Sometimes you take for granted that everyone working in the industry knows why our systems are so important to the environment and human health. During the last few months, we have had some questions about what is in wastewater and why it is a problem. This is where we start our basic sewage treatment workshops. We thought it would be helpful to go back to the beginning and discuss pollutants and potential problems. We will follow up these discussions over coming months looking at some specific ways to address the concerns.

Professionally designed, sited and installed conventional onsite sewage treatment systems effectively reduce or eliminate most human health and environmental hazards. This is accomplished through physical, chemical and biological processes in the septic tank, in the biomat and in the unsaturated soil zone beneath operating soil treatment trenches. 

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All across the country, people interested in water quality have been talking about nitrogen, where it’s coming from and how to control it. But there is another nutrient just as important but less often in the spotlight, and now it’s due for attention.

“Phosphorus has been one of those issues kind of sidelined by nitrogen,” says Brian Baumgaertel, director of the Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Test Center. “There aren’t a whole lot of technologies looking to remove phosphorus.” 

On Cape Cod, where the center operates as a division of the Barnstable County Health Department, phosphorus is a problem along with nitrogen. “A lot of our ponds have some increased eutrophication issues in the last five to 10 years,” he says. 

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Our area is filled with hometown heroes! Several area church members recently helped install a new septic system at a shelter for young girls in Belize.

Church mission trips usually don’t send a crew of mostly inexperienced people from a small Midwestern town to install a wastewater system in Central America. Yet that’s what Ty Keefer found himself overseeing in February for his group from First Presbyterian Church in Norwalk, Ohio. Fortunately, he does have experience, but only of a certain kind.

Keefer owns Stark’s Sanitary Service in Norwalk. He pumps tanks and does minor repairs. “I’ve done no installation. I’ve been around when systems were put in,” he says.

At the end of the trip was Marla’s House of Hope, a shelter for girls from abusive families, located in Belmopan, the capital city of Belize. The shelter has a capacity of 20 to 25 girls and had two septic tanks on a square lot measuring 142 feet on a side.

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The University of Arizona made a bold claim this week: It stopped a coronavirus outbreak before it started.

Universities around the U.S. have struggled with outbreaks as they attempt to start the fall semester. But at the Likins Hall dorm, just across the street from the University of Arizona’s recreation center, two students were found to have contracted the coronavirus — and they were asymptomatic.

The university said it pulled this off by combining more common forms of coronavirus mitigation, swab testing and contact tracing, with a more exotic one: analyzing sewage.

The university had implemented a campus-wide initiative to conduct what’s known as wastewater-based epidemiology. This effort, which involves analyzing sewage samples for traces of the coronavirus, gave the university a way to quickly and repeatedly look for traces of the virus in discrete groups of people — in this case, dorms — as part of an early warning system to catch cases of COVID-19.

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Approximately one-half of 1% of the planet’s water is drinkable, and we use that water for much more than drinking – showering, brushing our teeth, watering our grass, etc. Consumer usage, however, pales in comparison to the amount of water needed to irrigate our crops.

According to USDA’s Economic Research Service, agriculture accounts for more than 80% of the nation’s water consumption. With the need to feed a growing population, scientists from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are looking for ways to safely expand agriculture’s supply of usable water. USDA will stimulate innovation so that American agriculture can achieve the shared goal of increasing U.S. agricultural production by 40% while cutting the environmental footprint of U.S. agriculture in half by 2050.

“Water shortage is a problem. At any one time in the United States, there will be a drought occurring somewhere,” said Clinton Williams, lead research soil scientist at ARS’s U.S. Arid Land Agricultural Research Center in Maricopa, AZ.

Williams said there is plenty of water to be had, and his research shows that municipal wastewater can be used to irrigate crops.

“One of the best ways we can increase efficiency and sustainability is to reuse reclaimed water,” he said. “Some of the safety concerns are related to trace organic contaminants such as pharmaceuticals, hormones, and other contaminants. My research focuses on the safe reuse of this water.”

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As a water and wastewater treatment manufacturer, Norweco feels a responsibility to support critical infrastructure programs that relieve pressure on our nation’s water supply.  We are honored to provide ecologically safe and reliable water reuse technologies that help support these efforts.

U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Tom Carper (D-DE) released the following statements on the committee’s passage of America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 (AWIA 2020) and the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020. The legislation as amended passed the committee by a vote of 21 to 0.

