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.

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 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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July 24, 2008

:206 Septic System Treatment

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

1:5:10:206 EcoTip: Septic tanks utilize bacteria to help digest the solid sewage so that it becomes liquified. The liquid waste then flow through the leech lines where additional bacterial action renders the wastes safe. The digestion process that takes place in septic systems and leech lines can be aided by adding bacteria that assist the process. 

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 Additional Information:

Suggested Review: :203, :204, :205

If you have a septic tank or cesspool and want to start using bacteria based supplements, it is important not to begin adding them when the septic tank is full. The bacterial action helps break up the sewage, but this can cause a temporary expansion in the volume contained in the tank (kind of like yeast causing bread to rise). If you add the bacteria when the tank is full, the sewage may expand to the point where it will back-flow or pop the tank lid. If you have a septic tank make sure the level is less than half full when you first start using them. A good time to start is a week or so after you have had your tank pumped out. If you are having to pump your tank more frequently than once every five years, supplementing the digestion process may help.

Roebic has bacteria based septic treatments that are readily available. Their biological sewage treatment products are certified 100% biodegradable by Scientific Certification Systems, Inc. of Oakland, California. They have additional good information on drain and septic care at their website http://www.roebic.com/septicintro.htm.

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