Bridging the Gap – Addressing OSSFs in Westfield
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Bridging the Gap – Addressing OSSFs in Westfield Estates. Justin Bower Senior Environmental Planner. Westfield Estates. Aldine-Westfield Area, unincorporated Harris County Part of Halls Bayou Watershed. Halls Bayou. West Little York. Westfield Estates Neighborhood.

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Bridging the Gap – Addressing OSSFs in Westfield Estates

Justin Bower

Senior Environmental Planner

Westfield Estates

  • Aldine-Westfield Area, unincorporated Harris County

  • Part of Halls Bayou Watershed

Halls Bayou

West Little York

Westfield Estates Neighborhood

  • Fairly dense urban area

  • Older (40’s/50’s) development

    • Never annexed to City

  • Mixed Land uses

    • Single family residential

    • Small businesses

  • Economically disadvantaged neighborhood

Infrastructure Status

  • Community served solely by OSSFs

    • Old systems

    • Often overloaded

    • High failure rate

    • Compromised septic fields

  • Drainage was problem

    • Much pooling

    • Trash/debris in ditches

Project History

  • Concern arose over high OSSF failure rate

  • Failing Septic System Initiative (FSSI) – Westfield is area of priority

  • At the time, no immediate plans for sanitary service

Project History

  • Bacteria levels in ditches represented acute public health risk

  • Source information indicated:

    • Mix of sources

    • Domestic animals

    • Pets

    • Human Waste

  • OSSFs were prime focus for structural

Project History

  • H-GAC worked with TCEQ to find funding to address situation

  • WPP model chosen, 319 grant awarded

  • H-GAC worked with Harris County/Pct 2, EAMD, Sunbelt FWSD, and community to create WPP

Project History – WPP

  • Original WPP called for replacing ~250 OSSFs, other BMPs

    • Original cost estimates were too low

    • Area not well suited for OSSFs

    • Concern that investment would be short-lived

    • Stakeholders decided to pursue other approach

Project History – Revised WPP

  • Because sanitary on horizon, less match available:

    • Smaller scale OSSF replacement program

    • Education focus

    • Low flow devices/pump outs

    • Pet waste components

Project History – Implementation

  • However, after several rounds of review:

  • TCEQ/EPA decided not to pursue approval of WPP

  • Gave H-GAC and partners ability to begin implementation immediately

  • Shifted to local project

Challenges to addressing OSSFs

  • Subdivided lots, many don’t meet minimum sizes

  • Multiple structures, overloaded capacities

  • Hindered drain fields

  • Many rentals

  • Limited funds

OSSF Solutions

  • Four-pronged strategy

    • Low-flow devices to reduce overflows

    • Pump-outs to reduce overflows, extend system life

    • Homeowner/renter education

    • Limited replacement

Low Flow Devices

  • Designed to reduce flow to overloaded OSSFs

  • Includes “non-invasive” components

    • Deluxe showerhead, faucet aerators, tankbags, dye tests, etc.

  • Disseminated by pump-out vendor, and at public meetings

  • Installed by resident

    • Doesn’t require plumbing

  • Personalized instructions (bilingual)

OSSF Pump-outs

  • Marketing through mailings, parners, cross-promoted at OSSF education event, etc.

  • Designed to extend life of overloaded OSSFs, educate resident to maintain, help bridge gap to sanitary

  • Partners helped locate vendor, EAMD managed interaction/spanish language services, vendor door-to-door

Residential OSSF Education

  • Marketing through mailings, partners, fliers, community members

    • Education packet contained pamphlets, etc.

  • Designed to introduce elements of OSSFs, impart need for maintenance, cross-promote pump-outs

  • H-GAC developed meeting

    • EAMD provided refreshment/staff,

    • other partners attended and supported,

    • AgriLife gave primary presentation.

Targeted OSSF Replacement

  • Limited funding in 319 project, scaled down from original

    • SEP funds became available (~45,000) through HCS&WCD

  • Intent was targeted, income-dependant pilot program

    • Partners devised criteria for application

    • Harris County managed applications/site info

    • HCS&WCD managed contract

    • H-GAC, EAMD, Sunbelt supported efforts/meetings

  • Aerobic/drop irrigation systems installed


  • Low Flow Devices

  • 223 disseminated directly, 35+ disseminated at meetings

  • OSSF Pump-outs

  • 188 serviced in project area, 75 in greater Westfield community. Total volume of 132,000 gallons.

  • OSSF Education

  • Information disseminated to ~450 households

  • Event had ~45 attendees


  • OSSF Replacements

  • Many applicants received

    • Not all met criteria

  • Some site issues at some locations

  • At the end of the process, replaced 4 systems

    • Average cost of ~$11,000/system

    • Included 2-year service agreement

    • Deemed unfeasible to pursue further

      • Cost issues, site limitations

In the Context of Other Efforts

  • Pet waste addressed through educational mailers, materials

  • Ditch and outfall maintenance/improvement conducted by Harris County/HCFCD during course of project

    • Reduced pooling

  • Future sanitary sewer service prioritized for area

    • Capacity expanded at Sunbelt plant

    • Funding options evaluated by EAMD/Sunbelt

  • Designed to complement OSSF efforts

Evaluating Impact

  • Qualitative and quantitative review included:

  • Pre/post-implementation monitoring

    • Bacteria levels still high (up to millions CFU)

    • Not enough time between to indicate change

    • Greatly reduced pooling from original study

    • Direct discharge issues remain

  • Community Surveys

    • Dual-purpose, data gathering and education

    • Showed change, especially with OSSF, from start to finish

Down the Road - Long Term Goals

  • Support EAMD, Sunbelt, et al in funding applications

  • Provide further education under BIG efforts

  • Address general area as part of Halls Ahead project for HCFCD

Any Questions?

Justin Bower

Senior Environmental Planner

Houston-Galveston Area Council


[email protected]

Sunbelt Freshwater Supply District - Oakwilde

Harris County Soil and Water Conservation District