Septic tank care is essential to the lifespan and operation of both a septic tank and the receiving soakaway / drainage field. Septic tanks are found in areas of the UK where mains drainage is inaccessible and provide partial treatment for the disposal of waste water.
Taking care of a septic tank isn’t difficult, because most systems function efficiently when designed and maintained correctly. However, septic tanks can only function effectively if the receiving soakaway / drainage field is installed correctly and is located in a permeable sub-strata with a low lying water table. If a septic tank and soakaway / drainage field is installed in a non-permeable sub-strata such as clay, then no matter how much care is taken the system will not function effectively, resulting in septic tank problems.
Care should be taken to ensure that anyone using the drainage facilities connected to a septic tank do not flush any non-biodegradable items down the toilet. Care should also be taken not to overuse any cleaning chemicals as this may inhibit the biological activity within the septic tank.
A septic system comprises two main parts, the septic tank itself and the receiving soakaway / drainage field. A septic tank can comprise one or two tanks or chambers, usually made brick, concrete or fibreglass, with an inlet and outlet pipe. The septic tank receives all of the waste water from the house, including toilet, laundry, bathroom and kitchen waste. The main purpose of a septic tank is to separate the solid material and allow the sludge formed to undergo a process known as anaerobic digestion. This has the effect of reducing the sludge volume and therefore the frequency of septic tank emptying by vacuum tanker.
The effluent from a septic tank should only be disposed to an underground soakaway / drainage field. Care should be taken to ensure that the septic tank does not discharge to a ditch or stream. Such a discharge is an offence and renders the offender liable to prosecution by the Statutory Authorities. The General Binding Rules was introduced in January 2015 by DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and the Environment Agency to simplify the way septic tanks and sewage treatment plants are regulated in England. Read more…
Septic Tank Care – Health & Safety
Inspection and maintenance on a septic tank should only be carried out by suitably trained persons.
The sewage contained within a septic tank is a major source of harmful micro-organisms, including bacteria, viruses and parasites. Exposure to sewage or its products may result in a number of illnesses. The most common of these illnesses are relatively mild cases of gastroenteritis, but potentially fatal diseases, such as leptospirosis (Weil’s disease) and Hepatitis can also be contracted.
Although septic tank care and inspections are important to the operation of a septic tank homeowners should avoid carrying out these inspections and employ the services of a specialists “off mains” contractor.
Septic Tank Care – Emptying
Sludge production takes place in all septic tanks and it’s crucial that systems are emptied to ensure correct and satisfactory performance.
Under normal usage a correctly sized septic tank would require emptying at twelve-monthly intervals. When a septic tank is emptied care should be taken to ensure that the tank is emptied to the floor as this is where the majority of sludge will be present. If a septic tank is not emptied at the correct intervals it can result in gross solids passing through the tank and into the receiving drainage / soakaway. This would result in the clogging of the soakaway area and can lead to the drainage field / soakaway failing, causing the septic tank to flood.
Septic Tank Care – Capacity
A septic tank should have a minimum operating capacity of 2700 litres for up to 4 persons in full time residence. The size should be increased by 150-180 litres for each additional user. The operating capacity of a septic tank is the volume below the outlet from the tank. If a septic tank doesn’t have enough operating capacity this will result in finer solids passing through the tank and ‘blinding off’ the soakaway / drainage field.
If you are considering the installation of a new septic tank then care should be taken to ensure the correct size of tank is installed.
Septic Tank Care – Cleaning Products
At all times there should be a cautious and careful use of all substances, chemicals and cleaning products within the home and wherever drains flow into a septic tank. The manufacturers instructions should always be closely followed.
The following products can all significantly and adversely affect the operation and efficiency of septic tanks and so putting them down the sink, toilets or drains should be avoided if at all possible:
- external cleaning agents and disinfectants;
- cooking oil or melted fat e.g. from a grill tray or chip pan;
- dairy waste
- motor oils,antifreeze or other car products;
- garden chemicals such as pesticides,preservatives, weed killers or fertilisers;
- DIY products such as paints, white spirit, paint thinners and other solvents;
- swimming pool water.
This list cannot be totally comprehensive or exhaustive. Care should be taken before discarding any chemicals into a septic tank system.
Septic Tank Care – Kitchen Waste Disposal Units
Kitchen waste disposal units should not be used for the general disposal of vegetable waste as this will change the nature of the sludge inside a septic tank by increasing its volume and leading to more regular requirement for tank emptying. Excessive use of kitchen waste disposal units can lead to an increase in the acidity of the sludge within a septic tank and can inhibit the activity of the anaerobic micro-organisms.
Septic Tank Care – Rainwater
Septic tanks are not designed to receive rainwater and care should be taken to ensure that any downpipes or surface water gully’s do not enter the drainage connected to the septic tank.
The size of a septic tank is based on the volume of sewage draining to the tank. If rainwater drains into a septic tank this would hydraulically overload the tank resulting in inadequate settlement, and as a result, solids passing through the tank and into the receiving soakaway / drainage field.
Septic Tank Care – Root Ingress
Roots of trees and shrubs planted too close to a drainage field / soakaway can enter the drainage pipework and block the pipes. Root ingress into septic tanks, cesspit’s and drainage fields are the cause of many systems blocking and as a result flooding of the septic tank or cesspit. Care should be taken to ensure that no trees or large shrubs are planted in the vicinity of a septic tank, cesspit or soakaway area.
Mantair works in partnership with a leading drainage claims management provider to offer a unique insurance claims management service to our customers for situations where root ingress has damaged a drainage system. Contact us on 0800 121 6786 for further information on this service or click here
Septic Tank Care – Soakaway
The purpose of septic tank drainage field / soakaway is to dispose of the effluent produce from the tank into the sub-strata. Care should be taken to ensure that the drainage field / soakaway is correctly sized and constructed from the correct materials. Care should also be taken to ensure that the soakaway area is not within the vicinity of any trees or large shrubs as this may result in roots entering the soakaway area and blocking the drainage field / soakaway. For further information of soakaways, click here
Septic Tank Care – Inspection
Providing site visits for all septic tank problems throughout East Anglia, South East and Thames Valley regions of England, Mantair can provide consumers with septic tank care advice, and provide the expertise required to identify the cause for any septic tank problem.
Septic Tank Care – Conversion / Upgrading
The Mantair septic tank conversion unit is a sewage treatment system specifically designed to fit within an existing septic tank or cesspool, effectively converting the existing tank into a small sewage treatment plant producing a clear, odourless and harmless effluent. The Mantair unit provides a discreet, reliable and affordable solution to septic tank problems for domestic dwellings and small scale commercial premises without mains drainage.
The Mantair unit is ideal for situations where the existing septic tank is discharging untreated effluent to a watercourse or where a soakaway has failed. The Mantair unit is also ideal for converting Cesspool holding tanks, removing the need for frequent emptying.