The high tech world of sewage

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An inspector examines a septic system for Carver County. (Submitted photo)

When Carver County citizens think of iPads and GPS units, they likely think of surfing the internet, connecting on social media, or finding their way back to a favorite fishing hole.
The last thing citizens might equate with these gadgets with is septic tanks and sewage treatment systems. However, these high tech gadgets are now everyday tools for Carver County Environmental Services staff to ensure safety and reliability of septic systems and ease of data access for landowners and County staff.
Carver County’s septic system permitting and inspection system has been around since the mid 1970s.
This system has generally been more detailed and strict than most due to well documented public health and water quality problems. Many septic systems were installed 20 years ago or more when home computers were still catching on and cell phones were the size of luggage [and only made phone calls].
The county’s permit system was understandably paper based. Paper can get lost or misfiled, hand written inspection notes are hard to read, and addresses and property lines can change. Thus tracking the more than 5,000 systems located in the county and the 100 to 175 new ones installed each year was a daunting task.
County staff were looking for a more efficient and accurate inspection and record keeping system. After visiting with Washington County and learning about their system using laptops, staff returned to Carver County and teamed up with their own Information Services and GIS departments to find ways to streamline the county’s paper based inspection process and old electronic record filing system.
The end result is a new iPad application and a highly accurate GPS unit used to collect and record sewer system inspection data. Here’s how this helps residents, contractors, and county staff.
• Soil samples (borings) are necessary to locate, size, and determine the best type of sewer system for a home. Samples are located, verified, and logged into the county’s data system so they can be located after construction, or perhaps years later when a new owner and/or sewer system designer needs information.
• This new technology allows staff to locate important features such as wells, buildings, and property lines and overlay them on aerial photos to find the best place for a new system.
During construction of a septic system, staff uses the iPad to photograph important milestones and enter the location of septic tanks and mound perimeters. This provides a detailed record of what was installed and where to give future homeowners, contractors and, inspector’s solid information.
The end result is a record of the system that is accurate and understandable — not based on handwritten notes or a fuzzy paper document that has been scanned multiple times.
Citizens can be assured that the septic system they are paying for has been rigorously reviewed and that the records will be readily available and accurate when they or a future homeowner needs the records. Carver County staff are leading the way with this new technology and application and demonstrating the system for other counties and local governments while continuing to refine its use.

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