Septic tanks aren’t keeping human sewage out of rivers and lakes

Joan B. Rose, Homer Nowlin Endowed Chair in Water Research, Michigan State University.

Joan B. Rose, Homer Nowlin Endowed Chair in Water Research, Michigan State University.

The notion that septic tanks prevent fecal bacteria from seeping into rivers and lakes simply doesn’t hold water, says a new Michigan State University study.

Water expert Joan Rose and her team of water detectives have discovered freshwater contamination stemming from septic systems. Appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study is the largest watershed study of its kind to date, and provides a basis for evaluating water quality and health implications and the impact of septic systems on watersheds. 

For years we have been seeing the effects of fecal pollution, but we haven’t known where it is coming from. Non-point pollution sources have historically been a significant challenge in managing water quality.
— Joan B. Rose

Joan Featured in GOOD Magazine: The World’s First Global Poop Map Could Help Save Lives

As the picture book says, “everybody poops.”  

While that’s certainly a wonderful sentiment to embrace, it’s one that actually has some serious—and seriously dangerous—implications as far as global health is concerned. As terrific as pooping can be when it comes to keeping the human body running smoothly, our fecal byproducts are home to some truly nasty viruses that are annually responsible for thousands of deaths worldwide, especially in developing countries which lack the sanitation systems many of us enjoy at home. 

Read the full story at GOOD Magazine >>


Joan in Quartz: One of climate change’s biggest dangers is one the world still isn’t talking about

Changes in climate and weather patterns worldwide are converging with social trends, shifting populations, land use change, and increasingly impaired water infrastructure to dramatically make life worse for those across the globe. We now have evidence that climate is a major factor increasing risks for food and waterborne diseases. While the linkages are complex, both temperature and precipitation are directly and indirectly associated with illnesses.