OKC family worried about new septic system spitting treated sewage

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — An Oklahoma City family reached out to KFOR to find out more about their neighbor’s new septic system being installed that will soon drip treated sewage into the ground.

The family lives in the Plaza District in a family-centered neighborhood surrounded by schools and parks. They have a 4-year-old autistic daughter named Haddie who loves swimming.

“It is her safe place, I have to tell her every day that no we can’t go swimming yet we have stuff to do,” said Reagen Grunder.

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Grunder told KFOR that because many houses in their neighborhood were built decades ago the codes allow the septic tank to exist. The tank in question is an Aerobic Drip System meaning that tubes under the lawn contain small holes that release treated sewage along it.

Another system that, according to the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, is allowed on that property too is an Aerobic Spray System. That would mean the treated sewage could just be irrigated on top of the lawn.

“All I want to know is who do I talk to in order to make sure that my kid doesn’t get e-coli,” said Grunder. “I’m sure that there are ways to prevent it but all I heard was that we can’t do anything until that happens.”

The tank being installed in the property behind her home will be close to 25 feet from her pool and not that far from their yard in general. She said she’s concerned that flooding will wash the treated sewage throughout the neighborhood.

“I think my main question is, why? Why install that sort of a system when there’s a city main sewer line you can attach to that is not that far,” said Grunder. “Is this just for profit?”

Experts told KFOR that a system like this is rare to find in Oklahoma, let alone in a very populated area in Oklahoma City.

The property owner doesn’t currently live at the home as of now, it is being constructed meaning that the system could be working within the next year.

“They could have joined the city’s system/line but it would’ve cost them a lot of money to do, I’m sure this is the cheaper workaround,” said Grunder. “But is it the right one?”

“You blast oxygen into the septic tanks and that’s what breaks down the waste,” said Kevin Ruark who was hired to install the tank in question. “The aerobic system is very common, the drip is unusual in that regard.”

Ruark said that the drip system when it goes back into the soil is not chlorinated like it is in the spray system.

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“The treatment that doesn’t come from the chlorine they get from the soil,” said Ruark. “Well, it’s clean water, it’s as close to rainwater as you’re going to get. The system, if properly installed and maintained, the water that it disposes of is clean.”

“All it takes is one domino to fall and then we’ve got possible contaminants flowing out of the yard on that property,” said Grunder.

While that is true, Ruark told KFOR that it is highly unlikely to happen.

“The system blasts oxygen into the septic tank, that’s what breaks down the waste,” said Ruark. It is rare to see this in Oklahoma City.

KFOR reached out to OKDEQ who said:

“Attached is the approved soil profile and the authorization to construct. The property owners have hired a DEQ certified installer, and while it is an aerobic system, it is not an aerobic spray system.  It is a subsurface aerobic drip system that utilizes pressure compensating emitters to deliver a uniform distribution of effluent.  The system meets DEQ standards and is in compliance with regulations.”

Erin Hatfield, Office of Communications & Education at Oklahoma Environmental Quality

D.E.Q. sent KFOR the proper forms the property owner filled out and used which did state that he was in line with the legal steps of building the septic system.

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