January 29, 2006

Pollution sources on Hatteras Island

This is a letter I wrote to a reporter at the OB Sentinel about some comments in a recent article

In your recent article on flooding in Buxton Woods you reported: The state has raised concerns not only over the potential for drainage of natural wetlands, but also with the high levels of bacteria found in the water,” Clark said. High fecal coliform counts result from both wildlife and septic systems on the island. I have an interest in scientific data related to pollution from septic tanks. It is unclear from the article whether the statement about the source of the fecal coliform was made by Mr. Clark or was added by you. If it was added by you I am interested in what source material you used to make this statement, if it was made by Mr. Clark, I will contact for his sources. Improperly installed or maintained septic systems can cause pollution but this is actually little scientific evidence that such pollution exists in the real world. I am very interested in find any data that does exist.

If you wrote that paragraph based on your knowledge of the causes of pollution I would encourage you to do more research on the statement and consider using the term "improperly operating or failed" septic systems as the cause of fecal coliform pollution not septic tanks in general. By using these terms you can help your readers understand that on-site waste systems like septic tanks need not be sources of pollution and in fact are excellent methods of waste disposal that can be economical, highly efficient and environmentally friendly.

If you would like more information about the performance of on-site wastewater systems and septic tanks in particular please let me know I would be happy to point you in the right direction. Further, the Town of Nags Head's Septic Health Initiative, which I have been involved with, is an excellent source for more information.

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