Thursday, May 25, 2006

Septic Tank Safety Warnings for Septic Inspectors, Septic Pumpers, and Homeowners

Providing inspection and diagnosis of on-site waste disposal systems is an extremely valuable public service which helps protect people from expensive unanticipated septic system repair costs and helps protect public health by assuring sanitary disposal of sewage and gray water waste from buildings. More importantly though, such inspections may detect and warn about serious safety hazards at some properties. The strong warnings issued below intend to reduce septic system safety hazards for inspectors and property owners/occupants, but it is not the author's intention to dissuade inspectors from providing this valuable service. But danger lurks at cesspools, open covers, tanks or tank covers in poor condition, and from high levels of methane gas. These risk collapse, falling, asphyxiation, and other potentially fatal hazards as well as risks of unsanitary conditions.
Don't work alone: Falling into a septic tank or even leaning over a septic tank can be fatal. Do not work on or at septic tanks alone - workers can become suddenly overcome by methane gas.
Do not ever go into a septic tank unless you are specially trained and are wearing the special equipment and gear for that purpose, including self-contained breathing apparatus.
Don't enter the septic tank: Never go into a septic tank to retrieve someone who has fallen in and was overcome by toxic gases without a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). if a SCBA is not available, call for emergency services and put a fan at the top of the tank to blow in fresh air.
Don't lean over the septic tank openings Do not lean over or stick your head into the septic tank to examine its interior - you could fall in to the tank or become ovecome by gases and fall into the tank, an event which is likely to be fatal.
Don't ignite flames Do not light a flame at or near the tank - methane gas is explosive. At one tank pumpout my client described the explosion and burns received by the pumping contractor when he stood by the tank and lit a cigarette.
Site must be ventilated: Decomposing wastes in the septic tank produce toxic gases (such as methane) which can kill a human in a matter of minutes. When working on a tank be sure the area is well ventilated.
Rope off & Mark Dangerous Sites: If your inspection discover that there are dangerous conditions, such as an unsafe tank cover, tank collapse, or a home-made septic tank or cesspool (which are at increased risk of sudden collapse) such areas should be roped off and clearly marked as dangerous to prevent access until proper evaluation and repairs can be made.
Safe covers: be sure that the tank and its access ports have sound and secure covers that do not risk collapse and which cannot be removed by children.
Septic & Cesspool Collapse Hazards: Old steel tanks, thin, rusting steel or rotting home-made wood tank covers, site-built tanks and cesspools, and recently-pumped cesspools are at particular risk of collapse. Falling into a septic tank or cesspool is likely to lead to rapid asphyxiation from methane and in cases of collapse, there is risk of becoming buried. The author has consulted in cases involving such fatalities (homeowner fell into a site-built cesspool), and at one site inspection, walking near an overgrown area the author himself stepped through a rusting steel septic tank top, surviving only by throwing himself into a nearby clump of brambles! Beware of
flimsy, rusted, old-steel, home-made, or missing septic tank/drywell/cesspool covers
abandoned systems which may not have been filled-in
collapsed, or collapsing septic tanks or cesspools
possible presence of multiple components at a property, abandoned or in-use
Unsanitary conditions: Be alert for unsanitary conditions such as surface effluent or sewage backups into buildings, events which risk serious viral and bacterial hazards and which indoors, may require professional cleaning. Be alert for personal sanitation hazards when working around septic systems, such as open cuts or failure to wash properly after working on systems.
Damage to Septic Components: Avoid damaging septic system components or the building: Improper septic testing procedures, such as flooding a dosing-system, can damage the system. Also, remember to check for leaks into or under the building being tested when running water into the building fixtures and drains. Don't leave water running unattended - at risk of flooding the building.
http://septictanksite.com

WHY DOES A TANK NEED PUMPING? A Basic Explanation of What Happens in a Septic Tank


The most common domestic wastewater treatment system used in rural areas is the septic tank-soil absorption system. The septic tank removes settleable and floatable solids from the waste water. The soil absorption field then filters and treats the clarified septic tank effluent and distributes it through the soil. Removing the solids from the wastewater protects the soil absorption system from clogging and failure. In addition to removing solids, the septic tank also promotes biological digestion of a portion of the solids and stores the remaining undigested portion.

