If the question – ‘do I need to add bacteria to my septic tank’ is still bothering you then, you need to read this article carefully.
Made usually of concrete or fiberglass, a septic tank is an enclosure that stores your household waste matter. This primarily includes fecal matter. Septic tank is an age-old method of treating solid as well as organic waste matter.
You need to drain this waste material into a specialized field. This field is well equipped to further treat this waste matter. Usually areas wherein homes are not connected with a central sewage system use septic tanks.
Here is what all I shall be covering in my write-up:
Do I Need to Add Bacteria to My Septic Tank Article Contents:
1) What is a Septic Tank?
2) How do You Empty the Waste Matter from a Septic Tank?
3) How to Keep a Septic Tank Healthy?
4) Are Septic Tanks Bad for the Environment?
5) What are Septic Tank Rules in the European Union?
6) What are the Septic Tank Rules in Australia?
7) What are the Septic Tank Norms in the United States of America?
8) What are the Different Types of Microbes Found in Your Septic Tank?
9) Do I Need to Add Bacteria to My Septic Tank?
What is a Septic Tank?
Septic tank is a structure that is made from plastic or concrete. Some are even made from fiberglass. The tank is connected with an inlet and an outlet. A ‘T pipe’ is used to connect the drain pipe to the septic tank and another ‘T pipe’ links it to a drain field.
These tanks can hold anywhere in between 900 gallons to 2100 gallons of waste material. This would be anywhere in between 3500 liters to 8000 liters of sewage waste.
The present day septic tanks have a division. So, you have two separate chambers within a single septic tank. A wall divides these two chambers. A cover and an opening is used separately for both tanks. The opening is in the center of each tank (as per the height of the structure).
How does a Septic Tank Work?
The waste from your home flows through the drain pipe into the first chamber of the septic tank. The solid waste settles to the bottom of this tank. The liquid waste floats. Over a period of time, the solid waste is treated (anaerobic activity). This shrinks the solid waste.
The liquid waste material meanwhile flows through the opening into the second chamber. Here too, the waste settles down, allowing only the floating liquid to be drained. This liquid is drained into a leach field.
The waste water is absorbed by the soil. The roots of the plants present within the drain field too absorb this waste water. There are several pipes emitting from the main outlet. These distribute the waste water emitting from the drain pipe into various parts of the field.
You need to have a field that is proportional to the waste water that your septic tank is supposed to carry. If your soil is super-porous then, less amount of land can be used as a drain field (and vice versa).
Use of Siphons and Added Bacteria for Processing Waste:
An inverted tube placed in ‘U’ shape is used within septic tanks. This is done so as to push sludge out of an overflowing septic tank into an area lower than the tank’s position. The power here is derived by the gravitational force initiated by the falling water.
The use of siphons in septic tanks is done so as to avoid an overflow. When the amount of waste matter exceeds the outflow in a septic tank, it leads to an overflow. Anaerobic activity cannot keep up with its anti-sanitization work as the inflow of waste is too high.
This is when siphon helps in removing excess waste matter in a speedy manner. It also does not require any additional power to function. Ideally, people use a twin stage septic tank. In one tank, the sewage is collected while in the other, it is treated. Thereafter, it is released into the leach field.
How do You Empty the Waste Matter from a Septic Tank?
Not all waste matter can be decomposed via natural anaerobic activity. Even if you induce natural decomposition bacteria into the tank, solid waste remains. This is when you need to ensure that you de-sludge the septic tank.
If you forget to do so, your fecal and other waste matter shall overflow and seep into the leaching field. The solid matter may remain on the surface. This shall contaminate the ground. In certain cases, your groundwater shall get contaminated. The outflow pipe of you septic tank can also get clogged.
In order to remove the sludge, a special vacuum truck is involved. The truck then sucks in the solid waste matter and transports it to a treatment plant.
How Often Should You Opt for Desludging of a Septic Tank?
There is no specific time frame for desludging. You can opt for it every few years. Some septic tanks can go without desludging for 20 years. Nonetheless, most need to be emptied every 2 to 5 years.
While desludging, not all waste matter is supposed to be removed. Some of the solid waste needs to be left within the septic tank. This is done so as to encourage the natural anaerobic activity.
