Edition 12, 1999

Features in this issue:


The Rural Community Assistance Program (RCAP) is seeking public comment on a database intended to promote the use of alternative on-site wastewater treatment technology and to rank problems in unsewered Indiana communities. The database is being constructed with input from the Indiana State Department of Health, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and local health departments. RCAP will use the information in the database to select target communities for technical assistance. Other agencies may also use the database for funding or other decisions.

Community rankings are based on the need for technical and financial assistance and on location within a watershed having septic system failure. The following criteria will be used to rank communities.

After the indicator scores are totaled, the higher the score, or ranking, the higher the chance of obtaining financial assistance to deal with community wastewater problems.

Watershed health indicators:

Community need indicators: RCAP requests public comment on the above ranking criteria. Comments should address the adequacy of the criteria and/or suggest additional existing sources of data. Please call Jacqui at (800) 382-9895 or email jbauer@incap.org by January 7, 2000.

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For about the past year, three students at Purdue, with support from ISDH and Alan Dunn, have been working to move the old DOS-based RWASTE to the Internet. For readers who weren’t in "the business" fifteen years ago, RWASTE was a fairly simple program that allowed users to enter site and soil characteristics and calculated an appropriate septic system design. It provides an evaluation of a site for an onsite residential wastewater treatment and disposal. The online version produces a design for a conventional absorption trench system, which is still the most common type of septic system in use in Indiana. Future versions hopefully will include other systems such as wetlands, sand filters, elevated sand mounds, etc.

The new online version is available at http://danpatch.purdue.edu/~septics

The students are actively working to add a module that also designs elevated sand mounds, but that is probably a year away. Still, the current online version performs well. We encourage you to take RWASTE for a test drive if you have access to the Internet and let us know what you think (765/494-1174 or email us at onsite@ecn.purdue.edu).

The advantages of using a browser to run RWASTE are significant:

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An anagram is a word of phrase made by rearranging the letters of another word or phrase.

When you rearrange the letters…
Hidden trouble…Don’t build here
Dormitory…Dirty room
Desperation…A rope ends it
The Morse Code…Here come dots
Slot Machines…Cash Lost in’em
Mother-in-law…Woman Hitler
Snooze Alarms…Alas! No more Zs
Alec Guinness…Genuine class
Semolina…Is no meal
The Public Art Galleries…Large picture halls, I bet
A Decimal Point…I’m a dot in place
The Earthquakes…That queer shake
Eleven plus two…Twelve plus one
Contradiction…Accord not in it
Astronomer…Moon starer
Year Two Thousand…A year to shut down
Source: unknown

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The Onsite Wastewater Disposal Project sponsored satellite teleconference downlink sites in ten counties across the state. From the sites that have reported, the reaction was mixed. The crowds ranged from 1 or 2 at one site, to as many as 26 in Bartholomew county. The reaction from homeowners was positive; apparently most of the information was aimed at their experience level. Many of the contractors were disappointed, however, with the lack of technical detail. "Too much on the wetlands. The people at this meeting were looking for more viable solutions with septics. Wetlands in Minnesota are okay because of lake tributaries feeding the streams and vice versa. The program focused on issues that have not been successful in Indiana."

"We had mostly contractors and other professionals in attendance. They were disappointed that the program was geared to an introductory level. ‘We already knew that,’ they said upon exiting. They mentioned that the speaker had said something to the effect of ‘doing a proper site analysis,’ but then didn’t go into how to do that."

"Our audience was mostly contractors. They expected more how-to information instead of testimonials designed to sell the idea. We had a community representative there for a seasonal community that is looking to install a system and hoped for some concrete information."

"Most of those in attendance were installers. They just smiled when the discussion dealt with the 3-foot separation between seasonal high water and or rock…indicated to me that maybe Indiana standards are not quite up to Minnesota’s."

"Reaction was mixed…there was some frustration because of Indiana’s conservative approach and slowness to approve more of the alternative systems for use in Indiana. I think one or two in the crowd thought there would be someone at the meeting to whom they could address their concerns about Indiana’s status in regard to alternative systems."

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absorption area: an area to which effluent emerging from a septic tank, aerobic unit, sandfilter or other treatment is distributed into the soil for infiltration; only certain types and geologic conditions are appropriate for absorption areas. Synonym: absorption bed, absorption field, leach field, drain field, soil absorption area

absorption area resting: removing an absorption area from active use for 6-12 months to increase aeration, allow bacteria to break down accumulated waste and allow effluent to drain; recommended for a failing system that has been overloaded with waste; an alternate absorption area is required. Synonym: drain field resting, leach field resting, absorption field resting, alternating systems

absorption bed: an area to which effluent emerging from a septic tank, aerobic unit, sandfilter or other treatment is distributed for infiltration into the soil; only certain types and geologic conditions are appropriate for absorption areas. Synonym: absorption area, absorption field, leach field, drain field, soil absorption area

absorption chamber: perforated concrete or plastic chamber laid on top of raked native soil; effluent from the septic tank or treatment system goes into the chamber, then seeps into the soil below; does not usually require aggregate backfill. Synonym: gravelless absorption chamber, leaching chamber, infiltration chamber, infiltration galley, trigalley, galley, drainage chamber

absorption trench: an excavated area of soil in the absorption area into which aggregate and perforated pipe are laid for the purpose of distributing septic tank or aerobic unit effluent. Synonym: trench

