Which is More Environmentally-Friendly: Septic or Sewer?

Which is More Environmentally-Friendly: Septic or Sewer?

When building a home, one of the first questions people ask is whether they should install a septic or just connect to the city sewer (if possible). If you have the option to choose either or, you may be wondering which option is better for the environment and the costs associated with maintaining your system.

The Pros and Cons of a Septic

Many people agree that septic tanks can be environmentally-friendly if operated properly. It’s possible to recycle treated wastewater to water the lawn, serve as a water source for gravel pits, use for toilet flushing, etc.

When installed properly, septic tanks should withstand even the biggest of storms. The key most important thing is to have a professional, experienced plumber install the septic system in the right location. The key is to ensure that there’s an adequate amount of unsaturated soil below the treatment area to allow for complete treatment of wastewater.

Although it is the responsibility of the homeowner to maintain the septic system, the costs of maintenance are relatively low compared to the cost of installing and paying monthly for city sewer.

Tanks need to be pumped every 3-5 years, and that cost is normally $200-$300. If properly maintained, some tanks can go as long as a decade in between pumps.

But when a septic isn’t properly taken care of, it can become a nuisance for the nearby ecosystem. Improperly treated wastewater can contaminate the groundwater and the surface.

Ultimately, it can become a public health problem. In fact, UMNE says improperly treated sewage may be the reason for the spread of dysentery, hepatitis and other diseases caused by pathogens in drinking water. Improperly treated sewage can also contaminate the lakes and streams.

The Pros and Cons of Sewer

Of course, the primary benefit to connecting to your city’s sewer system is that you don’t have to manage it.

The local government is in charge of maintaining the sewer and ensuring that wastewater is treated properly. Sewer systems are monitored to ensure that everything is working properly.

Municipal sewer systems are also better able to accommodate heavy loads and periods of heavy rains or storm surges. Septic tanks are more vulnerable to overflowing, especially if they are small or poorly maintained, which can contaminate nearby groundwater and surfaces.

One drawback to a sewer system is that it connects entire communities to a single drain field. Sewers can easily become clogged with hair, grease and hard elements, all of which can cause backups in toilets, bathtubs and sinks.

While homeowners don’t have to handle the maintenance and labor of a sewer system, they do have to foot the fees.

Hooking up to the city’s sewer system can also come at a high cost. Communities sometimes impose a sewer betterment fee, which can sometimes cost tens of thousands of dollars.

With sewer systems, chemicals and energy are needed to pump and treat wastewater. There has been growing concern over the impact this can have on rivers, as the bacteria can stream outward.