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Flushing plan could damage W.Va. septic systems

By Rachel Molenda

Charleston Gazette

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia American Water’s recommendation for flushing your home plumbing system of contaminants doesn’t take septic tanks into enough consideration, according to the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.

Numerous water company customers in rural areas have septic systems.

“It has the potential to be a very large issue,” said Anita Ray, director for the department’s environmental health division.

The department has been in contact with the Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s office to address the potential impact flushing could have, Ray said.

Guidelines for flushing septic systems are different from those recommended to WVAW’s customers who use public sewers, but those aren’t listed specifically on the water company’s website.

Instead, the water company referred those customers to their local health departments for flushing instructions.

Water company spokeswoman Laura Jordan said Wednesday the issue hadn’t been brought to the attention of the agencies that created the flushing guidance document.

“It’s a multi-agency document,” Jordan said of the flushing instructions posted online. “It’s certainly not a document that our company is trying to be unwavering on.”

Jordan said if updates need to be made, the water company and public officials would be willing to discuss it.

Ray said too much flow can cause two kinds of septic system failures. Solids can be stirred, causing blockage in a system’s distribution pipes. Also, the system can become overwhelmed and flood a customer’s drain field.

The blockage will lead to repairs, and the drain field flood means the system will need to rest for 30 days, Ray said.

Replacing the entire septic system would be a “worst-case scenario,” which can cost thousands of dollars…

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