Wednesday, January 22, 2020

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Video Learning Series: Groundwater Foundation}

This is the second blog in a series of video learning opportunities from the Groundwater Foundation. Click to see the previous blog on the Groundwater Guardian program.
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Frannie has been on the move a lot recently and has been relying on her friends at the Groundwater Foundation to help her keep up on her blogs so this week, she wants to turn the spotlight around on them!

The Groundwater Foundation was founded in 1985 and operated in its early years out of the home of President Emeritus Susan Seacrest. In her interview, she states, "Groundwater, as it exists when it's in storage, is hidden. We wanted to be the voice that would speak to people about the importance of what it does."

Over thirty years later, Groundwater Foundation staff do most of their work out of an office in beautiful Lincoln, Nebraska. As Director of Grants Jane Griffin says, "[we] try to reach people with information about the [groundwater] they are utilizing and the ways they can be in the protection and conservation of it."

As you learned last week, one of the ways communities can learn about groundwater and become engaged in protecting it is through the Groundwater Guardian program. "[Groundwater Guardians] are leaders in conservation and role models in our community", offering ways for our friends, family, and the general public to be active stewards of the environment.

Readers of Frannie's blog are already familiar with the youth education and outreach part of the Foundation's efforts. "Education is the basis for better decision-making". The activities, games, lessons, and tools that Frannie and her friends share on this blog can equip you with knowledge you will need to keep your drinking water clean for the future.

The Groundwater Foundation is grateful to people like you who want to "make a difference, care more about where they live, do more for where they live, and be more of who they are." Cheers to groundwater!


Friday, January 17, 2020

BLOG: How Much Do You Know About On-Site Wastewater Treatment Systems?

On-site wastewater treatment systems are an effective method of disposing of sewage in the United States, especially in rural areas that do not have readily available sewer lines. About 25% of the US population owns an on-site wastewater treatment system. If you are the owner of an on-site wastewater treatment system, you must take steps to ensure you are not causing damage to your property, your family, the environment, and the property and families of those around you.

A septic system has two main components: the septic tank and the drainfield.

Septic Tank
The size of the septic tank varies based on the number of bedrooms in the home, the number of wastewater contributing fixtures and appliances (i.e. whirlpool bath, garbage disposal, dish/clothes washer, etc.), and/or state and local regulations. Waste enters the tank from household plumbing through a pipe and enters the septic tank, which is a buried watertight container made of materials such as concrete, fiberglass, or plastic. The tank holds the waste long enough to allow solids and liquids to separate and form three layers:

  • Scum layer – solids lighter than water, such as greases or oils, float to the top
  • Liquid layer – partially clarified wastewater
  • Sludge – solids heavier than water settle at the bottom of the tank

The tank also contains baffles and tees, which slow the wastewater entering the tank to allow solids to easily settle out.

Treatment of the wastewater begins in the septic tank as naturally-occurring bacteria in the sewage work to break down the organic matter in the tank. Sludge and scum that cannot be broken down remain in the tank until it is pumped. The partially clarified liquid layer then flows through an effluent filter out of the tank and into the drainfield for final treatment.

Drainfield
The wastewater (effluent) entering the drainfield may contain many potentially harmful microorganisms and pollutants, many of which can be effectively removed through soil treatment. The drainfield, also referred to as a leachfield, disposal field, or soil absorption system, consists of perforated pipes or chambers within a series of trenches or mounds lined with gravel and buried one to three feet below the surface. Water flows through the perforated pipes or chambers and slowly trickles through the gravel and into the surrounding soil, where the natural processes in the soil complete the sewage treatment process.

Maintenance is a Must!
Installing an on-site wastewater treatment system on your property can be much more beneficial to the environment than running miles of sewer lines to your property. Unfortunately, in many cases, once an on-site wastewater treatment system is installed, it is often forgotten until it malfunctions. When the system is installed on your property, you are the one responsible for it. About 10-20% of on-site wastewater treatment systems malfunction each year. More often than not, system malfunction or failure is the result of improper maintenance by the owner. How should it be maintained?

System Failure
An on-site wastewater treatment system can fail for a number of reasons, but usually point to improper maintenance by the owner. Not having your system inspected often enough can cause the owner to miss key factors contributing to a wastewater treatment system failure.

Photo courtesy of Seattle-King County Public Health

What Can I Do?
Properly maintaining your on-site wastewater system will not only save you money in the long run, it's also important for protecting groundwater supplies and ensuring safe drinking water for you, your family, and your neighbors. Systems should be inspected every one to two years by a professional and pumped when necessary. What else can I do?

If maintained correctly, your wastewater treatment system can be beneficial and environmentally-friendly, but without regular maintenance, it has the potential to affect groundwater supplies and cause harm you and those around you. Having your wastewater treatment system regularly inspected and pumped can avoid unnecessary expenses, damage to your property, damage to neighbor’s properties, damage to the environment, and damage to the health of you, your family, and families around your property.

More information and resources
Groundwater Foundation Get Pumped! Septic Education Toolkit
U.S. EPA Septic System Information
National Environmental Services Center

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Video Learning Series: Groundwater Guardian Program}

Happy New Year, friends!

