A wastewater treatment system, just like a car or major appliance must be operated and maintained properly to ensure long term, low cost service. You wouldn't put water in your vehicle’s gas tank or put aluminum foil in the microwave. We use this analogy because it seems to be the number one reason for wastewater treatment system problems, improper materials being disposed of in the treatment system by the homeowner. Another leading cause for a malfunctioning treatment system is excessive water entering the system. Conserving water will help maintain good performance.
Enviro-Flo, Inc. wants to provide the homeowner with as much information and tips as we can to help protect human health and the environment and our valuable water resources and keep your system operating properly for years to come.
Usually, the first sign of a malfunctioning treatment system is odor. Although most people understand that sewage has a particular odor, steps can be taken to limit these odors in the home and yard. Gases emitted from an onsite treatment system that can be a problem include hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide and methane. Within a home these gases can be irritating, toxic and explosive.
Odors in the Home are typically an indication of a plumbing problem, a common problem is the cleanout access plug inside a drain may be loose and could allow for sewer gas to escape. Another common problem is the plumbing vent located on the roof. Pressure in the drainpipes must be allowed to equalize as wastewater flows through them. Without this vent operating properly, sinks, tubs, and toilets would gurgle, traps dry out and odors enter the home. These vents can freeze if exposed to prolonged cold periods or become clogged with leaves and debris.
If an odor is persistent around the treatment system, a licensed onsite professional trained to maintain the specific type of unit should be called. The homeowner could check to verify that the aerator motor is working and check for a visible and or audible alarm on the aerator motor. Check to ensure the motor is plugged in to an electrical outlet or check for a thrown circuit breaker. Homeowner can also verify that the PVC pipe is connected to the aerator motor.
Odors in the yard could be the cause of broken pipes. A visual inspection of the yard can be performed to determine if there are any wet or spongy areas indicating that sewage is coming to the surface. If this is detected, it should be reported immediately to your installer.
Many materials generated in our daily living find their way into wastewater treatment systems. Some are more obvious than others. Earlier we spoke of improper materials being disposed of in the treatment system by the homeowner. To achieve proper treatment, a wastewater treatment system is very dependent on millions of naturally occurring bacteria throughout the system. The use of antibacterial or “disinfectant products in the home can destroy the bacteria that the system depends on. Excessive use of these products in the home can cause significant treatment problems and cause your treatment system to operate improperly. What are these antibacterial products we are talking about? They include antibacterial soaps, tub, tile and shower cleaners, drain cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, laundry bleach products and other products such as medications. The following are choices you can make to improve the performance of your treatment system and protect your investment.
When washing clothes or dishes, use the minimum amount, detergent or bleach necessary to get the job done. Use liquid detergents and soaps, if liquid detergents are undesirable, use highly biodegradable powdered detergents.
Minimize the amount of hair, grease and food materials that go down your drains. Use minimal amounts of mild cleaners and only use as often as needed. Do not use “every flush” toilet bowl disinfectants.
Garbage disposals shouldn’t be used with treatment systems. Vegetable, meat, fat, oil and other food products add large amounts of sludge. As a result, more frequent tank cleaning will be required. These materials are difficult for bacteria in the treatment system to break down.
Hazardous waste products should not be disposed of in the treatment system. This includes even small amounts of latex paint rinsed off rollers and brushes. Dispose of all solvents, paints, and chemicals through local recycling and hazardous waste channels. These materials kill valuable bacteria in the system.
Medications are a part of daily life for many people. Have you thought about how your medications may affect your treatment system? Antibiotics and certain strong medications such as those used in chemotherapy can affect the operation of your treatment system.
High concentrations of antibiotics or chemicals can kill or retard the growth of the bacteria in your treatment system. These bacteria are necessary for proper operation of your system because they digest some of the organic matter entering the tank. They reduce the amount of solids in the tank and reduce the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) of the effluent- the water leaving the tank. If the tank bacteria are destroyed, solids accumulate in the tank much faster and create problems.
If you expect to be taking medications on a long or short-term basis, these are some things you can do to protect your treatment system. Unwanted medications should not be flushed down the toilet or poured down the drain. This will also kill beneficial bacteria in the treatment system. Some pharmacist will dispose of medications for you if you return it to them.
Another cause of wastewater treatment failure is excessive water entering the system. Conserving water will help maintain good system performance. Typical water use is about 50 gallons per day for each person in the household.
Consider your water use patterns. To achieve complete and uniform waste treatment, the system needs adequate time to work. Ideally, daily and weekly wastewater should enter the system as evenly as possible. Every time water is used, it enters the treatment system. An equal amount of water leaves the tank. A large amount of water entering the system in short periods of time causes problems. How does a homeowner conserve water? The largest amount of water use (60%) comes from the bathroom.
The homeowner can install low-flow toilets and showerheads to cut water use by one-half to two-thirds. Take shorter showers, shut off water while brushing teeth and shaving and ensure leaks are repaired quickly.
How can you conserve water use in the kitchen? Wash only full loads of dishes in the dishwasher, keep a pitcher of drinking water in the refrigerator, and do not allow water to run continuously while washing and rinsing dishes and preparing food and repair leaks promptly.
Twenty percent (20%) of water use comes from the laundry room. Wash only full loads of clothes. If you wash a small load, use a partial-load water level setting. Distribute was loads throughout the week to reduce impact on your treatment system.
How effective and economical an onsite sewage system is greatly depends on the use and maintenance of the system. Properly used and maintained systems provide years of service. Proper use begins with waste disposal habits. Individuals determine how much, and what enters the treatment system. Many of us were used to “just flushing and it went away”, and had never heard of onsite sewage systems until we moved to a rural setting.
The suggestions outlined above are meant to give some insight into most treatment systems and help with developing proper use and maintenance habits.