“Our committee has taken a significant step to improve our dams, ports, flood-prevention infrastructure, reservoirs, and drinking water systems,” said Barrasso. “America’s Water Infrastructure Act and the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act will create jobs and grow our economy. The legislation will help ensure American-made goods are safely shipped from one state to another and that the water Americans are drinking is safe. These bills, along with our bipartisan highway infrastructure legislation, should be considered by the full Senate, after the immediate health crisis is behind us. I am thankful to Ranking Member Carper and all the members of our committee for working with me to advance these important water infrastructure bills.”

“Every American relies on water infrastructure. Millions of Americans across the country rely on Army Corps of Engineers projects to safely navigate our waters, stay safe from flooding and storm damage, and reap the benefits of healthy aquatic ecosystems and marshlands,” said Carper. “Our country’s drinking water and wastewater systems, shipping channels and flood control structures are essential to our economy and way of life, but they are also in desperate need of improvements and investments. America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 and the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 will make badly needed improvements and investments in water infrastructure systems throughout the country.  I thank Chairman Barrasso for his leadership and partnership in this effort, and look forward to the work ahead of us.” 

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As the global health community tracks the spread of this virus, it’s important for water and wastewater professionals to keep updated on potential impacts.

It’s hard to miss the headlines. The recent outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV or COVID-19) has dominated news cycles in recent weeks. The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling it “public enemy number one.” But what information do we have that is related to coronaviruses in water and wastewater systems? And what can water- and wastewater-system operators do to protect public health?

Modern water and wastewater treatment systems play an important role in public health protection. With the potential for environmental transmission, water and wastewater operators need to know the potential for survival of this type of virus in water and wastewater treatment systems.

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Congrats to Norweco’s Scott Hetrick, Vice President of Sales, who was honored with the Ohio Onsite Wastewater Association’s (OOWA) 2020 Trent Lydic Distinguished Service Award!  Scott has worked with Norweco for 36 years and we are so proud of his achievement.  Pictured with Scott are OOWA board members.

We are very pleased to announce a manufacturing and warehouse expansion between Norweco and Norwalk Precast Molds!  🚧  “A joint venture between Norweco and Norwalk Precast Molds will allow continued growth and expansion of our product lines at both companies,” president Gregory Graves said.

In 2007, Norwalk Precast Molds purchased the 205 Industrial Parkway property in Ohio to allow for continued growth and innovation. This new expansion will more than double their current space and allow them continued growth.

Check out the article below & stay tuned for details!

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National Environmental Health Association (NEHA)

After the events of the past year, emergency preparedness has clearly emerged as one of the most important topics facing environmental health. The 2017 hurricane season left hundreds of billions of dollars-worth of damage in its wake. Meanwhile, wildfires in California burned over 1.2 million acres, resulting in five of the 20 most destructive fires in the state’s history. Despite the expansive media coverage these disasters generated, damage to wastewater treatment systems, especially private ones, was rarely discussed. Over 20% of U.S. households rely on a septic system, making them a key component to how wastewater is treated in this country. Septic systems can be damaged by hurricanes, wildfires, and a range of other disasters. Under flooded conditions, septic tanks can become dislodged and float out of the ground, heavy firefighting equipment can damage drain fields, and earthquakes can lead to drinking water contamination if septic tanks or pipes are damaged.

Including septic systems in preparedness efforts is essential to a strong recovery. Local and state health departments can provide guidance to septic system users in their communities and help residents identify qualified professionals if any repairs are needed. The best resource homeowners have, however, might be one they haven’t considered: themselves. Being well versed with their septic system type, location, and components will help homeowners understand how different disaster events might impact their systems. Recognizing warning signs after a disaster and knowing when to call a licensed professional will also save homeowners from costly repairs down the road and protect their families’ health. Taking steps to care for one’s septic system, such as being mindful of what goes down the drain or keeping cars off the drain field, will also help systems function during and recover after a disaster hits.

From the national to the local level, more can and needs to be done to incorporate septic systems into emergency preparedness planning. While counties, states, and even federal agencies can grow their programs in this area, homeowners are best armed with a thorough understanding of how their system operates and who they should contact when something goes wrong. Unfortunately, years fraught with disaster events like 2017 are likely to become more frequent. Raging hurricane and wildfire seasons may strike again, and other disasters affecting septic systems will likely return. Building capacity at the state and local level is critical, but homeowner education is necessary to creating an efficient emergency preparedness program for septic systems.

Check out some of the free educational resources below to get started.

Environmental Protection Agency:

National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association: