1:5:10:365 EcoTip Blog

July 25, 2008

:207 Septic Health

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet environment.

1:5:10:207 EcoTip: Don’t let toxic chemicals including cleaning compounds like non-biodegradable detergents or chlorine bleach into your septic system. If your system does get “poisoned” you may be able to help it back to health by supplementing the bacteria (see EcoTip :206). 


 Source: US EPA (1987). It’s Your Choice — A Guidebook for Local Officials on Small Community Wastewater Management Options, p. 40. EPA 430/9-87-006.


 Additional Information:

Suggested Review: :203, :204, :205, :206

The Humanure Handbook  written by Joseph Jenkins answer almost everything you ever wanted to know (or need to know) about human manure and returning it to nature. I purchased my first copy almost a decade ago, and still refer to it regularly. According to Joe:

Humans started disposing of “human waste” by defecating into a hole in the ground or an outhouse, then discovered we could float our turds out to the hole using water and never have to leave our shelter. However, one of the unfortunate problems with septic systems is, like outhouses, they pollute our groundwater.

 At the end of the 20th century, there were 22 million septic system sites in the United States, serving one fourth to one third of the U.S. population. They were notorious for leaching contaminants such as bacteria, viruses, nitrates, phosphates, chlorides and organic compounds such as trichloroethylene into the environment. An EPA study of chemicals in septic tanks found toluene, methylene chloride, benzene, chloroform and other volatile synthetic organic compounds related to home chemical use, many of them cancer-causing.3

Between 820 and 1,460 billion gallons of this contaminated water were discharged per year into our shallowest aquifers.4

 In the U.S., septic tanks are reported as a source of ground water contamination more than any other source. Forty-six states cite septic systems as sources of groundwater pollution; nine of these reported them to be the primary source of groundwater contamination in their state.

Toxic chemicals are commonly released into the environment from septic systems because people dump them down their drains. The chemicals are found in pesticides, paint, toilet cleaners, drain cleaners, disinfectants, laundry solvents, antifreeze, rust proofers, septic tank and cesspool cleaners and many other cleaning solutions. In fact over 400,000 gallons of septic tank cleaner liquids containing synthetic organic chemicals were used in one year by the residents of Long Island alone. Furthermore, some toxic chemicals can corrode pipes, therby causing heavy metals to enter septic sustems.7

 You can order the Humanure Handbook or download it for free at http://www.jenkinspublishing.com/humanure_contents.html

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March 19, 2008

:079 Car Antifreeze


Credit: Sierra Antifreeze

Suggested Review – none

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet.

1:5:10:079 Tip: Typical car antifreeze (ethylene glycol) can be extremely dangerous when consumed. As little as one teaspoon can be fatal to cats, and two tablespoons full is dangerous for children. Propylene glycol tastes sweet so some manufacturers are adding a bitter tasting compound to it to make it less palatable.

An alternative that is safer for the environment and considered non-toxic (although anything can be toxic if you consume enough) is propylene glycol. It is becoming widely available at auto supply stores.


Additional Information

Sierra Antifreeze is one brand of propylene glycol antifreeze. They have some good questions and answers at:  http://www.sierraantifreeze.com/benefit.html


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