The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality said they are seeing more contaminants in groundwater, mostly in rural places with aging wastewater systems.

They said about 115 thousand septic systems in Arizona were built before 1970, so many of them are old and tend to break.

They said that can lead to bad bacteria, viruses and chemicals going into our groundwater, which can go into our drinking water wells and when people drink the water, it can cause hepatitis, parasitic worm infections, and typhoid fever.

If there is a well that has high nitrates, that is an indication that there is something in the area, septics being one potential source, Trevor Baggiore, the ADEQs director of the water quality division said.

The ADEQ said throughout the state there are also up to 75 thousand cesspools, a type of waste disposal pit.

When cesspools and septics leak, the ADEQ said exactly when a contaminant can affect groundwater can vary.

Its really just going to depend on the concentration of septics, how deep the groundwater is, and the geology in the area, Baggiore said.

He said septic systems leaking can leave a few signs like a wet patch in the ground, odors you havent smelled before, or a green area of grass that is suddenly growing when it hasnt been watered.

The ADEQ said their Water Quality Assurance Revolving Fund program cleans up contaminated soil and groundwater. In fiscal year 2023 it treated almost 2 billion gallons.

To keep a system healthy, they said you shouldnt pour grease and chemicals down the drain and you should watch your water use. They also said homeowners should schedule inspections at least every three years.

Baggiore said when septic systems leak, the county will work with the homeowner to get their system fixed.

There are many rural parts of the state that have grown because of the option of on-site wastewater, he said.