In case the septic tank is vacuumed clean (emptied) then, hydrostatic force is applied to it. This in turn damages the tank. The damaged tank is thus exposed to the ground. This may pollute the soil and the water table.
How to Keep a Septic Tank Healthy?
- The first tip is to avoid using excessive cooking oils. The grease produced by cooking oils can clog the inlet as well as outlet pipes of septic tanks.
- Chemicals such as water softeners tend to sabotage the ongoing natural bio-degradation process inside the septic tank. When that happens, solid waste tends to remain in a solid state, leading to leakages.
- If you put material such as cotton, condoms, and cigarettes into the toilet then, these tend to clog your septic tank. So, flush only biodegradable material down your toilet seat.
- In case you use pesticides, insecticides, bleach, brine etc. then, the natural decomposition process within the septic tank is jeopardized. You need to therefore avoid doing so.
- Waste material that is solid in nature needs to be done away with. I mean, do not flush solid waste into the toilet seat. This shall clog the pipes of the septic tank.
- Never build a septic tank around large trees. This is because their roots shall penetrate the tank and cause seepage.
- The development of microorganisms on the surface of the pipes can also lead to them rupturing. This extracellular polymeric material needs to be removed to safeguard your pipes.
- Septic tanks should not be placed under a driveway. The pressure applied on the surface shall cause irreparable damage to the septic tanks cover.
- Snowfall and flooding can also cause the septic tank to overflow. When ground water rises, it forces the water from the septic tank to flow back to the tank.
Are Septic Tanks Bad for the Environment?
If you develop a septic tank keeping in mind all the rules and safety concerns, there is no need to worry. If on the other hand, your septic tank is of flimsy quality connected with a faulty leach field then, it can cause environmental pollution.
Let me walk you through with the possible harm caused by ill-constructed septic tanks:
It is not tough to comprehend that harmful gasses are present in the waste matter present in septic tanks. So, the presence of hydrogen sulphide, methane, carbon dioxide and ammonia is common. These are toxic fumes that emit foul smell.
Water Pollution at the Ground Level:
If your septic tank is located near fisheries then, an accidental leakage may cause infection to such water bodies. So, fishes do get infected and so do humans after their consumption.
Bacterial Infections are Common:
In case your septic tank drain field is located near a water-body then, the nitrogen content of the waste matter may seep into the waterway. This in turn causes algae formation.
Infections such as e-coli are very common here. So, you need to treat the nitrogen content present in the septic tank by adding anti-phosphate solution.
Polluting the Water Table:
Septic tank fields often allow excess waste material to seep into the soil. When the population is dense and septic tanks are plenty, seepage are common occurrence.
This is when you tend to infect the water table. So, in order to combat this situation, you need to ask your town administration to construct a sewage water treatment plant. This shall diminish the water pollution at the ground level to a great extent.
What are Septic Tank Rules in the European Union?
EN-12566 is a European Union Standard on which is determined the manner in which household waste emitting from septic tank is to be treated. EN-12566 (Section 4) has certain rules with regards to the construction and assembly of septic tanks.
EN-12566 (Section 1) states that septic tanks should be made from concrete, steel, Unplasticized Polyvinyl Chloride, Polyester (that is fortified with glass) and polyethylene. No other material apart from these can be used for building a septic tank.
Septic Tank Norms in Wales & England:
- The Environment Agency (established in 1995) in the United Kingdom determines whether the household waste disposal units are worthy of being certified or not.
- In case the septic field lies close to groundwater table then, necessary permits need to be sought from the Environment Agency.
- If the emission from the septic tank to the leach field is more than the prescribed limit then, the homeowner needs to seek permission for the same.
- The homeowner needs to develop an onsite sewage facility if the leach field is contaminating the water table.
- Septic tasks waste flowing into a watercourse in Ireland must have valid permits from the Department of Environment.
- The quality as well as the quantity of discharge in Northern Ireland should meet the standards established by the Department of Environment.
- In Scotland, disposal of waste matter from septic tank is regulated by the Water Regulation Management. This was established in the year 2011.
Septic Tank Norms in France:
- In France, almost 3.99 million men and women make use of waste water disposal method. This is with special regards to an on-site treatment methodology.
- Septic Tanks in France are used by 21% of the population. So, they need to be constructed as per the established norms.
- The Service Public d’Assainissement Non Collectif makes the laws that govern waste water collection in France.
