Your septic system relies on a complex network of bacteria to break down the organic solid waste that enters it. Some solids such as sand or little to
Your septic system relies on a complex network of bacteria to break down the organic solid waste that enters it. Some solids such as sand or little toy cars that get flushed are not broken down, however.
If you don’t have your septic tank regularly pumped, these solids escape into the soil absorption area and form a biomat that restricts wastewater flow to the drainfield.
Millions of homes rely on septic tanks for treating their organic wastewater. Most property owners understand that regular inspections and pumping are critical to keeping the system functioning properly. However, many homeowners have also heard that using additives can reduce or even eliminate the need to get the tank pumped.
There are two main categories of septic tank additives – biological and chemical. Biological additives typically combine enzymes or bacteria with surfactants and nutrient solutions. These additives supposedly enhance the natural bacterial decomposition processes within the septic tank, and can liquefy sludge and floatable solids.
However, there is little evidence that these types of septic tank additives are either effective or necessary. In fact, many of these additives can cause long-term damage to the system.
Biological additives that use surfactants and nutrient solutions are likely to disrupt the balance of the septic tank, increasing the risk of solids leaking from the tank into the soil absorption field. In addition, some of these products may be toxic to bacteria and other organisms in the septic tank itself.
Lastly, chemical septic tank additives often contain high concentrations of acids and alkalis. These chemicals can corrode the septic tank itself, sterilize the existing bacterial population, and potentially contaminate groundwater. Organic solvents can also leach into groundwater, contaminating drinking water supplies.
Septic tank treatment is the best way to keep septic systems functioning properly. Biological additives preserve natural bacterial colonies and are environmentally friendly, while chemical products can damage or kill bacteria that help your system.
Wastewater flows through a sewer pipe from the house into a septic tank, a box or cylinder commonly made of concrete but sometimes of fiberglass or polyethylene (figure 4.2). When the wastewater enters the septic tank, it begins to separate. Lighter solids like grease and hair float to the top and form a layer called scum. Heavier solids sink to the bottom and form a layer of sludge. Bacteria inside the septic tank break down some of this material. The clear liquid in the middle is called effluent.
Pumping your septic tank as needed will minimize maintenance costs and help ensure the longevity of your drainfield. Having the tank pumped is also an important part of regular inspections, which can identify problems before they cause a backup or drainfield failure.
Keeping non-biodegradable waste items out of your septic system, such as cigarette butts, cotton buds/swabs, and menstrual hygiene products, will also reduce the need to pump more frequently. Avoid using a garbage disposal, which can double the amount of solids in your septic tank. Slow-draining tubs, toilets and sinks are the first sign that your septic system needs to be pumped. Sickly odors are another. If you do smell sewage, have your septic tank inspected and pumped immediately.
As part of your septic tank treatment, you need to regularly have the system inspected. Professional inspections can identify small problems before they become big ones that require expensive repair.
A full septic tank inspection includes checking that wastewater enters and exits as it should, including using a dye to show whether water flows back into the septic tank from the drain field or if the septic tank is overfilling. An inspector also examines the baffles, the inlet and outlet pipes, the scum and sludge layers, and the distribution box. The inspector looks for cracks, rust and leaks.
Some companies sell biological additives that promise to break down solid waste layers in the septic tank, so you won’t need to have your septic tank pumped as often. However, this is not a safe or practical way to treat your septic tank. Solid waste already contains bacteria, and bacterial activity is needed to break down the organic matter in wastewater as it is discharged from your home.
The inspector also checks for signs that the septic tank has been tampered with, such as the greenest grass growing above it. Since septic tanks are buried underground, they can be hard to find without special equipment. The inspector uses a metal probe to locate the corners of the tank. A lot of older tanks have oversized concrete lids that are known in the industry as “coffin lids.” If you have a coffin lid, the inspector should have tetanus inoculations and special tools to open them.
The septic tank is a buried, water-tight container made of concrete, fiberglass or polyethylene. It holds wastewater long enough for solids to settle down in the bottom forming sludge and fats, oils, and greases float to the top forming scum. Compartments and a T-shaped outlet prevent sludge and scum from leaving the tank into the drain field. The liquid wastewater (effluent) exits the tank into the drain field.
Manufacturers of septic tank additives claim their products limit the growth of the scum layer and reduce the need for pumping. They may also promise they restore a clogged soil absorption system. However, there is no evidence that these products perform as advertised. In fact, the use of these chemicals in your septic system can cause expensive problems. The alkalis and acids in store-bought septic tank cleaners kill the healthy bacteria inside your septic tank, and they corrode the interior of the septic tank. They also interfere with the process of solids settling in the tank and contaminate the effluent flow into the drainfield.
Liquid BioOne, on the other hand, is an effective, safe Septic Tank Treatment that contains live bacteria that can survive in the harsh environment of your septic tank. This bacteria is specifically designed to work in a septic system and can tolerate higher pH fluctuations and temperature variations than the bacteria naturally found in human digestive secretions.