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Preparing for a Sanitary Survey

Field Datasheets and Creating a Survey Database

Preparing the Sanitary Survey Report

Sanitary survey information collected as part of the back- ground research and initial risk assessment can be orga- nized in an Excel spreadsheet or Access database or similar software, and information can be transferred to the field datasheets in preparation for physically surveying proper- ties. The database is a dynamic resource to be updated throughout the survey process, and to help produce the final Sanitary Survey Report. A database will allow proper- ties to be sorted by map number, actual or potential source of contamination, septic vs. sewered areas, location/dis- tance to water, etc. Properties that are not likely sources of bacterial pollution (e.g., undeveloped lots, cemeteries) will not be part of the in-depth property survey.

For shellfish growing areas, potential pollution sources must be labeled using the DMR codes. These codes are also useful for sanitary surveys of beaches and other water resources.

A field data sheet and associated codes and definitions can be found in Appendix IV.

The sanitary survey and related activities should be sum- marized in a final report that includes all supporting docu- ments and information. Creating a report is made simpler if data collected during the sanitary survey have been appropriately coded and entered into an Excel file and/or Access database. Mapping software such as Geographical Information Systems (GIS) can overlay multiple data sets and act as a powerful organizational, analytical, and com- munications tool (see Appendix I).

A final report will improve organization, facilitate in- formation sharing, and allow updates to be integrated in a more timely and efficient manner. The final report and supporting documents (digital and hard copies) should be easily accessible locally through multiple outlets including Web sites, presentations, and workshops. Survey informa- tion should be shared with key participants and decision- makers, including but not limited to: local water resource committees, shellfish commissions, board of selectmen, residents and visitors, and municipal, state, and federal agency partners. For shellfish growing areas, sanitary


If someone other than the municipality is conducting the sanitary survey, the municipality should be notified in advance about where and how the survey will be conducted (DMR notifies the municipality at least two weeks in advance of shoreline survey activities).

Sanitary survey work is an opportunity to educate property owners. It may be appropriate to notify property owners within the drainage area of concern and inform them of the purpose and scope of the sanitary survey. Consider sending a mailed letter indicating that the property will be visited by local/state officials, that questions will be asked regarding their subsurface wastewater disposal system (if they are home), and that the property will be surveyed for potential sources of fecal contamination (including evidence of a subsurface wastewater disposal malfunction).

When conducting special studies or intensive monitoring in a river or stream, a letter may be sent to property owners informing them of the purpose of the study and asking permission to cross their property in order to locate monitoring stations.

Sample letters are included in Appendix III.

Note that because unlicensed discharges from malfunctioning subsurface wastewater disposal systems are in violation of Maine law, and in order to prevent individuals from attempting to conceal malfunctions, state and/ or local officials who have statutory authority to investigate possible pollution sources on private property often will not notify property owners in advance of the survey. Property owners who refuse access may be served with an administrative search warrant should one be needed. See Part IV for more information.


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