, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 286-303
Date: 15 Jun 2006

Integrated Risk Framework for Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems

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Onsite wastewater treatment systems (OWTS) are becoming increasingly important for the treatment and dispersal of effluent in new urbanised developments that are not serviced by centralised wastewater collection and treatment systems. However, the current standards and guidelines adopted by many local authorities for assessing suitable site and soil conditions for OWTS are increasingly coming under scrutiny due to the public health and environmental impacts caused by poorly performing systems, in particular septic tank-soil adsorption systems. In order to achieve sustainable onsite wastewater treatment with minimal impacts on the environment and public health, more appropriate means of assessment are required. This paper highlights an integrated risk based approach for assessing the inherent hazards associated with OWTS in order to manage and mitigate the environmental and public health risks inherent with onsite wastewater treatment. In developing a sound and cohesive integrated risk framework for OWTS, several key issues must be recognised. These include the inclusion of relevant stakeholders throughout framework development, the integration of scientific knowledge, data and analysis with risk assessment and management ideals, and identification of the appropriate performance goals for successful management and mitigation of associated risks. These issues were addressed in the development of the risk framework to provide a generic approach to assessing risk from OWTS. The utilisation of the developed risk framework for achieving more appropriate assessment and management techniques for OWTS is presented in a case study for the Gold Coast region, Queensland State, Australia.