From our friends at the Catskill Watershed Corp:

MARGARETVILLEN.Y. For many folks, when you flush, shower or empty the kitchen sink, your worries about wastewater are over. Out of sight, out of mind. It either goes under the backyard, or into a municipal treatment system, where it become’s somebody else’s problem. 

But in the New York City Watershed, a 1600-square-mile area of the Catskills where six big reservoirs collect precious water for nine million people in the City and its northern suburbs, wastewater is taken seriously: It’s important enough for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to allocate millions of dollars for programs to adequately treat it; important enough for a staff of technicians at the Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC) to devote their workdays to administering these programs in the interest of protecting water quality.

The CWC is a non-profit, Local Development Corporation responsible for several environmental protection, economic development and education programs in the New York City Watershed West of the Hudson River. Among the programs run out of the CWC’s Margaretville, Delaware County office are those addressing on-site septic systems. 

In this mostly rural area, such systems are the most common type of wastewater treatment. A septic system typically consists of a metal or concrete tank to hold solids, and a leach field through which liquids drain back into the earth to be purified naturally before reentering groundwater. The tank is periodically pumped out to avoid plumbing backups and leach field clogging.

When any part of such a system fails – a tank collapses, the leach field is compromised or flooded, or pipes are broken – groundwater and nearby streams or ponds can be contaminated with unhealthy bacteria. With an estimated 20,000 septic systems in the stream-crossed Watershed, that’s a potential problem the DEP and the CWC are intent on avoiding through programs that pay to fix broken or substandard systems.

Eligible homeowners in the NYC West-of-Hudson Watershed can be reimbursed for fixing or replacing failed septic systems. Permanent full-time residents can get 100 percent of design and construction costs reimbursed; owners of non-primary residences 60 percent.

With the average cost of septic system replacement running at about $15,000, that’s a good deal, benefitting property owners (4,400 since 1997), the environment and New York City water consumers.

The CWC also runs a program to assist businesses with septic system repairs, and encourages preventive maintenance of newer residential systems by reimbursing half the cost of pumping and inspecting them every three to five years.

For information on this and other CWC programs, visit