The first stage of the treatment system, the septic tank, removes solids by holding wastewater in the tank. This allows the heavier solids to settle as sludge and the lighter particles to form scum at the top. To accomplish this, wastewater should be held in the tank for at least 24 hours. Up to 50 percent of the solids retained in the tank decompose; the remainder accumulate in the tank. Biological and chemical additives are not needed to aid or accelerate decomposition. The small, collapsing, and totally impacted septic tank shown here was ignored by the property owner for years, leading to total failure of the system.

As a septic system is used, sludge continues to accumulate in the bottom of the septic tank. Properly designed tanks have enough space for up to three years safe accumulation of sludge. When the sludge level increases beyond this point, sewage has less time to settle before leaving the tank and more solids escape into the absorption area. If too much sludge accumulates, no settling occurs before the sewage flows to the soil absorption field. Infiltration of sludge into the soil absorption field can cause system failure. To prevent this, the tank must be pumped periodically. The material pumped is known as septage. This figure shows a tank in cross-section, but you don't need to look at it to understand the text below.
http://septictanksite.com

Monday, May 22, 2006

Septic Tank Maintenance Secrets

When you buy a car, you are given an owner's manual with instructions on how to care for your car. Septic tanks can cost as much or more than a car, unfortunately nobody gives you a manual when they are installed. Some people don't even know they have a septic tank! As a result, many septic systems fail unnecessarily.

The Price for Failure is Steep The price for failure is steep in two way. More than 1200 people in the US die each year from contaminated water, and failing septic systems are a leading source of waterborne disease outbreaks in the country today. In a 2000 EPA report, 31 states listed septic systems as their second greatest potential source of groundwater contamination. Septic system replacement is also very expensive, with costs often running from $5,000 to $20,000 or more. Fortunately, there are some highly effective, ineffective steps you can take to eliminate this problem. Before discussing solutions, let's look at why septic systems fail.

Septic tank maintenance is actually pretty easy to understand. When a system fails, the tank itself doesn't fail- the drainfield soil fails. In most cases the soil fails when it gets plugged up with solids and won't allow liquid to pass through it. For example, it can get plugged with solids from the tank if the tank hasn't been pumped, or with lint from a washing machine. Now for your solutions:

1. Use a washing machine filter.

Did you know that washing machines are a leading cause of septic system failure? The primary culprit is lint generated by washing machines, which clogs the soil in drain fields. Did you know that a typical family washing machine produces enough lint each year to carpet and entire living room floor! Lint screens and nylon traps found in hardware stores trap 5% or less of these particles. Because they are so light and small, the lint particles do not settle out in the septic tank. Instead, they stay in suspension and are flushed out to the drain field, where they plug up the pores of the soil bed.

To compound the problem, much of our clothing is now manufactured with synthetic materials such as polyester and nylon. These substances are not biodegradable, and will not break down in a septic system. Instead, they accumulate and plug the soil. Once these materials enter the soil, there is no way to remove them.



The good news is that lint can be prevented from entering the septic system through the use of a reusable, inline filter which attaches to your washing machine discharge hose. The filter, called the Filtrol 160, retails for $139.95.

2. Avoid Excessive Water Use You can also damage your septic system by doing a large number of laundry loads in a short period of time. In standard septic systems, solid materials settle in the tank, while effluent flows out into the ground. If you put more water into the system than it is built to handle, the high volume of water will flood your system, and can also stir up and flush solids out of the tank into the drain field (in fact, septic pumpers use water from their hoses to help break up solids in your tank before pumping them out). A typical washing machine can use up to 60 gallons of water per wash load. On a heavy day you can easily put 400, 500 or 600 gallons of water through the system in a few hours. The solution is to spread out your water use. Do one or two loads of laundry per day, rather than 10-12 loads on Saturday morning. Water softeners can also damage your system by putting too much water through the septic system. These devices can put several hundred gallons of water down the drain every week, water that is not contaminated and does not need to go through the treatment process.

