water in the lake near the youth camp on the Left Fork suddenly acquired a reddish color for a short period of time. As a result of these concerns, a water quality investigation was undertaken with funding from the Service Learning Program at West Virginia University (WVU). In collaboration with the Lincoln County WVU Extension Office and science students from two local high schools, professors and students from WVU sampled 53 locations in the Left Fork watershed during April 1999 to April 2000. At 42 of the locations (79 percent), samples exceeded the West Virginia State Board of Health’s one time sample total coliform limit of 2,400 and at 16 locations (30 percent) samples exceeded the one time sample fecal coliform limit of 400 for primary contact recreation. During April 2000, the fecal coliform standard was exceeded in most of the watershed. Counts were exceptionally high (many in the tens of thousands) during a high-flow sampling in that month. Very high values were also obtained at clusters of houses. In one small tributary with no houses, several samples exceeded standards, but no reason for the high counts was determined.
In a subsequent investigation of possible links between watershed bacterial contamination and septic systems (presence, condition, and maintenance), the investigating team examined county health department and National Small Flows Clearinghouse survey information. Notably, of 8,000 homes in the county, 7,000 have on-site septic systems. Failure rate is estimated to be 50 percent, and repairs are common due to system age, inadequate size, impermeable or saturated soils, damage to the system, inadequate removal of surface water, and improper maintenance. The team conducted a survey of 77 of the 250 households in the watershed. While 90 percent of residents reported that a septic system handled all (76 percent) or part (14 percent) of their wastewater, about 50 percent did not know the size or condition of their system, and only 30 percent had performed any maintenance on their systems. However, 85 percent of the respondents perceived that few problems exist with their systems, and 80 percent perceived no effects on their water wells, neighbors’ water wells, groundwater, or surface water. Local health department records indicate that in the 12 years prior to the study, only 2 permits for septic systems and 6 permits for home aerobic units had been issued, and the team surmised that many households either had systems constructed without permits or had little actual knowledge of the wastewater system (if any) serving their homes (Collins et al., 2000).
Using that study as a basis for a proposal, in 2003, Lincoln County and the WVU Extension Service were awarded a grant from EPA for a collaborative demonstration project involving a detailed, comprehensive study of bacterial contamination in the Left Fork and installation of alternative on-site wastewater treatment technologies. Although the earlier study of the watershed suggested strong links between inadequate household wastewater treatment and bacterial contamination in the watershed, the investigators did not specifically examine the possible role of other bacterial sources. As part of the EPA demonstration project, preliminary examination of land uses in the watershed, using aerial photographs and field surveys, indicates several areas where cattle are confined immediately adjacent to a tributary stream or where a small tributary flows through a farm’s feedlot. In addition, noticeable concentrations of Canada geese waste were observed at several locations on the shore of the lake. These observations, as well as the previous study’s “anomalous” tributary, suggest the need for thorough investigation of sources and careful documentations of household wastewater-related contributions, to effectively prioritize and correct watershed contamination.
Cost-effectiveness analysis ranks projects based on their relative costs in achieving a specified outcome. Essential to this analysis is consideration of long-term costs of alternatives that may have varying useful lives and the actual improvements expected to be achieved. The term of the analysis should be 20 or more years, and appropriate criteria should be used to consider inflation and the time value of money. Economic efficiency (cost containment) is a