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Onsite and decentralized systems treat wastewater from one fourth of the households in the United States. Indications are that 10% to 30% of these systems are malfunctioning to some extent. With proper management, however, onsite and cluster systems can function as a reliable, cost-effective and permanent component of a community wastewater program. When properly managed, even conventional systems can provide adequate treatment of wastewater to protect ground and surface waters and public health.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has developed voluntary national guidelines to assist communities and States in developing programs to properly manage onsite and decentralized wastewater systems and protect water quality. The guidelines cover a number of elements and activities such as planning, siting, design, installation, operation, maintenance, monitoring and enforcement. Five “model” management programs are presented as a progressive series in which management becomes more rigorous as system technologies become more complex or as the sensitivity of the environment increases. A guidance manual is being prepared to assist in implementing programs, and an onsite system design manual is also being finalized, which will complement the management program guidance. More information can be found at
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-01-01

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