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Updated: August 8, 2017
More than 1.3 million housing units, or about 25 percent of all housing units, in Pennsylvania use on-lot septic systems (OLS). However, the true extent of statewide OLS failures and the associated costs for homeowners have not been quantified. Neither the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) nor most local governments have maintained effective record keeping systems that allow for the analysis of failure issues. Further, as growth continues in rural Pennsylvania municipalities, there is some concern that there is not enough suitable land for OLS, which may slow future growth.
To evaluate these issues, the researchers conducted this study in 2006 by estimating the number of private OLS in Pennsylvania; evaluating septic system repairs to quantify OLS failures, including failure rates, nature of failures, cost of repairs, and causes of failures; evaluating the amount of land available for future housing development using OLS at the municipal level; and examining the relationship between the effective date of Act 537 plans and the number of repair permits issued.
Some of the most significant findings from the study are as follows:
The complete report is available on the Center for Rural Pennsylvania website.