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Dos and don’ts

There is a lot home owners can do to keep their wastewater treatment plant in good condition. With a little consideration and a good dose of common sense you can avoid the most common cause of septic system failure, which is human mistreatment of the plant. If you consider that septic system failure can cost upward of $15,000 US dollars, but also cause health hazards to your family and surroundings, it is well worth observing a few simple guidelines.

First the don’ts

If water doesn’t break it down, don’t flush it! Plastic, sanitary napkins, scouring pads, condoms, mop strings, “disposable” diapers, towels, lint, rags, cigarette butts, you name it - they all belong in a garbage bin, not your septic tank or wastewater treatment plant. These items are non-biodegradable and will build up quickly in your tank, which will result in more frequent pumping or causing damage. Chemicals such as paints, thinners and solvents, strong disinfectants, liquid plumbing de-blockers, and toilet bowl fresheners kill the good bacteria in your septic system that break down waste. Avoid flushing these at all cost! Also avoid flushing grease and cooking oils down the sink. Grease not only encapsulates good bacteria, which prevents them from breaking down waste, but also builds up quickly. If you have a wastewater treatment plant fitted with BAT media, grease will attach itself to the media and damage your system. Small amounts of cooking grease will undoubtedly go down your drain as you do the dishes, and grease traps are designed to collect this grease in first instance. Make sure your kitchen drains are connected to a grease trap that is plumbed before further disposal into your septic system. Keep a record of when your system was last serviced or pumped. Our residential wastewater treatment plants should ideally be serviced once every six months with specialised equipment to keep the plant in optimal working order. If you have a regular septic tank make sure to inspect it periodically by lifting the manhole covers to see if it needs pumping. There is no fixed time frame for pumping your septic system as it depends on house occupancy and water consumption, but an average sized septic tank of a 1,000 USG capacity used by a household of 4 with average water consumption will need pumping every 2-3 years.

Now the Dos

Know the location of your control panel and check periodically for alarm conditions. We always advise home owners to have their control panel installed in a place where they go on a regular basis, such as a garage or near your main electrical panels. If your panel is installed in remote pool room or shed where you do not go on a daily basis, you may not notice an alarm situation before it’s too late and your system starts failing. Make sure your plant is accessible for servicing (and if necessary, pumping). This entails not constructing patios, decks and paved areas over your system and try to keep any vegetation around it low. Our service staff are technicians, not gardeners. If we cannot readily access the manholes on your plant we cannot service it, as simple as that! Divert roof drains and surface water from plant. This also goes for house footing drains, ground irrigation systems and other major sources of water that can saturate the ground excessively. Your plant is set up to contain water and the weight of the water will keep your tank in ground. If for whatever reason it needs to be emptied while groundwater levels are high, you risk the plant ‘popping’ out of the ground. Therefore it is best to keep excessive moisture away from the plant. As a general rule, most things work best when powered at a steady pace, rather than in peaks and lows. Your plant is no different. Try to reduce heavy water usage peaks by separating dish washing, showering and laundry throughout the day. A septic system system functions like a living organism, not dissimilar to our own bodies. Drinking a gallon of water in smaller amounts during the day is a good idea, drinking a gallon at once is not. Your septic system feels the same way! Practise water conservation by making sure fixtures don’t leak, washing full loads of clothes, installing low-flow toilets and faucets etc. Repairing faucet leaks can save 10 gallons of water a day. Taking a five-minute shower instead of a bath can save 25 to 50 gallons. Overloading your septic system reduces its ability to treat solids and could cause bacterial contamination of groundwater if dispersed into a drain field or water drain. Water conservation helps the environment and reduces your monthly water bill too! If your plant serves a vaction home or a house that is not constantly occupied, the plant should still be left running during your absence. Do NOT shut it down! Our systems have one moving part and are energy efficient. By leaving your plant operational while you’re away, the treatment compartment will process any wastewater already in the system. If you have a caretaker or concierge looking after your vacation home during your absence, ask them to occasionally flush a toilet. If a system is ‘dormant’ for an extended period of time, you can jump start it by flushing a Biojet 7 sachet or liquid through the toilet. This will ‘reactivate’ the good bacteria that break down waste when you start actively using your plant again. As mentioned under the Don’ts, no septic system benefits from having to process lots of non-biodegradable chemicals. There are things you can do to avoid this. Use fabric softener towels in your dryer, rather than liquid softeners in the wash cycle. Lots of cooking oil or grease in your pan? Pour it in an empty plastic bottle and discard in your garbage, rather than flushing it through the sink. Common sense goes a long way!
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