Campus News

Attorney, researcher looks at threats to septic tank sustainability

Scott Pippin, an attorney in the Carl Vinson Institute of Government and researcher in the Institute for Resilient Infrastructure Systems, spoke with the Washington Post about septic tank challenges.

With changing weather patterns that have resulted in large scale flooding along the East Coast, officials are worried about the impact on septic tanks. Rising water levels and increased precipitation has meant that backyards flood, rendering underground septic tanks ineffective. This means that wastewater will back-up into homes and businesses as floods occur more often.

“The challenges are going to be immense,” said Pippin. “Conditions are changing. They’re becoming more challenging for the functionality of the systems. In terms of large-scale, complex analysis of the problem, we don’t really have a good picture of that now. But going forward, you can expect that it’s going to become more significant.”

Twenty percent of U.S. households rely on septic systems and converting that number of septic systems to a central sewer plant system would cost more than $4 billion.

The state of Georgia is the only place where there has been a database of septic systems created, and this helps local and city governments be able to analyze the waste needs of their communities.

Pippin argues that this type of data collection is essential to moving forward with septic systems in a changing climate.

“Everybody wants to skip to a solution – how do we build a new infrastructure for the future? But I think the story is really the value of investing in the data and in that preliminary research to make smart investments and wise decisions,” he said.