Living with an Aerobic Treatment Unit

I have had multiple different types of septic systems over the years.  At our current home and for the last 12 years, we have had an aerobic treatment unit.  Because many of the homes I inspect are out in the country, I see a lot of septic systems (conventional, aerobic, combination, etc...)

I thought I would post some helpful information I received about 12 years ago regarding the care and maintenance of aerobic treatment systems.

Remember, your aerobic system is a biological treatment system designed to achieve a high degree of  treatment of domestic sewage.  Providing routine maintenance and following the recommendations of the owner's manual and your installer will help insure optimum performance as well as eliminate the cost of unnecessary service calls.

Only biodegradable products should be introduced into the system.  Avoid cleaning products high in chlorides, sulfide and zinc.  Harsh chemicals or large amounts of disinfectants should be used.  Undesirable additions to the wastewater system will poison and kill the available aerobic bacteria and interfere with the treatment process.

Air compressors must run 24 hours a day.  Timers should not be installed unless specificially authorized by the servicing dealer.  Wastewater treatment requires dissolved oxygen.  It's simple; if you have inadequate air, you will have inadequate treatment.

Never allow large, irregular, intermittent or constant volumes of clear water into the system as with a leaking toilet or faucet.   Do not allow water softener waste discharge to be connected to the septic system.  Daily water flow must be within the limits of the designed capacity.

Washing machines are responsible for large volumes of water entering the system all at once.  This surge of water can hydraulically overload the unit and interfere with the smooth operation of the system.  Space washings throughout the week rather than doing several loads in one day.

Bleach:  Chlorine bleach should be used sparingly.  Oxygen bleaches can be used in any form, liquid, powder or pellets.

Detergents:  Low sudsing detergents should be used.  Liquid detergents are preferred.  If powdered detergents are used, on the concentrated forms are recommended.  Filler materials used in the "economy size" containers do not dissolve readily and can cause any filters to plug prematurely.  Never use more than the manufacturer's recommended amount of detergent.  If excessive sudsing or foaming occurs during laundry, reduce the amount of detergent to 1/2 of the recommended amount.

Drain cleaners:  Non-caustic biodegradable drain and toilet bowl cleaners are recommended when available.  Do not use toilet bowl cleaners such as 2000 Flushes or drain cleaners such as Drano.

Garbage disposal:  Care should be taken not to dispose of grease or fat into the disposal.  It will plug any filters and void any warranty.  Food scraps should be scraped into the garbage and not sent into the septic system.

Never flush paper towels, newspapers, wrapping paper, feminine products, condoms, diapers, cigarette butts, rags or sticks into the system.  Aerobic bacteria will only consume organic items.  Inorganic items do not belong in a septic system.

Cooking oils and greases are troublemakers.  The type of bacteria found in aerobic systems do not live well in solidified grease.

Properly maintained systems are designed for years of service.  Treat your's well and it will treat you well. :)

Until next time,
Bruce Thompson

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