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Wed May 22, 2024, 11:11 AM May 22

Fast-rising seas could swamp septic systems in parts of the South - WAPO [View all]


For all the obvious challenges facing South Florida as sea levels surge, one serious threat to public health and the environment remains largely out of sight, but everywhere: Septic tanks.

Millions of them dot the American South, a region grappling with some of the planet’s fastest-rising seas, according to a Washington Post analysis. At more than a dozen tide gauges from Texas to North Carolina, sea levels have risen at least 6 inches since 2010 — a change similar to what occurred over the previous five decades.

Along those coastlines, swelling seas are driving water tables higher and creating worries in places where septic systems abound, but where officials often lack reliable data about their location or how many might already be compromised.

“These are ticking time bombs under the ground that, when they fail, will pollute,” said Andrew Wunderley, executive director of the nonprofit Charleston Waterkeeper, which monitors water quality in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.

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