Government Technology

Septic Tanks Targeted by GIS Maps in Topeka, Kansas



February 25, 2009 By

Officials in Topeka, Kan. want septic tanks gone, so they use GIS maps to locate households capable of switching to the municipal sewer system. The project has been ongoing since the city passed an ordinance in 1997 mandating that homes close to the sewer system remove their septic tanks, said Kyle Tjelmeland, GIS system analyst for Topeka.

"It becomes a revenue stream for the city," said Tjelmeland. Citizens pay the city more than $1,000 to hook up to the municipal sewer system.

To locate prospects for conversion to the sewer, Topeka's GIS staff crafted a map with layers showing houses near the sewer system that receive water service but no sewer service.

"If they're paying a water bill, but they're not paying a sewer bill, there's a good chance they're using a septic system. Either that, or they're connected to the sewer system illegally," said Tjelmeland.

Septic Tanks Can Pollute

A septic tank receives all of a building's sewage, dissolves the solids, cleans the water and releases it into the ground. Built up solids are pumped out of a tank roughly every five years. One benefit of a septic tank is that it spares from the cost of paying for sewer service. The process is harmless to the environment until the tank starts malfunctioning -- sometimes when the tank has been in the ground 60 years or more, explained Tjelmeland.

"The bacteria and chemicals in wastewater can leach into the ground water. More often that water comes to the surface, getting you a bad smell and standing water, which can breed mosquitoes," Tjelmeland said.

The Environmental Protection Agency gave Topeka a grant years ago to pay for residential hookups, and many residents utilized it. That grant is done. Homeowners now must fund new sewer hookups themselves.


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Comments

Wesley L    |    Commented February 26, 2009

There's a thick layer of 'ground' between the surface and the 'ground water.' Almost all the bacteria -- which serves as nutrients to other important organisms -- and plants, get processed long before hitting the ground water. It's really about the money-- squeezing more of it out of citizens.

Wesley L    |    Commented February 26, 2009

There's a thick layer of 'ground' between the surface and the 'ground water.' Almost all the bacteria -- which serves as nutrients to other important organisms -- and plants, get processed long before hitting the ground water. It's really about the money-- squeezing more of it out of citizens.

Wesley L    |    Commented February 26, 2009

There's a thick layer of 'ground' between the surface and the 'ground water.' Almost all the bacteria -- which serves as nutrients to other important organisms -- and plants, get processed long before hitting the ground water. It's really about the money-- squeezing more of it out of citizens.

Alice B    |    Commented March 22, 2009

I agree with Wesley. I would have to pay abour $3,000 installation, plus $50 a month for sewer? Why do that when the septic tank only costs me $350 every 10 or 15 years to pump it out? We're careful - we don't put grease down the drain and we don't use our garbage disposal much. But if the city offered me free hookup to the sewer, I would consider it.

Alice B    |    Commented March 22, 2009

I agree with Wesley. I would have to pay abour $3,000 installation, plus $50 a month for sewer? Why do that when the septic tank only costs me $350 every 10 or 15 years to pump it out? We're careful - we don't put grease down the drain and we don't use our garbage disposal much. But if the city offered me free hookup to the sewer, I would consider it.

Alice B    |    Commented March 22, 2009

I agree with Wesley. I would have to pay abour $3,000 installation, plus $50 a month for sewer? Why do that when the septic tank only costs me $350 every 10 or 15 years to pump it out? We're careful - we don't put grease down the drain and we don't use our garbage disposal much. But if the city offered me free hookup to the sewer, I would consider it.


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