The 21st century has brought us smartphones and microwaveable pizza, but the EPA indicates that over 60 million homes still use septic systems for treating grey and black wastewater. This is not necessarily a bad thing as the EPA also says that “septic systems that are properly planned, designed, sited, installed, operated and maintained can provide excellent wastewater treatment.” The problem is when something goes wrong, it usually is not cheap to fix, and it must be fixed immediately. If not, the consequences can leave you with no place for your sewer water to go. Aeration of septic systems can help prevent problems, and here are things you need to know.
Bacterial Sewage Eaters
The bacteria in your septic tank are responsible for digesting the solid wastes you and your family send down the sewer line. Though not appetizing to you, those bacteria can thrive on your food leftovers that the bacteria in your gut has already semi-processed.
In your septic tank are aerobic and anaerobic bacterial strains. Not aerobic as in they get more cardio exercise, but aerobic in that those bacteria need oxygen to thrive. The anaerobic bacteria thrive in environments with low levels of oxygen. Studies have indicated that the oxygen-loving bacteria in your septic tank digest solid waste faster, and septic tank aerators circulate oxygen in your septic tank to help the better solid waste eaters grow and thrive.
Beware of DIY Septic Tank Aerator Retrofitting
The simple premise of septic tank aeration is just pumping air into the liquid of your septic tank. You might even have an image of an aquarium with the pump and one of those bubbling stones that oxygenates a fish tank and looks good in the process. However, there is specific engineering that goes into aerating an existing septic tank to prevent problems with odor and the potential of pumping out solid waste with the effluent that reaches your drain field or leach bed.
Septic Tank Biomats
The anaerobic bacteria are mostly responsible for the formation of a biomat in your septic tank that can gum up the works, causing backflow and problems with your drain field or leach bed. The term “biomat” means a mat of biological material. It grows into a thick biological mat that can cover everything in your septic system, and it needs to be physically cleaned and removed. A septic system that processes waste with aerobic bacteria is less likely to have problems with biomat formation.
Grease, Extra Solids and Chemicals
Upgrading to an aerobic septic system or retrofitting an older septic tank with an aerator still does not make your septic tank able to handle sending everything you do not want down the drain. Vegetable matter sent down a garbage disposal and fats, such as bacon grease, can still gunk up a septic tank. Indiscriminate use of harsh chemicals, such as bleach, can kill the bacteria you need to make your septic tank work. You still need to practice discretion as to what and how much you send down your sewer line to help prevent problems with your septic system from developing.
Old septic systems were gravity fed and not heavily used. Modern lifestyles include long showers, laundry done on almost a daily basis, and plenty of chemicals, soaps, hygiene products, food waste and even medications being flushed down the drain. Modern septic systems use pumps, warning sensors and aeration units that all require electricity to operate. This tacks on some kilowatt hour usage to your electric bill. The monthly electrical cost is not large, but it is an expense. Plus, it is good to note that a new septic system requires electricity to operate correctly. Sure, you can still flush your toilet if the power is out because of a storm, but the system will not operate properly without power.
Septic tank aerators can help your system be able to effectively process the volume of wastewater your household generates while protecting the longevity and efficiency of your leach bed or drain field. If backflow, odor, biomats or a serious degradation in effluent quality is happening with your septic system, then a septic aeration system could save the day.