Water is essential for life to exist. Making sure that water is safe to drink, use for cooking, and swim in requires attention and resources. In the U.S., the Safe Drinking Water Act helps ensure that when residents turn on a public tap, clean and safe water comes out. This access is supported by a complex infrastructure that needs constant monitoring and upkeep. In addition, there are more than 40 million Americans reliant on private water sources that are not supported by this complex infrastructure or held to federal standards. These systems have unique concerns that must be addressed to ensure they too provide safe drinking water to those dependent on them.
Wastewater and sanitation can also have significant impacts on public health. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more than 20% of households in the U.S. rely on septic systems to process their wastewater. The responsibility for the oversight of these systems regularly falls on local health departments, leaving a patchwork of regulations and policies, and homeowners are often unaware of operation and maintenance for their systems.
Environmental health professionals are trained to identify issues that impact water systems. As local experts, environmental health professionals can ensure that each community’s local situation is resilient to natural hazards and climate change, and that water sources are continually evaluated and maintained to meet all federal, state, and local standards.
Preparedness and Response for Septic Systems
After a disaster, such as a hurricane, wildfire, or earthquake, septic systems can be damaged and fail to operate correctly. Ensuring that these systems function properly is essential to providing safe waste disposal for millions of Americans, yet there might be no standard safety protocol in place for using septic systems after a disaster occurs.
NEHA worked with subject matter experts and national partners to develop an easily accessible toolkit with guidance documents for different types of disasters.
Septic Systems (Onsite/Decentralized Systems)
Do Your Part, Be Septic Smart!
In partnership with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, NEHA is raising awareness for septic system resources and events for environmental health professionals and homeowners.
- SepticSmart Week occurs annually every September and focuses on getting homeowners and communities to care for and maintain their septic systems. Find out more about the tools and resources that have been created, many of which allow for jurisdictions to add their own information to the resources.
NEHA hosted its very first private water virtual conference, Private Water Safety - Enhancing Safety in Private Drinking Water Systems, on October 16 and 17, 2018. The Private Water Safety Virtual Conference was designed to enhance the knowledge of environmental public health professionals and water safety specialists to help close the water quality gap in unregulated private drinking water. Professionals that engage with private drinking water systems were welcomed to present existing and new resources, innovative solutions, and successful programs in unregulated water quality. It was an opportunity to bring professionals together in a unique virtual environment to exchange information and discover new solutions.
Click here to learn more about the conference.
Learn more about:
Environmental Health Saves Lives, Saves Money, and Protects Our Future
Environmental health professionals ensure our water is safe by testing and treating drinking water and inspecting septic systems.
Other NEHA Water Quality Resources
NEHA E-Learning: Numerous online education and training opportunities related to water quality are offered through NEHA E-Learning. You can access water quality sessions from past NEHA Annual Educational Conference (AEC) & Exhibitions, webinars, and partner courses. NEHA members can earn continuing education contact hours toward their NEHA credentials by completing these offering.
Journal of Environmental Health: The Journal of Environmental Health is published 10 times per year by NEHA and keeps readers up-to-date on current issues, new research, and useful products and services. We frequently cover issues of importance to water quality professionals. Past electronic issues can be accessed through the NEHA Bookstore. Members can download the issues for free. If not a member, you can purchase the issue or become a NEHA member to have free access to all issues posted.
Community Calendar: Many NEHA affiliates and other organizations host conferences and webinars that provide education and training related to water quality. Check our Community Calendar periodically to find events of interest.