Around the Home

Plumbing & Septic Systems

Avoid and reduce the release of toxic and hazardous agents into the household plumbing system.

Household wastes move from the internal plumbing system to the septic tank. In the tank solids settle, forming a "sludge" while grease and other light materials float to the surface and form a "scum." The sludge and scum must be removed from the system periodically, typically every one to four years, while the liquid portion of the  waste leaves the tank and is evenly dispersed into the leaching field where it percolates through gravel then reenters the soil.

A potential water quality concern is the domestic subsurface sewage disposal system. Failure of such a system will result in an unsightly and odorous discharge and could create a serious health hazard by harboring bacteria, viruses and pollutants which may cause disease (e.g. polio, hepatitis, dysentery).

The Connecticut and New York Public Health Code sets standards for the design, installation, and location of subsurface sewage disposal systems. No part of a septic system may be located within specific distancesof a drinking water supply reservoir or its tributary stream or watercourse, or within a specific distance from a well, depending on soil and pumping conditions.

A septic system that is properly maintained and pumped should not pose great risk to the watershed.

You can find a list of the most common hazardous chemicals and household wastes here.

Lawns, Grounds & Animals

Chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers are toxic. Careless handling of them can result in contamination of the environment, polluting streams and ponds, rendering wells and public drinking water supplies unsafe. These chemicals are also toxic to children and animals.

Fertilizing

Help keep the water clean by switching to organic fertilizers whenever possible; organics breakdown quickly and naturally and pose much less threat to the water supply. Natural soil amendments such as manure are also a risk. For all lawn, plant and soil applications, follow local regulations and manufacturer's instructions. Always use the minimum amount called for. Only purchase what you need to avoid adding waste chemicals to the environment.

Fertilizers fuel the production of algae blooms in reservoirs which rapidly degrade water quality. Even modern water treatment facilities may not be relied upon to remove all toxic chemicals. Fertilizers, especially synthetics, are increasingly found in the nation's water supply due to over application, misuse and improper disposal.

State health regulations require that any structure where animals are housed or manure accumulated cannot be located within a specific distance of a drinking water supply reservoir or within a specific distance of its tributary streams or watercourses. Such structures must be constructed so that manure and other polluting materials are prevented from entering or being washed into tributary watercourses.

Ponds & Pools

The backwash water from swimming pools contains large accumulations of bacteria and chemicals. This water should never be released onto the ground. Discharge backwash into it's own subsurface disposal system, not the home's septic system. It is illegal to discharge backwash within 50 feet of a water supply source or tributary.

During the summer, weed and algae growth increases in ponds. If water is stagnant, ponds also risk becoming a mosquito breeding area. The use of chemical pesticides, herbicides or oils to control such problems requires CT DEP approval for each application.

The release of fish into ponds, requires a permit from the DEP. Never release carp or goldfish into a pond as it is illegal—these fish produce high levels of waste, quickly degrading water quality. In addition, do no feed waterfowl; their overpopulation quickly overburdens ponds with waste.

Oil Tanks & Mechanical Wastes

After a period of years, fuel or heating oil storage tanks can develop leaks from corrosion and cause contamination of ground and surface water. All underground tanks and lines should be examined on a periodic basis for leaks. Be especially watchful for oil seepage or odor around the tank and unusually high consumption rates.

Even accidental polluters may be liable for clean-up and damages on all affected properties. It is recommended that all underground tanks on aquifer and watershed areas be removed.

oil slick draining into sewer

Waste oil from cars and machinery can contaminate ground and surface waters. Never dump waste oil down a catchbasin, on the ground, in a watercourse, or in the trash. It is illegal to dispose of oil in this manner. Check with your town about proper waste oil disposal facilities or contact your local gas station.

Find a Collection Center Near You >>

Hazardous Chemicals & Wastes

Below is a list of the most common hazarous chemicals and wastes. Follow manufacturers guidelines when using chemicals and household products. Take care to follow local municipal regulations when disposing of these materials and their containers. Never dispose of these materials in the water or soil.

Rusty cans

  • Paint thinners, degreasers, solvents and other chemicals
  • Batteries
  • Car and machinery oil
  • Gasoline or heating oil
  • Household cleaners, soaps, bleaches, drain cleaners and detergents
  • Water softeners
  • Pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, and soil amendments
  • Pool chemicals
  • Animal waste and manure
  • Pharmaceuticals, including prescription and over the counter drugs

Accidental Spills

Small spills of household wastes can be absorbed with cloth and disposed of according to local regulations. Avoid using degreasers as they generally spread out the spill over a larger area and are toxic.

