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Title:Homeowners' knowledge & awareness of septic systems and barriers to septic system maintenance in northwest Indiana: information to enhance agency outreach and education efforts
Author(s):Johnson, Natalie A
Advisor(s):Brooke Cutts, Bethany
Contributor(s):Hodson, Piper; Westphal, Lynne M
Department / Program:Natural Res & Env Sci
Discipline:Natural Res & Env Sciences
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):septic system
on-site wastewater treatment system
community-based social marketing
Great Lakes
Abstract:This thesis examines northwest Indiana homeowners' knowledge and awareness of septic systems, the maintenance and care actions that homeowners are currently performing, and potential barriers to septic system maintenance. This information is used to make suggestions for effective local outreach and education efforts with the intention of changing current behavior and promoting an increase in proper septic system care and maintenance. The ultimate purpose of reducing septic system failure is to reduce E. coli from entering our local waters. In northwest Indiana, the development of municipal sewer infrastructure has not kept pace with the spread of residential development, even in urbanized areas. Watershed managers and local health departments suspect that failing septic systems are adversely affecting surface and ground water quality in the region by releasing untreated or under-treated sewage into the environment. Homeowners are responsible for preventing system failure by performing regular maintenance and care. Environmental and public health agencies want to produce outreach and educational material that informs homeowners of how regular maintenance and care should be performed, as well as its importance to local water quality and community health. A research team and I recruited 45 homeowners in northwest Indiana septic communities to participate in focus groups and surveys. We found (1) that most homeowners know that they have a septic system; (2) that homeowners have some knowledge of septic system maintenance and care, but do not fully understand how often these practices should take place, nor do they know of all of the preventative care practices that they should be following; (3) that homeowners may have some awareness of failing septic system's impact on public health, but are likely not motivated to maintain a system for this reason; and (4) that homeowners may have some awareness of failing septic system's impact on the environment, but are likely not motivated to maintain a system for this reason. Though the sample size was smaller than intended, there was still value in the findings in that they provided some insight into the current level awareness of some northwest Indiana homeowners in regards to septic systems. Using this information, I applied the community-based social marketing technique to suggest ways of increasing northwest Indiana homeowner's awareness of the above with the intent that more homeowners may know how to maintain a septic system and reduce its likelihood of failing.
Issue Date:2016-04-28
Rights Information:Copyright 2016 Natalie A. Johnson
Date Available in IDEALS:2016-07-07
Date Deposited:2016-05

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