by Alison Gardner, Stew Arnold, Christine Armstrong, Community Journalists
GREENSBORO – As part of their lake protection and watershed education mission, the Stewards of the Greensboro Watersheds (a sub-committee of the Greensboro Association), hosted a septic social, a community gathering focused on how septic systems work along with some snacks and fun.
On the afternoon of August 10, thirty people listened as Patrick Larsen, hydrogeologist and designer of many of Caspian’s lakeshore newer septic systems, described various types of state-approved systems, the stringent rules with which wastewater systems must comply, and details on how septic systems work. Larsen also explained that many of the older septic systems are “grandfathered in” and while they are not technically failing, they are most likely not up to current state standards and require regular maintenance and improvements. Improvements could include adding raisers to assist access and filters to extend quality and life to leach fields, all of which will ultimately protect the lake.
During his presentation, Larsen gave the audience a rough analysis of how much phosphorus Caspian acquires from each lake home, comparing the difference between an effective tank and leach field and one which may not be.
The gathering was held on Beach Road at the prior Cassie’s Ice Cream stand where an innovative, double filtration system was recently built, demonstrating that it is possible to obtain an effective, non-polluting system even on small lakeshore lots.
Hans Laggis, of Taplin Septic System Service and Repair, spoke about the maintenance and care of septic systems. He reinforced the importance of knowing where a septic tank and leach field are located and having the tank and leach lines checked to ensure that they are working properly. Laggis explained that well-maintained systems are less apt to malfunction and thus are more protective of the watershed. Another benefit of regular maintenance is that it extends the life of septic systems. Participants were reminded that it is recommended to have septic tanks pumped every three years, particularly at lake houses, noting that homeowners rarely have their septic tanks pumped as recommended.
To understand more about Caspian Lake’s water quality, Stew Arnold, chair of the Greensboro Association’s Lake Protection Committee, presented data from the lay monitoring program. The data shows a significant increase in phosphorus levels in Caspian Lake over the last 20 years. There are several factors related to this increase, with poorly functioning septic systems being among them as they leach phosphorus into the ground water, and, in turn, into the lake. Shoreline property owners are encouraged to participate in a Lake Wise assessment, where more information can be personally presented on best management practices for water runoff, vegetation buffer zones, and septic system enhancements.
For more information about septic systems refer to the Department of Environmental Conservation’s web site at dec.vermont.gov/watershed. The Stewards of the Greensboro Watersheds plan to hold similar septic social events next summer.