- In France, it is illegal to discharge waste water into ground water or watercourse.
Septic Tank Norms in Ireland:
- Almost half a million households in Ireland use septic tanks.
- An amendment to the Water Services Act was made in 2012 to ensure that Ireland was following the household waste disposal norms as established by EU.
- You cannot drain household waste matter into a watercourse.
- Only authorized contractors can de-sludge a septic tank in Ireland.
What are the Septic Tank Rules in Australia?
- The Department of Health & environmental Protection Agency makes laws that govern household waste disposal in Australia.
- Each state has a different code of conduct with regards to the type and construction of septic tank.
- Australian Standard 1546 and Australian Standard 1547 determine the installation and make of septic tanks.
- Queensland has banned the use of septic tanks. Even Sunshine Coast has done so. This has been done to avoid pollution owing to high population volume.
- When you build a new house or building, you also need to install a new septic tank. You cannot use the old one.
What are the Septic Tank Norms in the United States of America?
- The United States Environmental Protection Agency governs the norms of household waste disposal.
- If solid waste escapes the septic tank in USA, you need to pay a hefty fine. Even clogged pipes in septic tank leading to liquid waste leakage are liable for a penalty by the government.
- If a state has shellfish protection norms then, you need to follow the rules as stated by the government.
What are the Different Types of Microbes found in Your Septic Tank?
There are 6 types of microbes that comprise your septic tank. Let me walk you through each of these in brief:
Algae: These microbes are simple in terms of their structure. Algae have the ability to produce their own food via the process of photosynthesis.
Bacteria: These are the most widespread of all microorganisms in a septic tank. They have no nucleus and have a single cell. They are the first to be born on Earth. Bacteria are present in all forms of plants and animals.
Nematodes: There are over 100,000 species of roundworms on this planet. They are found in abundance in septic tanks. When infected by roundworm, you can have fever or even diarrhea.
Fungi: These micro-organisms comprise of both organelles and nucleus. They are categorized as eukaryotic. They belong to a kingdom that does not include animal, plant and bacteria.
Rotifers: These are psedo-coelomates. They are from the animal kingdom and are present in your septic tank. Rotifers help eliminate protozoa, bacteria, detritus and algae from your tank.
Protozoa: They are unicellular organisms that are similar to animals in their behavior. Coupled with complex structure and the ability to change their shape, protozoa are motile and can move around via their flagella, cilia or amoeboid capabilities. Flagellates and amoebae are classic examples of the same.
How do Microorganisms Help Disinfect a Septic Tank?
The Role of Bacteria:
In the first step, the sold as well as liquid waste from the household enters the septic tank. There, bacteria present in this waste matter metabolize the inorganic ions as well as the organic waste.
The Incomplete Digestion Process:
When waste is introduced into a septic tank, it tends to undergo digestion. Anaerobic digestion produces various gasses such as methane, sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulphide. This incomplete digestion also leads to the formation of hydrocarbons of high molecular weight.
The Decomposition Process:
When the sludge is disposed to the leach field or landfill, it is further decomposed. This happens with the aid of exposing sludge to oxygen. The aerobic bacteria are responsible for decomposing the sludge further.
The moment the sludge makes its way to the leach field, it sinks into the ground. This leads to the creation of biological mats. They are up to 6 inches in height and comprise of decomposition by-products and microorganisms. Solid waste and mineral deposits are also present in biological mats.
Layering of Biomats:
These biomats tend to eat up organic matter. The remainder waste matter seeps into the soil wherein it is further decomposed by facultative bacteria.
Biomats degrade, reconstruct and seep deeper into the soil cleaning the waste via encouraging microorganism metabolic growth. Soon, you have several layers of biomats that cleanse waste matter released from the septic tank.
How are Microorganisms Mobilized to Clean Septic Tank Waste?
When the solid waste matter from the septic tank is flushed into a landfill, it starts to decompose itself. This is even true for the liquid waste matter that seeps into the leach field.
The movement of waste into the soil depends on the size of its pores. The microorganisms shall move as per the inflow of liquid waste through the pores. The faster the water flows, the better is the microorganism based decomposition and vice versa.
Let me (LeanAndFit Review Staff) explain this subsurface retention of bacteria further:
The Filtration Phase: Here, the larger waste particles are trapped in the pores of the soil. Bacteria is then decomposed and further filtered before being pushed down.
