Friday, October 5, 2018

Septic Tank Additives - Good or Bad?

The  Ontario Onsite Wastewater Association recently published  a memo on their website about septic tank additives. The topic is one that does not have a consistent view across the industry. Some experts believe that their use is important to aid the functioning of the system, while others are not convinced they provide a benefit. The composition and marketing of these additives have evolved over time to meet changing demands and perception of septic system care in the industry. 

The basic purpose of an additive is to aid the septic tank or bed in some way depending on the type. Additives fall into three types: inorganic compounds, organic solvents and biological additives.

  • Inorganic compounds - These products are typically made from strong acids or alkalis, marketed to unclog drains. Their composition can kill healthy bacteria in the tank, allowing raw sewage to potentially pass into the bed. These compounds may also corrode concrete tanks, risking the tanks to leak its contents.  These products are not recommended.

  • Organic solvents - These products are considered a degreasers to break down fats, oils and greases. Good bacteria in the tank may be killed off, therefore allowing raw sewage to potentially pass into the bed. These products are not recommended.

  • Biological additives - These type of additives, such as yeast, which are used to enhance the bacteria and microbes already present in the septic tank. Septic tanks have five types of waste: proteins, fibers, greases, pectins and starches. Biological enzymes are specific to each waste type - for example, Cellulase (enzyme), is specific to fibers and Protease is specific to protein-based wasted. The effectiveness of products depend on the health of the existing system and may not improve the efficiency of bacterial growth, reproduction, and function.
    • Bacterial based additives: These provide a boost of live bacteria and aid in bacterial growth. In cases where healthy bacteria is lacking in the system, a bacterial additive may provide a boost the bacterial population in the tank. If the system already contains healthy bacteria, adding a commercial product may cause competition between the existing and added bacterial. 
    • Enzymes: These are non living and cannot reproduce and are intended to stimulate growth and reproduction of existing bacterial. It is understood that some enzymes may break down the scum layer and allow for fats, oils and greases to reach the septic bed. 

Proceed with caution - products that claim to reduce or eliminate the need for tank pump out shall be used with caution. Many solids in the tank that require to be pumped out are ones that cannot be broken down using an additive. The accumulation of scum and sludge inside a septic tank cannot be completely prevented. 

Expert opinions on the use of additives in a septic tank remains inconclusive. If you believe your system could benefit from using an additive, be sure to use a trusted supplier and a product that is environmentally friendly (look for the green eco-label) - anything that is put down your septic system will eventually make its way to the environment.

Want to ensure your septic system remains efficient? Follow a regular pumping schedule to remove any solid build up in the tank, clean your effluent filter and inspect the components of your system annually, and always consult a reputable expert when in doubt.

Ontario Onsite Wastewater Association: Septic Tank Additives - What you need to know!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Are 'Flushable Wipes' safe for my septic system?

Are 'Flushable Wipes' safe for my septic system? 

The answer - NO! 

Although manufacturers market some wipes at 'flushable', these wipes may not break down quickly enough (if at all) in your septic tank, like toilet paper does. An overload of wipes may cause a blockage in the septic system and may result in a backup of your septic system, costing you hundreds to thousands of dollars in repairs. 

An example of a septic tank full of wipes
that are  not broken down

The best advice for disposing of anything other than toilet paper - put it in the trash!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Filter Friday - Effluent Filter Maintenance

Do you have a filter in your septic system? If you have a newer system, you will have a filter on the outlet baffle of your septic tank. 

What does a filter do for my septic system? Filters prevent solids from leaving the septic tank and entering your septic bed. If solids enter your septic bed from the tank, there is the potential for them to accumulate and cause a failure of the bed (and contents from the tank may eventually back up into the house). 

What maintenance is required for my filter? It is important that the filter is cleaned annually to remove any build up of solids that is preventing liquids from entering the septic bed. 

Cleaning a filter is simple - just rinse it out with a garden house!

This picture shows a clogged effluent filter that requires cleaning. If the liquids cannot enter the septic bed, a back up of the contents of the septic tank into the house may occur.

Monday, May 21, 2018

YOU ASKED - The 'when' and 'what' of septic system pumping

How often do I need to pump my septic system?
When to pump a septic system depends on the age and capacity of the tank and the usage of the system (number of users, frequency of use). 
  • It is recommended that a system is pumped out every 3 - 5 years.
  • Under the Ontario Building Code:
    •  "a septic tank must be cleaned whenever sludge and scum occupy 1/3 of the working capacity of the tank" (Section
  • Pumping your system on a regular basis allows you (or your pumper) to ensure all components of your septic system are properly working.

