What you need to know, currently.
One of the more insidious byproducts of sea level rise is the way it will affect groundwater. A new study, that was presented at the Geological Society of America yesterday, found that North Carolina’s septic systems were particularly vulnerable. As groundwater rises, bacteria and waste will rise to the surface — mingling with drinking water and backing up into residents’ houses.
As climate change increases the probability of extreme precipitation, even inland sewer systems will be at risk. Philadelphia, for example, has a combined sewer system that transports both storm runoff and wastewater and leaves it vulnerable to flooding during extreme rainfall events like the remnants of Hurricane Ida that hit the Northeast last year. The UN estimates that only 48 percent of sewage systems worldwide adequately treat wastewater and climate change will complicate things, even for well-functioning systems.
The study focused on Nags Head, North Carolina and found that homes that were less than 2.6 meters above sea level were significantly more likely to have trouble. Part of the issue is regulatory — although the insurance industry is beginning to catch up to rising seas, rising groundwater further inland is often overlooked and regulations are outdated.
“Homeowners need to get their systems inspected and pumped every three to five years, depending on how many people live in the home,” Mary Lusk, an assistant professor at the University of Florida, told the Apopka Voice. “This will help keep the system working at its best even during heavy storms or other disasters. But if you see waste backing up in the toilet or bathtub, or if the area around your septic system stinks, that’s a sign that it’s not working correctly, and you should call a professional septic system inspector right away.”
What you can do, currently.