Septic systems are a common form of household wastewater treatment and disposal in the United States. They are cost effective in rural areas and require relatively minimal maintenance. However, they also come with the risk of groundwater contamination if not correctly installed or maintained, or if they are installed too close to domestic wells. To prevent this, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, has laws in place requiring a minimum distance between septic tanks and wells.
What is a Septic System?
A septic system is a self-contained sewage system. They are placed underground for safe treatment and disposal of onsite waste materials evacuated through the house's plumbing. In areas where houses are spaced farther apart, septic systems are less costly than centralized sewer systems. About 25 percent of the American population relies on onsite wastewater treatment systems, 95 percent of which are septic systems, according to National Environmental Services.
Risks of Septic Systems
Septic systems contain waste material that is dangerous to humans. Failed septic systems are the leading cause of groundwater contamination in the United States. Wastewater contains bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses, which are all hazardous to humans. Eighty percent of all infectious diseases worldwide may be water related, and many can be deadly.
HUD Distance Requirements
In order to prevent dangerous groundwater contamination, HUD has issued laws stating the minimum distance a septic system must be from a domestic well. According to HUD, a domestic well must be located a minimum of 100 feet from the septic tank's drain field, where the waste is disposed, and a minimum of 10 feet from any property line. In some cases, state or local regulations have greater distance requirements which must be met.
Penalties for Septic Violation
Each state has its own code violations regarding septic tanks. If a septic system does not meet regulations, you will be responsible to pay the fine required by your state and also to take the necessary measures to ensure your system meets local regulations. Fines and penalties regarding septic violations differ depending on the state. Check your local septic regulations in order to ensure that your system meets the requirements enforced by your state.
- National Environment Services Center: What is a septic system? How do I maintain one?
- National Environment Services Center: Septic Systems
- Galveston County Health District: Health Consequences of Failing Septic Systems
- HUD: Mortgagee Letter 2002-25
- HomeAdvisor. "How Much Does A Septic System Cost?" Accessed Oct. 7, 2019.
- HomeAdvisor. "How Much Does It Cost to Clean or Pump a Septic Tank?" Accessed Oct. 7, 2019.
- Thumbtack. "Septic Tank Installation and Replacement Cost," Accessed Oct. 7, 2019.
Based in Connecticut, Chelsea Lothrop has been writing for publication since 2009. Her primary focuses are real estate, personal health, and literature. Lothrop is a former contributor to the Speedy Tenants Rental Agency blog. She is currently completing her bachelor's degree in literature through Arizona State University.