What you need to know when a pumper comes to clean your tank
  • Septic tanks with two compartments (most tanks installed after 1973 will have two compartments) will require both to be accessible so they can be pumped out.
  • A pumper may "backwash" the tank  to remove any accumulation of solids at the bottom of the tank which can then be easily removed. 
  • On average, pumping of a septic tank should take between 20 to 30 minutes to complete.
  • After a septic system is properly pumped, there should be very little scum, sludge or liquid remaining in the tank.
  • If your system has an effluent filter, it is good practice to have your filter cleaned annually as well as at the time of pumping. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

The 2018 HK-CSI Inspection Season is now underway!

The 2018 HK-CSI Inspection Season is now underway! 

All properties that received an inspection under the HK-CSI program in 2010 are to be inspected in 2018. 

Properties within a Wellhead Protection Area (WHPA) that were inspected in 2013 are to be inspected in 2018 to satisfy the Source Protection Policy requirements (require an inspection every 5 years).

To book your appointment: Call the Township office (519)395-3735 to schedule your appointment in advance to ensure availability. Appointments for 2018 will be scheduled from April 30th to October 31st
·         Monday - Wednesday 9:00 am - 2:00 pm
·         Thursday 12:00 pm - 5:00 pm
·         Saturday appointments may be arranged

Monday, May 1, 2017

Septic Care: A New Wastewater Treatment Challenge

Microfibers released in washing machines can wreak havoc on soil treatment systems over time

Link to Full Article

New studies indicate that the fibers in our clothes could be poisoning our waterways and food chain on a massive scale. Microfibers — tiny threads shed from fabric — have been found in abundance on shorelines where wastewater is released. In fact, 85 percent of the human-made material found on the shoreline were microfibers, and matched the types of material, such as nylon and acrylic, used in clothing. Microfibers are so small, too small to see. They can be as small as 3 microns. In comparison, a human hair is 50-100 microns.
In a recent study, researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara found that on average, synthetic fleece jackets release 1.7 grams of microfibers each wash. That’s approximately 1,900 individual fibers. For those connected to a sewer system, the microfibers travel to the local wastewater treatment plant, where up to 40 percent of them enter rivers, lakes and oceans, according to the research findings. Synthetic microfibers are particularly dangerous because they have the potential to poison the food chain. The fibers’ size also allows them to be readily consumed by fish and other wildlife. These plastic fibers have the potential to bioaccumulate, concentrating the toxins in the bodies of larger animals higher up the food chain.
These tiny particles also have the potential to impact septic systems, since most washing machines don’t filter out particles and the current available add-on filters designed to keep lint out of septic tanks still don’t catch the tiniest fibers. Since the particles are so small they will be resistant to settling in the septic tank and will pass through effluent screens. It is likely that most of these fibers are captured in the soil treatment system, creating concern for plugging of soil pores over time.
There appear to be no easy answers. One way to begin to address the problem is to try to make clothes that shed fewer plastic fibers when washed. Researchers are working collaboratively with designers to create fabrics that are more durable and release less plastic waste during wash cycles.
Another way to address the problem is to tell customers to reduce the amount of times synthetic clothing gets washed, and when need be, use washing machines with filters installed that catch the microfibers in the wastewater. Although filters are not a common feature in washing machines, some manufacturers do include them and aftermarket filters are commercially available (although they currently do not filter out microfibers). Other, more innovative filters are under development. One example is the Rozalia Project’s microfiber catcher, which will collect microfibers as well as hair, and prevent them from flowing out with the drain water, and is reported to be available in 2017. It is also better to use front-loading, high-efficiency washing machines instead of top-loading washing machines. Researchers found that top-loading washing machines released five times more microfibers than front-loading washing machines, and the more you wash it, the worse it gets (aged jackets released almost two times the amount of new jackets).
The final place to catch microfibers before they are flushed to surface waters is at wastewater treatment plants. Although a typical secondary treatment plant will NOT do an effective job removing microfibers, plants that employ tertiary treatment to produce reclaimed water for non-potable uses typically use filtration that would remove microfibers. Wastewater treatment plants that use advanced treatment to produce potable water use microfiltration (as well as other technologies), which will also effectively remove microfibers.