There are a couple solutions to this problem. You can upgrade your softener with a newer efficient model that uses less water and regenerates on demand, instead of a timer system that regenerates whether you use water or not. You can also install a mini septic system for your water softener.

3. Prevent Solids from Leaving the Tank First of all, you should get your tank pumped on a regular basis to prevent excessive accumulation of solids in the tank. Under normal conditions, you should have the tank inspected and pumped every 1-3 years. Very important: tanks should be pumped and inspected through the manhole cover, not the inspection pipe. Your septic contractor should also install an effluent filter in the exit baffle of the tank. Effluent filters stop the larger solids from getting out to the drainfield. They are cleaned out every few years when you have your tank pumped. They are usually only about $80. Effluent filters are cheap insurance and along with a washing machine filter, one of the best things you can do to protect your system.

4. Use of Household Cleaning Products Excessive use of these products can contribute to septic system failure. If you do over 5 loads a week containing bleach, problems could arise. Avoid powdered detergents as they contain plastic fillers that can plug up your lines and drain field. Also, be careful with harsh automatic toilet bowl cleaners, which have put quite a few systems out of commission.

5. Should I Use a Separate System for My Washing Machine? Some people say you should use a separate system for your washing machine, called a laundry interceptor. However, this is not necessary and in fact undesirable. Washing machines should discharge into the regular system because it actually works better than discharging into its own system. In order to work, septic systems require bacteria colonies which break down biodegradable matter. These bacteria require "food" which is found in our wastewater, but not in detergent. Without "food" these bacteria colonies die out and the system fails. Many people who have installed these systems have found this out the hard way. A research project conducted in several east coast states utilized some rather high tech systems for washing machine discharge and many began failing in as little as eight months.

Septic Tank Maintenance Tips:

Do: divert surface runoff water from roofs, patios, driveways and other areas away from your drainfield. Have your septic tank pumped regularly. It should also be inspected for leaks, cracks and to make sure the exit baffle is in place. Install lint and effluent filters. Spread out your laundry loads. Compost your garbage or put it in the trash

Don't: Use a garbage disposal. These appliances normally double the amount of solids added to the tank! Flush sanitary napkins, disposable diapers or other non-biodegradable products into your system. Dump solvents, oils, paint thinners, disinfectants, pesticides or poisons down the drain as they can disrupt the treatment process and contaminate the groundwater. Dig in your drainfield or build anything over it. Drive over your drainfield or compact the soil in any way. Plant trees or shrubbery close to the septic system, because the roots can get in the lines and plug them. Grass is the only thing that should be planted on or near a drainfield.

If Your System Fails In quite a few cases, a tune-up can fix your system and you can avoid the high costs of replacing the system. This tuneup includes properly pumping the tank, cleaning (jetting) the drainfield lines, and installing washing machine and effluent filters. If these measures are not sufficient, some failed systems can be rejuvenated by fracturing the soil. This process utilizes a hollow tube inserted into the soil, then a 300 pound blast or air is injected into the soil creating thousands of tiny fissures. These fissures allow the drainfield to drain, creating an oxygen atmosphere and the aerobic bacterial colonies to repopulate. Aerobic bacteria, which require oxygen, typically live in the top 26 inches of the drainfield and process waste much more quickly than anaerobic bacteria. This process can be performed in a matter of hours with no digging or damage to the yard. One company which performs this service is Terralift International (http://www.terraliftinternational.com).

If you have a clay soil which has become plugged due to sodium from wastewater binding with the clay, Septic Seep can help. These product releases sodium bonded clays and reopens soil, restoring passages air and water. It also has the benefit of dispersing greases and scums that clog the soil.


