Local governments are often challenged to manage the impacts of complex networks of aging and obsolete wastewater networks on human health and the environment with very limited data to inform their decisions. Unlike sewerage, which is often monitored and maintained by local governments in perpetuity, onsite waste systems are typically managed by individual landowners after they are installed and municipal intervention by public health officials only occurs when system failure presents a risk to the community. Integrated networks of communication between public health officials and water resource managers can be limited; hence, many local governments do not have the information needed to assess how the location and condition of wastewater infrastructure may threaten the integrity of surface waters. Collectively, these projects attempt to generate some of this information.
Much of the work below is being conducted in conjunction with the BioGeo Poop Group at UGA (Capps, Gaur, and Abney Labs). We are also collaborating with the Bledsoe Environmental Engineering Lab, the Bier and Ottesen Microbial Ecology Labs, the Rice Political Geography Lab, the Tennessee Aquarium, the
Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District, and most importantly the Athens-Clarke County Government. We have detailed some, but not all of the projects associated with this research below.
Links to relevant publications:
Capps, K. A., Bateman McDonald, J. M., Gaur, N., & Parsons, R. (2020). Assessing the socio-environmental risk of onsite wastewater treatment systems to inform management decisions. Environmental Science & Technology, 54(23), 14843-14853.
Capps, K. A., Gaur, N., Callahan, T., Orrego, A., Bloyer, D., Higgs, K., & Johnson, D. (2021). Disparities between the Demand for On-Site Wastewater Treatment Systems and Treatment Options for Septage. ACS ES&T Water, 1(10), 2251-2258.
Capps, K. A. (2019). Wastewater infrastructure and the ecology and management of freshwater systems. Acta Limnologica Brasiliensia, 31.
Wastewater Ecology and Infrastructure in Athens-Clarke County
This research has been funded using start-up funds from the Capps and Gaur Labs, and two awards from the National Science Foundation NSF. The initial portion of the work has been devoted to enhancing information about septic infrastructure in Athens-Clarke County. You can learn more about this effort by watching the video below. I have also included links and brief descriptions of the NSF-funded projects further down the page.
The presentation was part of the Upper Oconee Science and Policy Summit in 2020.