It’s been a somewhat unusual time for us here in the UK and even more so for those in other countries. If you’re someone lucky enough to live in a rural retreat, solitude might be easy enough for you. But it will most likely mean you are not connected to a mains drainage system and will have a sewage treatment plant or septic tank in place. We’ll have more family time, more house admin time, more relaxation time which is great. However, having the whole family at home all the time, in addition to the additional personal hygiene measures taken, will mean a lot of extra waste created. So with the extra pressure that will be placed on it, you may be asking how to keep your drainage system in good working order. If so, read on to find out how…
What can’t go in a septic tank or sewage treatment plant?
One of the biggest issues faced by an off mains drainage system is contraband items being flushed into it. This can mean anything from baby wipes, to the wrong chemicals, to too much cooking fat, to sanitary products, or anything else someone might consider flushable!
The waste system, whether it be a septic tank or sewage treatment plant, will use bacteria to break down the waste either in one of the chambers or in the ground itself after the soakaway. That’s why even certain cleaning products should not be used in the home – only biodegradable ones. Here’s a list of items that should not find their way into your system and they are broken into categories of how they will harm it:
Things that will block your system:
- Sanitary products
- Baby/wet wipes
Things that will kill the bacteria:
- Household bleaches and other toxic liquids
- Too much cooking oil or fat
- Any liquids from a car such as oil or anti-freeze
- Weed killers or pesticides
- Paint or methylated spirits
Things that will overload it biologically:
- Animal waste
- Food waste
- Cooking oils and fats (can also cause blockages to soakaways if they congeal on the perforations)
What happens if the wrong items go into the system?
The wrong things passing into the system is one of the key ways it will have problems. These problems include:
- An overfilled chamber
Excess waste or waste that shouldn’t be there can cause the chambers to fill or overflow. This can also happen regardless of what is flushed away too if the chambers are not emptied regularly enough
- Blocked or broken T-pipe or baffle
Items that shouldn’t may pass into the T-pipe or baffle and get stuck. This will either cause a blockage or may even break it
- Blocked or damaged soakaway
If items pass into the drainage field or soakaway, they can block the perforations which the water passes through or could even end up splitting the pipes and damaging it irreparably
If the chamber becomes overfilled or the T-pipe or baffle get blocked/broken, this will cause the waste to overflow into the surface ground near it, creating foul-smelling and toxic pools. The waste will also back up in the drains and may result in it coming back up into your sinks and toilets which would be a bit of a nightmare!
The same problem will occur if the bacteria balance is fundamentally upset – it could result in the system overflowing into the garden or land around it and even backing up all the way into the house.
If solid items reach the soakaway via a broken T-pipe or baffle, this will also go on to block or damage the soakaway. Oils and fats can cause their own blockages in a drainage field as they can congeal and seal shut the perforations through which the waste water normally soaks. If large items get into it, they might cause the pipes to split too.
How to fix the problems if they occur
Firstly, every member of your house should be fully aware of how to treat your system and what not to flush down it. If you have a house with kids who may forget, remind them regularly and for older ones explain exactly what might happen so they understand the gravity of the situation.
Ensuring your system is treated properly by not putting the wrong things into it is the first stage. The second stage is to adopt a programme of regular maintenance with services and emptying when required. Speak to your local expert about this and they will be able to advise you.
Here’s how to fix the specific problems mentioned above:
This should be a relatively straightforward issue to remedy as it could just be emptied in the normal way. As mentioned previously, regular emptying will help prevent this problem from occurring in the first place so ensure you keep on top of this. If you do spot signs of the ground around it becoming boggy or smelly, get it inspected straight away.
If needed, the natural bacteria that helps break down the waste can be treated if it has been damaged by products making their way into the system. The balance will need to be restored then maintained going forwards.
A blocked or damaged T-pipe or baffle
Fortunately, these can usually be fixed or replaced but you will need to get an engineer out firstly to ascertain what the problem is and secondly to mend it. Providing the chambers and soakaway are in good order, the blockage should be able to be cleared and the T-pipe or baffle fixed, restoring it all to good health.
A blocked or damaged soakaway
This is where the pricey issues can come in. Sometimes, a soakaway can’t even be fixed if it’s too far gone and the only resolution would be to install a new one, if that’s even possible.
Keeping a healthy drainage system in the first place is the absolute best thing you can do to avoid problems and potentially expensive fixes. So follow the rules on what NOT to put down it and adopt a programme of regular maintenance and it should keep treating your household waste as it was designed to do.
For any questions regarding your sewage treatment system, get in touch with us at Proseptic.