A septic system relies on bacteria to digest household waste. To keep this process working properly, it’s important to have the tank inspected and pumped often.
Limiting garbage disposal use helps reduce the amount of organic matter in your system. Avoid using store-bought drain cleaners that kill bacteria and interfere with solids settling.
There are several additives used to treat Septic Tank Treatment that help keep the bacteria populations high enough to break down the solid waste in the tank. They include powder and liquid bacteriological stimulants and enzymes. These additives are safe for the septic system and the natural groundwater. They also have a far better environmental impact than other types of chemical additives.
Other chemical additives are often marketed as a way to open clogged drains. They contain strong acids and alkalis that can kill the bacteria in a septic tank. They can also corrode concrete tanks and cause leaks into the absorption field and groundwater.
Organic solvents can be effective in removing greases and oils from the septic tank. However, these chemicals can kill the bacteria in a septic system and disrupt the anaerobic digestion process. They can also carry the solid waste into the absorption field where they clog pore spaces in the soil and lead to failure of the system.
Hydrogen peroxide is not recommended for septic systems because it can damage the bacterial colonies inside of the tank. However, the compound does not destroy the natural bacterial populations in the drain fields. These organisms are responsible for breaking down the sludge and scum that accumulate in the septic tank. They can also break down the biomass that forms in the leach field and prevent water from being absorbed by the soil.
Many septic tank additives contain a combination of bacteria, yeast, and enzyme products. The theory is that they act as a booster to the natural process taking place in your septic system. These products can be found in powders, liquids, and pods or tablets. If used correctly they should help to improve septic system performance, reduce odors, and prevent drainfield blockages.
However, the number of bacteria contained in these septic tank additives does not match those in a healthy septic system. They can only provide a temporary boost, especially at times when your septic system is expected to do extra work (such as before a holiday party).
Inorganic compound-based additives contain strong acid or alkali chemicals similar to those found in commercial drain unblockers. They are very effective in opening blocked drains but can degrade septic tanks and septic system materials, killing the microbes that keep your wastewater system working properly.
Some septic tank additives claim to improve the amount of oxygen in your septic tank, thereby reducing septic tank odors and helping to break down pesky waste materials. These claims are largely marketing fiction.
Septic tanks are large dual-chambered buried containers made of concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene. Wastewater flows into the tank where heavy solids fall to the bottom where bacterial action partially decomposes them. Lighter solids rise to the top and form a scum layer. Between the layers is a liquid layer called effluent. It should be large enough to hold at least two days of sewage flow from the house. The number of bedrooms in the house determines the size of the septic tank.
The septic tank pump chamber contains the septic tank effluent pump and float switch controls. It also contains a high water alarm float that signals the need to pump. An electric motor, a power cord, and a lifting rope power the pump.
Problems with the septic tank pump can cause sewage to back up into the house and clog pipes. It can also be problematic for the absorption field and surrounding soil.
Some common problems include an unplugged septic tank pump or tangled lift cable. You should inspect and repair these items regularly. Other possible problems include a dirty tank inlet or outlet screen, a faulty or broken float switch control, and a damaged septic tank baffle. The septic tank inlet and outlet pipes should be constructed of 4-inch Schedule 40 PVC, cast iron, or other approved pipe. The inlet and outlet should be covered with baffles or sanitary tees made of acid-resistant concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene. Six-inch diameter inspection pipes should extend above the baffles or tees to the ground surface for checking solids levels and clogs.
The final step in a septic system’s treatment process occurs in the drain field, a shallow area of uncovered soil that filters wastewater. After it exits the septic tank, wastewater trickles into the soil through perforated pipes that are set in trenches of gravel. Once inside the drain field, natural processes break down disease-causing organisms and organic material. The gravel and soil act as biological filters to purify the water.
Over time, solids settle at the bottom of a septic tank and microorganisms decompose them. Lighter waste, such as fats, oils, and grease (FOGs), floats to the top. The middle layer, called effluent, exits the tank through an outlet baffle. The septic tank’s drain field then filters the wastewater before it seeps into groundwater.
The drain field can experience problems when too much wastewater exits the tank too quickly, or when solids carry with it to the drain field. Heavy rainfall and rapid snowmelt can flood the drain field, reducing its ability to absorb wastewater. Plants and trees may grow into and clog drain field pipes. A car driving or parking on a drainfield can compact the soil, interfering with the flow of wastewater and depriving bacteria of oxygen.
The best way to protect a septic tank and drain field is through prevention. Avoid dumping solids, FOGs, or other chemicals into a septic system. Also, never plant trees or shrubs over a drain field. They can entangle or damage the pipes below. It’s important to have your septic tank pumped regularly and avoid using septic starters or additives that kill helpful bacteria in the septic tank.