Evaluation of Large-Scale Decentralized Wastewater Systems: Sustainability Considerations

By Susan Parten, P.E..

Published by The Sustainability Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Onsite, or decentralized wastewater systems make up a large and critical portion of the world's wastewater systems, with approximately 1/4 of the U.S. population served by them. These systems are sometimes considered temporary solutions for wastewater service, but are increasingly recognized as a necessary element of long-term sustainable development and infrastructure. Property developers and systems owners frequently arrange for wastewater systems having the least short-term investment, rather than the lowest life-cycle costs with consideration to important long term sustainability issues. Such choices are often largely based on the absence of readily available information that could help with that decision-making.

This U.S. nationwide 2-year study was conducted by the author for the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) in Alexandria, Virginia. U.S. nationwide performance, cost and operational data was gathered and analyzed for systems with flows between 5,000 gallons (19,000 litres) and 50,000 gallons (190,000 litres) per day, and with at least 5 years of operational history. Those findings and recommendations, as related to long-term sustainability are discussed. Study findings discussed include reliability of performance for specific system types; capital and operational costs; energy consumption; sludge production; and useful service lives.

Keywords: Onsite Wastewater Systems, Septic Systems, Decentralized Wastewater Systems, Large Scale, Community, Sustainable Systems Planning

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp.317-332. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.658MB).

Susan Parten, P.E.

Principal Engineer, President, Community Environmental Services, Inc., Austin, Texas, USA

Ms. Parten has twenty-five years of experience with wastewater systems planning, design and research for both large and small-scale systems. She has owned and operated Community Environmental Services, Inc. (CES), a small civil-environmental engineering firm since 1992, and serves as project manager and principal engineer. Prior to specializing in work with decentralized wastewater systems, Ms. Parten worked on municipal scale wastewater and sludge treatment facilities design projects, in addition to water resources and other related engineering consulting services. In the early 1990’s Ms. Parten left private consulting engineering and returned to the University of Texas at Austin to work as a research engineer for the Department of Civil Engineering. There, and later through CES, Ms. Parten has conducted a number of research projects on various decentralized wastewater topics. Those projects have ranged from extensive literature searches and database development to the design and monitoring of various types of treatment processes. Ms. Parten is a licensed civil engineer in both Texas and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and practices throughout the U.S. and in the eastern Caribbean region. She has recently authored a book on sustainable decentralized wastewater systems entitled Planning and Installing Sustainable Onsite Wastewater Systems (McGraw-Hill), to be published in late 2009.


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