aerate: to supply with air; in sewage treatment, to mix air with sewage to promote biological decomposition or treatment of the sewage

aerobic: living in the presence of oxygen; refers to sewage degrading bacteria (usually in the soil) that must have oxygen to survive. Synonym: aerobe, oxic

aerobic unit: a sewage treatment device that mixes air with sewage (see aerate) to facilitate biological decomposition. Synonym: aerobic package plant, package plant

aggregate: washed gravel or stone with a diameter of approximately - inches used as an effluent storage and distribution medium in the absorption area

air-assisted toilet: a water conservation device that uses air to transport waste to the sewage system; uses 0.5 gallons of water per flush as opposed to conventional toilets that use 1.6 gallons of water per flush

alternating systems: system where the absorption area is divided into two fields, each sized at 75 to 100% of standard design, and each loaded alternately every 6 to 12 months. Synonym: drain field resting, absorption area resting

anaerobic: not requiring oxygen to live; refers to certain species of sewage degrading microorganisms in a septic tank. Synonym: anoxic

application rate: the rate at which the effluent from a septic tank or aerobic unit is applied to the absorption area usually expressed in gallons/day/square foot (gpd/sq.ft.)

auger: a tool used to bore holes

available soil: the depth of soil available in an absorption area that is suitable for secondary treatment. Synonym: usable soil

backfill: to replace the soil that was removed from an absorption area or around a septic tank or other wastewater treatment device. Synonym: fill

backflush: usually refers to removing contaminants from a water softener and sending the brine discharge (containing high concentrations of sodium, calcium, and magnesium) to the sewage treatment unit; in some areas this is not allowed if the sewage treatment unit is a traditional septic system. Synonym: backwash

baffle: a device installed in a septic tank or distribution box to slow the velocity of liquids and increase settling of solids; limits movement of solids to the absorption area. Synonym: deflector

bedrock: the rock that underlies soil; can limit movement of chemicals to groundwater if not fractured or weathered

berm: a raised area of soil that diverts precipitation or runoff away from an absorption area; also, an earthen structure to support the sides of a sewage system that is above grade or on a slope

black water: liquid waste from toilets (as opposed to gray water, the liquid waste from sinks, washing machine, water treatment devices, showers, tubs, etc.)

cesspool: perforated concrete tank that receives household sewage directly and does not follow a septic tank or aerobic unit not considered to be appropriate for sewage treatment in Indiana

cleanout: an access hole in the septic tank to allow inspection of the tank or its contents; tank should always be pumped through central access manhole. Synonym: manhole, access port, inspection port

Clivus Multrum: a commercial manufacturer of a type of composting toilet

community system: a network of pipes from households in a given area that connect to a common sewage treatment plant. Synonym: cluster system

compacted soil: soil that has been compacted in the process of installing an absorption area; infiltration of effluent is restricted in smeared soil. Synonym: smeared soil

composting toilet: toilet in which wastes are not mixed with water but collected and biologically decomposed into humus. Synonym: Clivus Multrum, waterless toilet

conservation device: any device that limits the amount of water used in a given activity, such as low-flow shower heads, water saving toilets, water-saving faucets, composting toilets, toilet dams. Synonym: water conservation device, flow-restrictor

conveyance lines: the network of pipes connecting the various parts of a sewage treatment system

curtain drain: a drain installed below the soil surface to limit the flow of clean groundwater into a sewage treatment or absorption system. Synonym: vertical drain, under drain

decomposition: rotting; in sewage treatment, reduction of volume and type of wastes due to action of microorganisms. Synonym: digestion

deep hole test: an examination of the soil profile prior to installation of a sewage treatment system; evaluates the suitability of the soil for sewage treatment, determines depth to bedrock, depth to water table and occurrence of impermeable soil. Synonym: soil cut inspection

digestion: see decomposition

distribution box: a concrete, fiberglass, or plastic box that is situated between the septic tank and absorption area to evenly distribute effluent by gravity flow from the septic tank to the absorption area. Synonym: distribution device, D-box

distribution line: see perforated pipe

dosing: using a pump or siphon to move effluent from the septic tank to the pipe network of an absorption area; movement through the pipe network is by gravity; dosing assists in even distribution of the wastewater into the absorption area; not the same as pressure distribution, which uses a pump to move effluent through the pipe network

drainage chamber: see absorption chamber

drain field: see absorption area

drywell: an improper term for sewage pit; it has nothing to do with wells

dual chamber tank: see multi-compartment tank

dye test: a test to determine leaks/failure in the onsite sewage treatment system; a fluorescent dye, such as Rhodamine-B, is added to the toilet tank, and the sewage treatment system is examined for evidence of dye appearance. Synonym: fluorescent dye test, Rhoadamine-B dye test

See Edition 13 for additional terms!

These terms are taken from the Cornell University Cooperative Extension Service publication fs-9.ny

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LIGHTEN UP! Life in the 1500s

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and were still smelling pretty good by June ("June brides"). However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the B.O.

Baths equaled a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice, clean water, then all the other sons and men got their turn, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, "Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water."

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt, hence the saying "dirt poor." The wealthy had slate floors which would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (or straw) on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they kept adding more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed at the entry way, hence a "thresh hold."

Source: unknown

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