In Situ and laboratory studies of soil treatment areas experiencing flooding

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Onsite wastewater treatment is used by over one in five American households to treat wastewater by soil biogeochemical transformations. In Maryland alone, 420,000 septic systems are in use primarily in rural and near coastal areas. Issues of sea level rise can threaten coastal infrastructure due to flooding damage that also can impact the ability of soil to efficiently treat nutrients found in wastewater. In this study, two onsite wastewater treatment systems with different soil types and treatment techniques were assessed in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. It was found that soil texture can impact the health of a soil in its function of treating wastewater, in addition to treatment techniques affecting inorganic nitrogen in the soil treatment area. To model the impacts of flooding damage to a soil treatment area, tidal flooding with fresh, brackish and saltwater was simulated in a laboratory-scale column study. The results from the month-long study showed decreases in the treatment efficiency for inorganic nitrogen and dissolved organic solids.