Toxic materials — such as oil, gasoline, chemicals, or septic tank waste — when transported over land by motor vehicles or pipelines pose a serious hazard in the event of mishap. Spills can contaminate wells and surface water.

If you see a spill, report it immediately:

  • CT DEP 860-566-3338
  • NYSDEC 518-457-7362
  • Local Fire Department (in some municipalities, Fire fighters are trained to respond to spills)

Homeowner Tips

Control Stormwater Runoff
  • Keep litter, pet wastes, leaves, and debris out of the road and away from storm drains--these outlets drain directly to lake, streams, rivers, wetlands, and Long Island Sound.
  • Apply lawn and garden chemicals sparingly and according to directions. Use organic products when possible
  • Dispose of used oil, antifreeze, paints, and other household chemicals properly, not in storm drains or behind the stonewall. Support your Town’s efforts to establish a program for collecting household hazardous wastes.
  • Clean up spilled brake fluid, oil, grease, antifreeze, and fuel. Do not hose them into the street where they can eventually reach local streams and lakes or contaminate groundwater.
  • Control soil erosion on your property by planting ground cover and stabilizing erosion-prone areas.
If You Have a Septic System
  • Pump out and inspect your septic system regularly. (Pumping out every three to five years is recommended for a three-bedroom house with a 1,000-gallon tank; smaller tanks should be pumped more often.)
  • Do not use septic system additives. There is no scientific evidence that biological or chemical additives aid decomposition in septic tanks; some additives may in fact be detrimental to the septic system or contaminate ground water.
  • Do not divert gutters, storm drains or basement pumps into septic systems.
  • Avoid or reduce the use of your garbage disposal because they add unnecessary solids to your septic system and can also increase the frequency your tank needs to be pumped.
  • Don't use your toilet as a trash can! Excess solids may clog your drainfield and necessitate more frequent pumping or costly repairs.

When You Landscape or Garden
  • Select plants that have low requirements for water, fertilizers, and pesticides.
  • Cultivate plants that discourage pests. Minimize grassed areas that require high maintenance.
  • Preserve existing trees, and plant trees and shrubs to help prevent erosion and promote infiltration of water into the soil.
  • Use landscaping techniques such as grass swales (low areas in the lawn) or porous walkways to increase infiltration and decrease runoff.
  • Leave lawn clippings on your lawn so that nutrients in the clippings are recycled and less yard waste goes to landfills.
  • If you use a professional lawn care service, select a company that employs trained technicians and follows practices designed to minimize the use of fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Compost your yard trimmings. Compost is a valuable soil conditioner that gradually releases nutrients to your lawn and garden. Compost retains moisture in the soil and helps conserve water.
  • Spread mulch on bare ground to help prevent erosion and runoff.
  • Do not apply pesticides or fertilizers before or during rain due to the strong likelihood of runoff
If You Have a Farm, Garden or Horses in Your Back Yard
  • Manage animal waste to minimize contamination of surface water and ground water.
  • Reduce soil erosion by using best management practices to eliminate runoff around the barn and pasture or in your garden.
  • Protect drinking water by using less pesticides and fertilizers.
  • Dispose of pesticides, containers, and tank wastes in an approved manner.
If You Have Your Property Logged
  • Make certain that proper logging and erosion control practices are used by ensuring proper construction, maintenance, and closure of logging roads and skid trails.

List of CT Laws

CT Department of Health

No part of a septic system may be located within 100 feet of a drinking water supply reservoir or 50 feet from its tributary stream or watercourse, or within a minimum separating distance of 75 feet from a well, depending on soil and pumping conditions.

Any structure where animals are housed or manure accumulated cannot be located within 100 feet of a drinking water supply reservoir or within 50 feet of its tributary streams or watercourses. Such structures must be constructed so that manure and other polluting materials are prevented from entering or being washed into tributary watercourses.

CT Department of Environmental Protection

The use of chemical pesticides, herbicides or oils to control problems in ponds requires CT DEP approval for each application.

The release of fish into ponds, requires a permit from the DEP.

It is illegal to release carp or goldfish into a pond.

It is illegal to discharge swimming pool backwash within 50 feet of a water supply source or tributary.

It is illegal to dispose of waste oil from machinery, including, vehicles, down a catchbasin, on the ground, in a watercourse, or in the trash.

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