Modeling Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems in the Dickinson Bayou Watershed
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Onsite wastewater treatment systems (OWTSs) are a commonly used means of wastewater treatment in the Dickinson Bayou watershed which is located between Houston and Galveston. The Dickinson Bayou is classified as "impaired" by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality due to high levels of bacteria, specifically E. coli. Failing OWTSs within the bayou's watershed are possible sources for the impairment of the bayou. Conventional OWTSs, comprised of a septic tank and a soil absorption field, rely heavily on soil treatment of effluent. The type of soils is a significant factor in treatment capabilities. In the Dickinson Bayou watershed, soils are primarily composed of clays, which are known to be problematic for conventional systems as they restrict water flow and create perched water tables. These perched water tables may contribute to surface runoff during rainfall events. The HYDRUS modeling software for water and solute flow through variably saturated media was used to simulate OWTSs in the Dickinson Bayou watershed. HYDRUS was used to simulate conventional septic systems with soil absorption fields, aerobic treatment units (ATUs) with spray dispersal systems, and mound systems. Results found that the simulated conventional systems fail due to high water tables and clay soils. However, system failure in the watershed remains uncertain due to lack of field data for validation. The alternative systems mitigate these issues, but ATUs can lead to higher contamination levels without proper maintenance. Therefore, mound systems are the suggested alternative for OWTSs in the watershed.
onsite wastewater treatment systems
conventional septic system
aerobic treatment unit
Forbis-Stokes, Aaron (2012). Modeling Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems in the Dickinson Bayou Watershed. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from