Retention Phase: Here, clay is used as a suitable soil form for leach fields. Clay has the ability to absorb more sludge owing to its layered structure. The pores of clay soil are small. Here, decomposition of waste material is perfected & enhanced.
The Problem Area: The ideal PH level for maximum retention of bacteria in soil is 5. So, a salty soil would be better suited for decomposing waste emitted by a septic tank.
The only issue here is that the microorganisms that have seeped from the waste material into the soil of the leach field are aliens. Simply put, they cannot multiply in this environment.
Despite this drawback, these microorganisms last a long time and continue decomposing the waste material for a couple of years. When they eventually die and the soil is clogged with waste material, you need to change the leach field (or treat it by adding bacteria externally).
Summary of the Decomposition Process:
In the septic tank, the decomposition process (of the facial waste and household waste) takes place via anaerobic digestion. In the leach field, the solid and liquid waste gets decomposed via anaerobic as well as aerobic digestion.
Even the natural filtration process of the soil (of the leach field) helps in decomposing waste derived via the septic tank. Almost 55% of toxins are decomposed and treated via anaerobic digestion (within the septic tank).
The remainder 45% is digested via micro-organisms and aerobic/anaerobic digestion process in the leach field. Micro-organisms thrive best in textured soils. If the leach field has dry soil then, surface water tends to release the absorbed micro-organisms during contact with waste matter.
Do I Need to Add Bacteria to My Septic Tank?
If you fail to add good bacteria into your septic tank, the chances are that it shall get clogged. The absence of healthy bacteria may also cause an overflow. Micro-organisms as well as healthy bacteria tend to break-up your sludge and remove toxins naturally.
Having healthy bacteria within the septic tank (on-site) is the best way to manage your household waste matter. They are your best companions till the time bacteria remain within the tank – not in your home.
How to Add Good Bacteria into Your On-Site Septic Tank?
- It is suggested that you use vinegar and baking soda to wash the toilet with. Harsh chemicals in toilet cleaners tend to destroy good bacteria.
- Do not put cotton swabs, menstrual material, condoms, polythene etc. into the toilet. This shall clog the septic tank or the pipes thereby, leading to an overflow.
- Oil and greasy material such as fats should never be flushed inside the toilet. These shall become solid when entering the septic tank. These fats also suffocate the bacteria present within the septic tank.
- Use water sparingly. Excess flushing of water in the toilet can kill bacteria. So, use less water while cleaning the toilet.
Why is it Important to Maintain Your Septic Tank?
Your septic tank is the best way to manage your hazardous waste matter. Not only does it allow you to dispose of waste easily, septic tank also ensures that your ecosystem is maintained.
If you maintain your septic tank, you shall require less pumping. Moreover, leakages and smell shall be kept at bay. This in turn shall ensure that your neighbors and municipal council are not miffed.
Ideally, your septic tank should be vacuumed clean every four years. If your sludge is to be pumped out every year, you need to fix your septic tank.
What are the Benefits of Maintaining Healthy Bacteria into Your Septic Tank?
- Adding healthy bacteria to your septic tank ensures that you need to get it cleansed every four or six years. This helps save the cost of getting it vacuum cleaned every four or six months.
- When you add bacteria into your septic tank, unnecessary checks on your tank are spared. As healthy bacteria decompose waste matter, it avoids unnecessary leakages.
- Use more of vinegar and baking soda and less of ammonia based bathroom cleansers. This helps maintain bacteria in your septic tank.
- When you maintain healthy bacteria levels following the above mentioned tips, you need to check the tank less often. This is a pleasant respite as the smell emitting from an open septic tank is definitely worth a miss.
Bio-enzymes to maintain healthy bacteria inside a septic tank are vital. You can add them to your tank and ensure that leakage and foul odor is taken care off. The overflow and back-flow issues of sludge are removed when you add micro-organisms into your waste tank.
When you add natural enzymes into the septic tank you:
- Break down the fecal matter. This further helps in avoiding leakages.
- Foul smell that emits from the septic tank is also removed via this process.
- These enzymes are made from natural material. They are easy to use and simple in application.
- When bio-enzymes are added into the septic tank, they stop the spread of infectious diseases.