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Some infrastructure concerns go far less discussed than others including, notably, the issue of wastewater and sanitation. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the country’s wastewater treatment plants are functioning at an average of “81 percent of their design capacities,” and 15 percent have “reached or exceeded” that capacity. Drinking water service disruptions and flooding from sewer backups and other infrastructure failures cost U.S. households $2 billion in 2019. The ASCE predicts that figure will balloon to $14 billion in the next two decades.
But a significant percentage of American households — about 20 percent — are not connected to public plants, and instead use septic tanks or other wastewater systems that are directly connected to their homes. For communities in which any of those systems fail, the public health and socioeconomic consequences of uncontrolled sewage can be devastating.