2020 is shaping up to be an exciting year full of new adventures and learning opportunities. Many of you already know are a lot of great resources and educational activities on the Groundwater Foundation's website, but did you know that there are several informational YouTube videos, too? In this series, Frannie will take a look at video learning opportunities offered and how you can use them!

Groundwater Guardian is growing in 2020, so Frannie's excited to kick off this series with a look at the new and improved program.

The Groundwater Guardian program offers support and recognition to motivated groups throughout the U.S. who conduct education, conservation, and protection efforts to protect local groundwater. Founded in 1994, Groundwater Guardian Teams applied each year by submitting a list of proposed activities to bring awareness to local groundwater concerns and reported on progress at the end of each program year.
Logo from 2017
In 2008, a grant from the Kellogg Foundation provided an opportunity to expand to include areas of managed land through a related, but separate, program called Groundwater Guardian Green Site. Land managers or caretakers applied for this program by answering questions about, and earning points for, groundwater friendly management practices. If their application received a 70% or above, they were awarded a Green Site designation.
Logo from 2017
In 2018, the Groundwater Foundation merged with the National Ground Water Association's Foundation for Education. The Foundation for Education's audience primarily included businesses and industry professionals and the Groundwater Foundation saw an opportunity to recognize them for innovative solutions and practices that protect and conserve groundwater. With a lot of brainstorming and collaboration, the Groundwater Foundation decided to bring together teams, managed lands, and businesses, making them all Groundwater Guardians.

On October 9, 2019, Frannie's friend and Groundwater Foundation Program Manager Sara Brock presented the first look of these programs at the Nebraska Water Conference in Norfolk, NE.



2020 is the inaugural year of the Groundwater Guardian for Teams, Groundwater Guardian for Turf, and Groundwater Guardian for Business programs. New logos are on the way. New activities are being developed. New communities are getting involved. It's even easier for you to become involved!

Find out more information on the Groundwater Guardian website or email guardian@groundwater.org.

BLOG: Choosing a Water Well Professional

A qualified water well contractor is vital for proper construction, maintenance, and necessary repairs of your well system. There are many things to consider, questions to ask, and job components to compare before choosing the right contractor for your system:

1. Contractor Qualifications

  • Is the contractor licensed by the state? (Not all states require licensing.)
  • Is the contractor certified through the National Ground Water Association or a member of NGWA? 
  • Does the contractor submit well logs?
  • Does the contractor have adequate equipment in good condition to do the job?
  • Does the contractor have adequate liability and workers’ compensation insurance to protect you? 
  • Is the contractor familiar with applicable health and safety codes?
  • What is the contractor’s reputation with previous customers?
  • Will the contractor furnish a written contract specifying the terms and conditions of the job?

2. A Written Contract
It's important to have a written contract with the water well professional when preparing to have a well constructed. Unless you know what each contractor will do for his specified price, you cannot compare offers and decide which one to hire. For a drilled well, the contract might include:

  • Liability insurance coverage held by both the owner and the contractor
  • A statement that all work is to comply with local and state regulations and codes
  • The diameter and well thickness of the casing to be used
  • The type of well development and yield evaluation procedures to be used
  • The type of screen to be installed, where needed
  • The type of well cap or seal to be provided
  • The disinfection procedure
  • The cleanup after drilling, which includes all material abandoned without authorization at a drill site except drill cuttings and wastewater
  • An anticipated date for start of drilling
  • A guarantee of materials and workmanship (the contract should specify that the contractor will return to do or to correct the initial work if necessary)

3. Estimated Costs
An itemized list of charges is better than a lump sum for easy comparison. The list could include:

  • Cost of drilling per foot
  • Cost of casing per foot
  • Cost of other materials such as drive shoe, grout, and well cap
  • Cost of other operations such as grouting, developing (if longer than one hour, as in screened wells), test pumping, and disinfection
  • Cost of drilling deeper and/or second well, if required to ensure an adequate water supply
  • Cost of abandonment should it prove necessary (for instance, if saltwater is encountered and another site is selected)
  • What costs are not included in the specifications.

4. Post-Construction Checklist
After the well has been constructed and before the contractor removes his equipment from the site, you should check the well for:

  • Well Depth—This is easily done by tying a weight on a tape. Verify the measurement against the well construction report made out by the contractor.
  • Well Yield—Ask the contractor at how many gallons per minute (gpm) the well was tested, what distance the water level dropped during the test, and how quickly the water level recovered after the test.
  • Well Cap—Ensure that the well is capped and secure and that the cap is at least 6 inches above ground level.
  • Disinfection—Ask the contractor if the well was disinfected.
  • Well Construction Record—Make certain that you receive your copy of the well record. The contractor is required to deliver copies of the record to the owner. It would be advisable to keep your well record with your house deed so that the information is passed on to future owners.

Other Things to Keep in Mind . . .

  • The contractor is the expert, not you. Trust the contractor’s judgment in solving unforeseen difficulties that may come up, and discuss unforeseen costs.
  • If original construction plans must be changed, discuss the options with the contractor.
  • Don’t expect the contractor to work for free if the well does not fulfill expectations.
Use the National Ground Water Association's Contractor Lookup tool to find a contractor in your area!

Adapted from Wellowner.org.