Date of Award


Degree Type



Civil and Environmental Engineering

First Advisor

Tumeo, Mark

Subject Headings

Sewage disposal in the ground, Sewage -- Purification, Land treatment of wastewater, On-site wastewater treatment, Decentralized wastewater treatment, Vertical separation distance


Regulations regarding the use of on-site wastewater treatment systems in many states lack a sufficient scientific basis, which in many cases restricts the use of on-site systems, drives up cost, and restricts innovation of new treatment technologies. Of particular regulatory concern is the minimum vertical separation distance (VSD) located in the area between the trench bottom of the subsurface soil absorption system and any restricting or limiting layer. The minimum VSD needed for proper effluent treatment is based on many complex and interrelated factors regarding physical, chemical, and biological soil conditions at a particular site. Research has shown that depending on soil type and conditions, VSD between 1.5 feet and 4 feet is enough to adequately treat effluent yet many states use a "one size fits all" approach when setting regulations for on-site treatment systems. A stochastic mathematical model has been developed that provides an estimation of the probability that a contaminant concentration will reach a certain point below the trench bottom of the subsurface soil absorption system. This model has been incorporated into a simple, easy-to-use, Excel® based computer program that allows the user to evaluate the potential range of fecal coliform concentrations that may reach a specified groundwater or surface water location. This model has been developed to aid regulators, land use planners, and designers to quickly evaluate the associated risks of contamination from a specified on-site wastewater treatment system in a specified soil