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The effectiveness of education as a tool to manage onsite septic systems.

* Although onsite septic systems present an important source of contamination to receiving waters, they are given relatively little regulatory attention.

* The magnitude and impact of the overall problem are often unclear.

* Also, there may be no regulatory authority or funding to implement an active local enforcement program.

* There may be little public sentiment supporting active enforcement.

* Hence, local health departments rarely aggressively pursue active management of onsite septic systems.

* They usually operate a permitting system that requires initial installation to be done appropriately.

* Some health departments also regularly look for failing systems.

* But most agencies are directly involved only during initial siting and installation, or if a failure is detected.

* Typically, failure is identified only sporadically, following gross pollution or other unusual circumstances.

* Some local health departments turn to education to address the problem.

* It would be convenient to be able to control this pollution source through voluntary behavior supported by relatively inexpensive delivery of educational materials and programs.

* The study reported here measured linkages between delivery of educational materials and individual-household management practices.

* It was hypothesized that providing education, including mechanisms for low-cost interventions, would change household behavior.

* Information about onsite-system management was provided on a door-to-door basis at homes throughout northwest Ohio.

* Efforts were made to maximize the ease and value of the education.

* Personalized examinations and discussion of individual onsite septic systems were provided.

* Reading materials were provided at various levels of complexity to meet individual needs.

* Individuals receiving the educational program reported increased understanding of the need to maintain their systems.

* But the educational program did not significantly change their personal management practices.

* The results of this study may call into question assumptions about the efficacy of other environmental educational programs.

* A local health department may have a perception that an educational program is very effective and that it serves the public at low cost while providing public-relations benefits.

* Without careful outcome measurement, however, perceptions of utility can be very different from actual utility.

* The authors' findings do not mean that an educational program should not be part of a system to control onsite septic systems.

* Clearly, people cannot practice proper management if they do not have the necessary information.

* Education may be a productive part of an agency program, but it must be combined with other elements to be successful.

This department, Practical Stuff! originated from you, our readers. Many of you have expressed to us that one of the main reasons you read the Journal of Environmental Health is to glean practical and useful information for your everyday work-related activities. In response to your feedback, we dedicate this section to you with salient points to remember about two to three articles in each issue.
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Title Annotation:Practical Stuff!
Publication:Journal of Environmental Health
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2005
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