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Caring For Your Wastewater System

Important Information, For Owners of On-Site Waste Water Treatment Systems:

This information is intended to inform the owner of an On-Site Wastewater Treatment System of activities that could impact the processes of the Aerobic Treatment Unit (ATU). Being aware of and controlling these activities can lead to a more pleasant relationship with your wastewater system in addition to providing better treatment of your wastewater.  Failure to use the system properly could cause the system to require more frequent maintenance and shortening the life of mechanical components.

The On-Site Wastewater Treatment System is designed to treat domestic sewage from a home or facility, referred to as the Wastewater Stream.  The Wastewater Stream should only contain normal activities within a residence other substances placed in the stream may disrupt the system performance. 

For your convenience, we have listed some basic facts about Wastewater Treatment Systems, ATU’s in particular.  The ATU is sized to treat a specific quantity of wastewater.  A stable microbial population is needed to provide effective wastewater treatment and any extreme influxes of wastewater, flow or strength, will influence the performance of the ATU. 

1.  The amount of time spent at the location will impact how the system operates.  The longer the system is in use, the shorter the resting period that is available.  The number and ages of the people living in the home will also directly affect water use.  It is very important that you make sure your system suits the size of your family.

2.  In-home businesses can place additional stress on the system.  Use for daycare facilities increases the overall flow and can increase the use of antibacterial soaps.  Other small businesses may increase the use of chemicals that could directly impact the system.  These include antique re-finishing, beauty shops, animal grooming/boarding, and taxidermy shops.  Barbershops and beauty shops typically discharge large amounts of hair, chemicals from perms and colorings, as well as heavy volumes of water from laundry.  It is recommended that alternate chemical disposal methods be utilized whenever possible.

3.  Prescription antibiotics and drugs are a problem for the On-Site Wastewater Treatment System.  They are extremely hard on the biology of the system and disposal should be by other means

4.  Heavy use of bath and body oils can raise the Fats, Oils and Greases (FOG) values that are in the system.  Removal or reduction of these can increase performance of the system.

5.  Use of septic tank additives has not been proven through third party testing to be beneficial to system performance, and therefore is not recommended.

6.  A garbage disposal adds to the overall loading of the system and it is recommended that use be conservative.  Stress occurs in five distinct ways:

  • More loading due to use.
  • The organic matter has not been digested by the human body and will take longer to break down, also increases FOG.
  • More water used to rinse the sink.
  • Particulates become neutrally buoyant allowing them to flow through the system without proper treatment.
  • The rotting food in the system creates hydrogen sulfide gas which can break down the actual tank itself.
7. Laundry is an important part of the source in terms of water use:
  • Powdered detergents contain forms of benzoate as filler.  Keeping these out of the system can improve long-term performance.  Liquid detergent and avoiding bleach is strongly recommended.
  • The use of liquid fabric softener will disrupt the biology of the system.
  • The use of a bleach additive will disrupt the biology of the septic tank and the rest of the system.  Avoiding overuse of bleach will make the system work better.
  • The amount of laundry done each day is also important; spreading the loads out over time will help the system perform at its best.
8. Antibacterial soap will also affect the biology of the tank.  Liquid soap tends to be easily overused and may create problems in the system.  We recommend the use of bar soap, not labeled as antibacterial

9. Excessive amounts of toilet paper going into the system results in faster sludge build-up.  Treated toilet paper, such as those containing lotion, can prevent toilet paper from settling, and forms a thick layer of scum at the top of the tank.  Additionally, disposing of other types of products, such as wet wipes, into the system can be a problem and should be avoided

10. The use of toxic drain cleaners can impact the ability of the system to properly treat wastewater.  These chemicals will directly affect the activity of the bacteria resulting in a dead tank with poor separating characteristics and should be avoided.

11. Looking at labels can greatly assist in the choice of cleaning products:
  • DANGER: means the chemical will kill the bacteria, and its use should be minimized or eliminated.
  • WARNING: means limited use should have a minimal impact on the system.
  • CAUTION: typically means the product will have little effect on the system.
  • No automatic cleaners should be used.  The continual impact of these chemicals can cause long term problems.
  • Environmentally friendly cleaning products will typically have little effect on the system.
12. Condensate drains should be (re)routed to bypass the system therefore reducing flow. These can cause large volumes of water to be flushed through the system, particularly during summer months.

13. Avoid the introduction of non-digestible material.  This includes, but not limited to:
  • Rags, cigarette filters, plastic bags, diapers, cat litter, coffee grounds, feminine hygiene products, band-aids, cotton swabs, condoms, etc.
  • It is also not advisable to dispose of grease or cooking oils into the system.  They will increase the FOG levels.
14. Toilet valves that stick or hang open can flush hundreds of gallons of water through the system, in a short period of time. If you have toilets that run or faucets that drip it is best to have these repaired in a timely manner to avoid excessive flow into the system

15. When mopping always use a bucket and dump mop water outdoors.