During 1971-74, the U.S. Geological Survey investigated the chemical, physical, bacteriological, and virological characteristics of the ground water in five selected areas serviced by septic tanks in Dade County, Florida. Periodic water samples were collected from multiple-depth groups of monitor wells ranging in depth from 10 to 60 ft at each of the five areas. Analyses of ground water from base-line water-quality wells in inland areas remote from urban development indicated that the ground water is naturally high in organic nitrogen, ammonia, organic carbon and chemical oxygen demand. Some enrichment of ground water with sodium provided a possible key to differentiating septic-tank effluent from other urban ground-water contaminant sources. High ammonia nitrogen, phosphorus, and the repetitive detection of fecal coliform bacteria were characteristic of two 10-foot monitor wells that consistently indicated the presence of septic-tank effluent in ground water. Dispersion, dilution, and various chemical processes have presumably prevented accumulation of septic-tank effluent at depths greater than 20 ft, as indicated by the 65 types of water analyses used in the investigation. Fecal coliform bacteria were present on one or two occasions in many monitor wells but the highest concentration, 1,600 colonies/100 ml, was related to storm-water infiltration rather than septic-tank discharge.
Areal variations in the composition and the hydraulic conductivity of the sand and limestone aquifer had the most noticeable influence on the overall ground-water quality. The ground water in the more permeable limestone in south Dade County near Homestead contained low concentrations of septic-tank related constituents, but higher concentrations of dissolved sulfate and nitrate. The ground water in north Dade County, where the aquifer is less permeable, contained the highest dissolved iron, manganese, COD, and organic carbon.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Ground-water quality in selected areas serviced by septic tanks, Dade County, Florida
United States Department of the Interior, Geological Survey,