The Bellman

Onsite Wastewater Mapping

Representing Onsite Systems on a Map
January 27.2020

When we think about location, what exactly does it mean in terms of representing onsite wastewater systems on an interactive map. Onsite wastewater systems are a collection of features connected to a structure or structures, so the include many potential representations on a map. Onsite features can include areas or polygons, like a septic tank or disposal bed, linear features, like an inlet/outlet line or laterals, and points, such as lids, risers, alarms, inspection ports and soil borings.

How the location of an onsite system, and its components, are represented on a map is typically determined by the questions, workflows and insights that an organizations wants from the data. This in turn informs how onsite systems are mapped and what information needs to be collected about each component in the system. In this post we will review two approaches to representing the location of an onsite system in FetchEH.

Complete Site Plans

The first approach to representing an onsite system on a map is replicating the site plan as it appears on the final. This means mapping each component, such as the septic tank and disposal area, but also elements like soil borings, septic lines, risers, inspection ports, measurements to each mapped feature and more. The result is that each onsite system component is mapped to scale and is located on the map in its true location on earth. This approach provides the most visual information on the map about an onsite system, but is also the most time consuming to produce.

Health departments often use this approach on modern site plans where measurements are available to components, or GPS is used to map components prior to cover. The key is that there is enough location-based information (measurements, GPS, component dimensions, etc.) available to replicate the onsite system on the map. The resulting site plan, now mapped in a digital, to scale format, can be shared with homeowners, contractors, banks, Realtors and other regulators, who when onsite, can literally walk to the components using a GPS enabled smartphone or tablet. The result is that site plans are more accessible, can be shared easily and communicate visual information about a system effectively.

System Point

As you can see from the first image, even when mapping a site plan in detail, the System Point is used. That is because the System Point in FetchEH is used to store information about each system component, whether the component has been mapped or not. The System Point provides a single feature to use for visualizing insights and other inventory wide workflows like managing operations and maintenance.

In both mapping approaches information about each onsite system component (tank, disposal area, borings, etc.) is entered. This information (tank size, disposal area, mound height, etc.) can then be used with the location of the system to understand more about onsite systems in our communities. From simple questions like visualizing systems by age or type, to more complex questions such as finding trench systems installed between 1970 and 1985 in a specific watershed, it is both the location of the system and the information collected that provides users the ability to gain insights and visually communicate results.

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