In 2012, the Ohio Department of Health estimated that 194,000 septic systems — almost 20 percent of the state’s nearly 1 million overall — were defective.
They were discharging an estimated 900,000 gallons of raw sewage per day into Ohio waterways.
About 25 percent of Ohioans rely on septic systems.
Summit County has 33,000 septic systems that serve about 13.5 percent of the county’s 245,000 housing units.
Stark County has more, about 40,000. Elsewhere in the area, county numbers are Portage, 15,000; Wayne, 20,000; Medina, 20,000; and Cuyahoga, 9,000.
Repairing or replacing a failed septic system is not cheap — typically $7,000 to $9,500, said Ryan Pruett of Summit County Public Health.
Septic systems were built in many suburban subdivisions in the 1950s through the 1970s, often with the thought that sewers would be installed later. In many cases, that has not happened.
Early septic systems discharged effluent directly to ditches. In newer construction, a system with gravel and sand filter beds was used, eliminating discharge to ditches.
At some homes, mechanical aeration systems were added to boost water treatment.
Septic systems do a good job handling organic wastes. They do not, however, fare as well when dealing with phosphorous and nitrogen. Such discharges reduce oxygen levels in streams, affecting fish and aquatic insects.
In 2007, the Ohio Legislature changed state rules on septic systems. On-site, nondischarging septic systems now are preferred.
The Ohio Department of Health is proposing tighter rules on septic systems.
— Bob Downing