Maintaining an Aerobic Septic System

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May 20, 2010 | Cris Carl

An aerobic septic system is one of several choices when deciding on a septic system for your home. The benefits of having an aerobic septic system are high efficiency, a nearly indefinite lifespan, and possibly less land needed for your leaching system.

What is different about an aerobic septic system?

Oxygen - lots of it. Oxygen is the key to a healthy septic system. High oxygen content equals greater production of bacteria that will decompose waste. Aerobic septic systems require electricity and a somewhat higher level of maintenance. They are also two to three times more expensive than most other systems. However, an aerobic septic system will break down effluvia far more quickly and have pose potential for environmental problems.

Aerobic Septic System Maintenance

  • Keep careful and detailed maintenance records.
  • Don't overload the system. For example, spread out your loads of laundry.
  • Use biodegradable or septic-safe products, especially toilet paper.
  • Do not put grease, cigarette butts, food scraps, oil, tampons, diapers or sanitary pads down the toilet or sink.
  • Keep your system alkaline (good bacteria die in acid conditions) by using alternative cleaning agents such as lemon juice, borax, vinegar and baking soda.
  • Have your tank pumped every two to three years, depending on use.
  • When the tank is pumped, make sure neither of the baffles is damaged.
  • Use disinfection tablets as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Check the pump monthly.
  • Repair leaking faucets and toilets.
  • Check occasionally for insect damage, especially in warmer climates. Insects can damage electrical elements of the system, such as breaker boxes.

Other Common Septic Systems

Other types of septic systems tend to not last as long, averaging 20 to 25 years. These systems include:

  • Cement, which can easily crack.
  • Steel, the least desirable choice due to low life span and rust.
  • Plastic or fiberglass: a good second choice to an aerobic septic system, as it won't rust and is unlikely to crack.

Keep Your Non-Aerobic System Aerobic

Have your soils analyzed. A soil scientist will be able to recommend the best place for your leaching system. The leaching system in most septic systems is the primary place that oxygen is introduced to the effluvia. Gray water leaches out of the system and sludge is left behind. Septic sludge generally decomposes very slowly due to low oxygen content and low temperatures. Leaching systems are placed relatively close to the surface of sub soils to draw in the most oxygen. Pathogens and viruses pass into sub soils to be "treated" by still other forms of bacteria.

Remember, the key to a healthy septic system is oxygen and bacteria.

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