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Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments: On-Site Sewage Facilities

A multi-phase project to reduce pollution from on-site sewage facilities (septic systems) in the Texas Coastal Zone


Section 6217 of the Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments (CZARA) of the Coastal Management Act requires states and territories with federally approved Coastal Zone Management Programs to develop and implement a coastal nonpoint source (NPS) control program. The program is unique in that it establishes a set of management measures for states to use in addressing polluted runoff.

One of the management measures required under CZARA involves inspection of new and operating septic systems in the Coastal Zone. Septic systems can contribute contaminants to coastal watersheds. Proper operation of these systems is critical to limiting the transport of contaminated wastewater to nearby waterways. These systems must be evaluated at a specified frequency to determine their operational status and limit the risk of contamination from OSSFs.

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Project Description

Texas AgriLife Research has implemented activities to reduce overall loading of contaminants from septic systems in Galveston County and other coastal counties in the coastal zone (Section 6217 jurisdictional areas). Project personnel have identified areas of chronic OSSF failure and developed a list of targeted sites for removing septage from anaerobic septic systems.

In Phase I (2010 - 2015), 63 septic systems were inspected and 59 were pumped out. A total of 20 failing systems were replaced.

In Phase II (2012 - 2016), ten septic systems were inspected and 4,692 gallons of septage were pumped out. Four critically failing systems were replaced with aerobic treatment units. An inventory of septic systems was developed for three counties of the Coastal Zone of Texas, with supplemental information such as 911 addresses. This information, in combination with GPS data gathered during Phase I, is being used to map critical locations for potential septic system issues in the Coastal Zone.

Phase III (2017 - 2019) developed an updated inventory of septic systems in selected counties of the Coastal Zone of Texas, adding information about the septic systems and environmental conditions to help predict which areas have a higher potential for impacts from malfunctioning septic systems. The project helped connect septic systems in close proximity (1,000 feet) to Double Bayou and its tributaries with free inspection and pump-out services offered under other projects in the area.

Phase IV (2018 - 2021) maintained and updated this inventory, and expanded the outreach, education, and inspection services to San Bernard River watershed residents.

Phase V (2019 - 2021) maintained and updated the existing septic inventory database, and conducted outreach, education, and inspection services to Chocolate Bayou watershed residents.

Phase VI (2020 - 2024) will continue to maintain and update the septic system inventory database and will conduct outreach, education and septic system inspection services to San Bernard River watershed residents.

During each phase, homeowners received free instruction on the proper operation and maintenance of septic system. Guidance was developed for conducting visual evaluations of anaerobic septic system, and the project's staff taught local health-department personnel how to conduct visual inspections.

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For More Information

To find out more about the NPS Program, call 512-239-6682  or e-mail us at

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