Nov 20, 2008

EPA Renews Memorandum of Understanding to Address Septic Systems

MOU highlights cooperation between EPA and 14 industry organizations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and 14 organizations entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), signed Nov. 19, to help focus efforts on planning, design, long-term operation, maintenance and management of septic systems on a national level.

The organizations will work together to improve management of septic wastewater systems by exchanging information and providing technical assistance to their members, states and local municipalities.

Nearly one-quarter of the nation’s housing and commercial development depend on onsite and septic wastewater treatment systems. When properly sited, designed and maintained, these systems perform at a high level. However, between 10% and 20% fail each year, posing a great threat to surface and groundwater. Malfunctioning systems are the second greatest threat to groundwater quality in the U.S.

The participating organizations are:
&#149 Consortium of Institutes for Decentralized Wastewater Treatment (CIDWT);
&#149 National Association of Towns and Townships (NATaT);
&#149 National Association of Wastewater Transporters, Inc. (NAWT);
&#149 National Environmental Health Association (NEHA);
&#149 National Environmental Services Center (NESC);
&#149 National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association, Inc. (NOWRA);
&#149 Rural Community Assistance Partnership, Inc. (RCAP);
&#149 Water Environment Federation (WEF);
&#149 Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators (ASIWPCA);
&#149 Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC);
&#149 State Onsite Regulators Alliance (SORA);
&#149 Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF);
&#149 Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA); and
&#149 Association of State and Territorial Health Organizations (ASTHO).

In 2005, the first eight organizations listed above entered into a “Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Regarding Cooperation in Decentralized Wastewater Management” to formalize the ongoing cooperative relationship to effectively address issues pertaining to decentralized wastewater treatment systems. The 2005 MOU facilitated the signatory organizations’ efforts to strengthen the relationship between the organizations and initiate collaborative efforts aimed at improving the credibility and professionalism within the industry. The duration of that MOU was three years.

This MOU renews the original 2005 document and includes six additional organizations.

The MOU is intended to upgrade the professionalism within the industry and facilitate collaboration between EPA Headquarters, EPA regions, state and local governments, and national organizations representing practitioners in this area, leading towards efforts to improve system performance.

The purpose of this MOU is to continue the efforts begun under the 2005 MOU and to include additional organizations and expand upon the goals of the cooperative relationship between the Signatory Organizations by including a focus on state decentralized management programs and research components. It is to remain in effect for a period of three years.

Approximately four billion gallons of wastewater are treated and discharged daily by these systems. More than half of the existing systems are more than 30 years old. Population is increasing and shifting geographically in areas that are least prepared to meet the demand. Decentralized wastewater systems can be protective of public health and water quality if they are properly planned, sited, designed, installed and maintained.

More information is available at