About the Author
Corey K. Tournet is the owner of The Laundry Alternative, a company which specializes in unique, eco-friendly, laundry and septic tank products. You can visit his website at http://www.laundry-alternative.com

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Septic Systems and Their Maintenance

Proper design, installation, and maintenance of your septic system will maximize your system's life. It will prevent failures that can be unsightly, foul-smelling, and threatening to your family's health. Good maintenance reduces the risk of contaminating your well water, and may save you from costly repairs or system replacement.

Septic tank inspection may be required by lenders when you sell or refinance your home. The repair of a failing system is usually a cost to the seller. So, ignoring your septic system will not save money in the long term!
For more info go to

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Increasing the Efficiency of Aeration in Aerobic Wastewater Treatment

Aerobic wastewater treatment uses microorganism to feed on waste in the water and convert them to sludge, carbon dioxide and water. To keep the process going, the wastewater needs to be aerated with oxygen. There are many types of aerators used for this purpose, but all of them involve huge input of energy. Aeration in wastewater treatment is a very ENERGY INTENSIVE process. One small wastewater treatment for a PE of 80,000, for example, consume 2,400,000 kWhr. (Malaysian Ringgit 600,000) annually just for aeration. Increasing its efficiency even if only by a small percentage may make a significant difference.

Wouldn't it be great if one can have an aerator that can add oxygen to the wastewater without great "external input of energy"? What is this "Zero Energy Input" Waterwheel Aerator all about? I know this "Zero Energy Input" thing will raise some eyebrows! Essential, what it aims to do is to make the energy intensive water aeration more efficient. What I am refering to is a waterwheel aerator using the EXISTING surplus kinetic energy present in wastewater treatment systems to power the aerator to squeeze more oxygen into the wastewater. Thus there is no need for expensive additional input of energy. In oxidation ditches, excess flow velocity is detrimental to the oxygen transfer rate and need to be slowed down. In fact, it seems baffles are introduced to slow down the velocity:

"Where power input intensity is high, for example when treating strong wastes, the induced velocity in the ditch will also be high and the differential speed between mixed liquor and rotor blades reduced, causing a loss in aeration efficiency. This may be overcome by installing deceleration baffles upstream of the rotor. A steel channel or timber beam submerged in the top layer of the ditch and spanning the ditch width may be used" (M A Pells "Oxidation Ditches in Wastewater Treatment" p209).

So if it is necessary to slow down the velocity, why not use it to power a waterwheel to squeeze more oxygen into the wastewater?

The device (Rotafall) being proposed consists of circular discs fitted with suitable number of paddles. When flowing wastewater pushes against the paddle, the discs rotates. As the discs rotate, wastewater clinging to the surface of the discs are brought up and large surfaces of the wastewater are constantly exposed to the air for the diffusion of oxygen into the water. Tests shows that rotafall can add about 3.3 to 4 kg oxygen per square meter surface area per annum. A plate has 2 surfaces, so per square meter of plate it can add 6.6 to 8 kg oxygen to the water. To further increase the efficiency, the plates can be colored black to absorb solar energy. This will increase the temperature of the bacteria culture sticking on the plate, and will increase in exponential manner the rate at which they uses up the oxygen in the wastewater, and thus a lower dissolved oxygen concentration in the wastewater. A lower concentration will lead to a higher oxygen transfer rate.

The concept is sound, put waste surplus kinetic energy to work, the device works. Only question is, can one construct the waterwheel aerator cheap enough, or will the cost of energy increase enough to justify the amount of additional oxygen added to the wastewater.

Another version of Rotafall. This one will use the buoyancy provied by rising bubbles to power the rotation of the waterwheel.

