance


Schematic of a septic tank

Inside of a Septic Tank

When properly maintained, a septic system holds your waste on site until it can be broken down by the naturally occurring microorganisms which live in the system.


Here’s how it works:

The waste in the septic system breaks down into three parts:

  1. Scum
  2. Wastewater
  3. Sludge





Leaching Field

Leaching Field/Drain Field

The wastewater naturally filters over time until it can be disposed into a drain field or leaching field (which is located downhill from the tank).
This is a safe process, but many owners abuse their septic with inorganic waste, hazardous chemicals, and excess water use. Because the system isn’t showing physical signs of leaks or clogs, it is common for owners to mistakenly think the system is having no problems. Instead of maintaining their septic, owners will often wait until it is too late and the system needs to be repaired.

Although you may not be seeing any issues, this does not mean your septic tank is working properly. Here’s why:

The scum and sludge in your septic system cannot be drained properly through the drain field.  If you don’t pump or properly treat your system, scum and sludge will build up. If not maintained or drained, buildup of sludge will cause the waste water to drain too fast, and in worst case scenarios, the sludge begins seeping out. These pollutants travel through the soil to groundwater sources and can eventually lead to a body of water. New technology has provided a more cost effective solution for maintenance (we’ll talk about that soon).

Septic Tank Leak


If left untreated, the waste could rise up to the surface and cause backups in your drains. At this point, your system has completely failed. You will have to replace the drain field (a problem that can cost $2,000 – $15,000) . So, what is the solution?


Finding a Solution to Save the Lagoon


Across the United States, septic systems are still a popular method for distributing waste. In the South Atlantic region of the United States, more than 13% of new homes are being built with septic tanks. In states such as Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana —  that number goes as high as 36%.

Within Brevard county alone, out of the +/-82,000 septic tanks in the area, it would cost $1.19 billion to convert 59,500 of the problem-causing septic tanks to a central sewage system.

This is just economically unfeasible (especially since septic tanks are only part of the issue). That’s why Brevard County has decided to target septic systems with the highest potential for nitrogen and phosphorus reduction as part of a series of initiatives:

  1. Fertilizer Management and Outreach and Education – It is common to use fertilizer for agricultural uses. However, when used in excess, these fertilizers pollute surrounding waters and storm runoffs. That’s why it will be important to inform the public on fertilizer and to affect regulations concerning this matter.
  2. Septic System Removal and Upgrades – Both long term and short term opportunities have already been identified. To create the maximum reduction of pollutants, the county along with the Florida Department of Health will upgrade or remove septic tanks based on low costs and high-impact.
  3. Surface Water Remediation Services – The county will implement a water treatment solution that would treat the water from Turkey Creek. It is estimated that this would remove more than 90% of the suspended solids which are heavily attributed to the Indian River Lagoon from Turkey Creek.
  4. Muck Removal – The Muck in the Indian River Lagoon depletes oxygen, inhibits sea grass growth, and destroys healthy communities of benthic organisms (Trefry 2013). There will be a series of projects conducted to remove this material.

To find out more, you can read the Save Our Lagoon Project Plan Here.

The Economic Upside of Restoration


Brevard County stands to gain substantial economic benefits from four areas:

Cost-effective Solution for IRL Restoration

  1. Tourism and Recreation Growth
  2. Property Value Growth
  3. Rebirth of Commercial Fishing
  4. Healthy Residents and Tourists

According to the Save Our Lagoon Project Plan, if viewing the plan as a purely financial investment, it would pay “$2 billions in benefits alone.” And this does not account for the potential $4 billion loss the area would suffer if no restoration were to happen.


What Can You Do To Help Save Your Own Nearby Body Of Water?


If you own a septic system and are concerned about the environmental impact it may have on the bodies of water around you, here are some steps you can take which have been recommended by the Storm Water Center:


  1. Do not wait until you see signs of failure from your septic system. Perform septic maintenance regularly to reduce costs over the long term.
  2. Practice water conservation indoors.
  3. Practice caution when disposing of waste down the drain.
  4. Keep heavy equipment and vehicles off your system and drainfield.

In addition, new technology has provided a solution which will enable you to help your local environment and prevent the devastating costs of pollution, all while avoiding expensive septic system pump outs.

BiOWiSH Technologies is a company focused on developing all-natural products. Our goal is to help rebuild and improve living conditions around the world. If you own a septic system and don’t want to spend money having a company pump out your septic system, we have the perfect product for you.

Septic Rescue has been proven to fix failed septic systems. By following a simple 3 step process, you can avoid the hassle and headache of a septic system pump out.

If your system is currently working properly, it’s important to begin a regular maintenance. Septic Tank Maintenance will ensure you never have to pump your septic system again.

Septic Rescue and Septic Tank Maintenance directly address the environmental concerns seen in communities such as Brevard County. Both products are proven to rapidly digest organic waste and eliminate odor compounds. Using BiOWiSH™ Septic Products will provide a direct benefit to your local environment. Reducing your contribution of nitrogen, phosphorous, and other pollutants to the local ecosystem.