Friday, May 19, 2006

In-Sink-Erator Septic 3/4 HP Food Waste Disposer


List Price:
$305.00
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Product Description
From the ManufacturerOnly Septic Disposer features injection technology with Bio-Charge® treatment. No competitive brand can claim enhanced digestion because only Septic Disposer injects Bio-Charge® into the grind chamber every time the disposer is activated. Bio-Charge® is a fresh, citrus-scented solution featuring natural microorganisms that help break down food waste. 3/4 Horsepower Food Waste Disposer; Manufactured by the World's Largest Disposer Manufacturer; Manufactured in USA Product Description3/4 HP Food Waste Septic Disposer, For Any Size Septic System, Automatically Injects Bio-Charge Enzyme Treatment To Break Down Food & Household Waste, Helps Septic System Run Smoothly, 3 Year In Home Warranty.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Wastewater treatment

How is wastewater treated? Wastewater treatment can be divided into 3 stages - preliminary treatment, primary treatment, secondary treatment. Preliminary treatment consists of physical screening of large objects. In Primary treatment, the wastewater is held in a separation tank to allow particles to settle to the bottom and grease to float to the top. The solids are drawn off the bottom and skimmed off the top and sent for further treatment as sludge. Secondary treatment is a biological treatment to remove dissolved organic matter from the wastewater. Aerobic microorganisms are allowed to consume the dissolved organic matter. For this purpose, sufficient oxygen have to be provided and this is where aeration comes in. http://septictanksite.com

Monday, May 15, 2006

Increasing the Efficiency of Aeration in Aerobic Wastewater Treatment

Increasing the Efficiency of Aeration in Aerobic Wastewater Treatment Aerobic wastewater treatment uses microorganism to feed on waste in the water and convert them to sludge, carbon dioxide and water. To keep the process going, the wastewater needs to be aerated with oxygen. There are many types of aerators used for this purpose, but all of them involve huge input of energy. Aeration in wastewater treatment is a very ENERGY INTENSIVE process. One small wastewater treatment for a PE of 80,000, for example, consume 2,400,000 kWhr. (Malaysian Ringgit 600,000) annually just for aeration. Increasing its efficiency even if only by a small percentage may make a significant difference.
Wouldn't it be great if one can have an aerator that can add oxygen to the wastewater without great "external input of energy"? What is this "Zero Energy Input" Waterwheel Aerator all about? I know this "Zero Energy Input" thing will raise some eyebrows! Essential, what it aims to do is to make the energy intensive water aeration more efficient. What I am refering to is a waterwheel aerator using the EXISTING surplus kinetic energy present in wastewater treatment systems to power the aerator to squeeze more oxygen into the wastewater. Thus there is no need for expensive additional input of energy. In oxidation ditches, excess flow velocity is detrimental to the oxygen transfer rate and need to be slowed down. In fact, it seems baffles are introduced to slow down the velocity:
"Where power input intensity is high, for example when treating strong wastes, the induced velocity in the ditch will also be high and the differential speed between mixed liquor and rotor blades reduced, causing a loss in aeration efficiency. This may be overcome by installing deceleration baffles upstream of the rotor. A steel channel or timber beam submerged in the top layer of the ditch and spanning the ditch width may be used" (M A Pells "Oxidation Ditches in Wastewater Treatment" p209).
So if it is necessary to slow down the velocity, why not use it to power a waterwheel to squeeze more oxygen into the wastewater?
The device (Rotafall) being proposed consists of circular discs fitted with suitable number of paddles. When flowing wastewater pushes against the paddle, the discs rotates. As the discs rotate, wastewater clinging to the surface of the discs are brought up and large surfaces of the wastewater are constantly exposed to the air for the diffusion of oxygen into the water. Tests shows that rotafall can add about 3.3 to 4 kg oxygen per square meter surface area per annum. A plate has 2 surfaces, so per square meter of plate it can add 6.6 to 8 kg oxygen to the water. To further increase the efficiency, the plates can be colored black to absorb solar energy. This will increase the temperature of the bacteria culture sticking on the plate, and will increase in exponential manner the rate at which they uses up the oxygen in the wastewater, and thus a lower dissolved oxygen concentration in the wastewater. A lower concentration will lead to a higher oxygen transfer rate.
The concept is sound, put waste surplus kinetic energy to work, the device works. Only question is, can one construct the waterwheel aerator cheap enough, or will the cost of energy increase enough to justify the amount of additional oxygen added to the wastewater.
Another version of Rotafall. This one will use the buoyancy provied by rising bubbles to power the rotation of the waterwheel.http://septictanksite.com
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