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Common Septic Tank Queries Answered
What is a Septic Tank?
tank is a two, or three chamber system which retains sewage from a property for
sufficient time to allow the solids to form into sludge at the bottom of the
tank. Here, the sludge is naturally broken down. The remaining liquid, or
effluent, in the tank then drains from the tank by means of an outlet pipe.
How does it work?
Any sewage treatment system is basically just a way of slowing up the sewage to allow sufficient time for enzymes to naturally break up the contamination. A septic tank is basically a collection point for sewage, which allows the sludge to settle out of it. The liquid effluent on top of the sludge has a relatively low level of contamination which can safely flow out of the tank into a soakaway and then into the ground in a drainage field. Naturally-occurring microbes, which live on the walls of the septic tank, produce enzymes, which help to break up the sludge into CO2 and H2O.
What is the difference between a septic tank and a Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP)?
treatment plants usually have access to a supply of electricity which drives a
small pump to aerate the wastewater. Septic tanks have no power demand and no
moving parts, so they are cheaper to buy, install and run, but the final
effluent will not be as high quality. The effluent from a septic tank will
always require further treatment in a soakaway.
Why do you need to empty a septic tank?
It's unlikely that all the sludge at the bottom of the tank will disappear. It will build up over time, so needs to be taken out of the tank. A contractor will take the sludge, but put the watery effluent back in, which is good, because that effluent contains billions of the good microbes necessary for your tank to work. It's probably better not to refer to it as emptying your septic tank, but "desludging" your septic tank.
My tank has a scum on top. Is this OK?
Yes, as long as it is liquidy. This scum consists of Fats, Oils and Greases (FOG), from cooking and washing up etc. Over time the enzymes will break them down. If the scum gets too thick, it can dry out and get solid. This stops air getting to the effluent. The microbes in the effluent work better if they have access to oxygen from the air. If the scum is hard and dry, it's probably a sign that you should get in a contractor to empty the tank – sorry, desludge your tank.
How often should I desludge my tank?
Under normal circumstances, once a year is plenty. Certainly, if you desludge more often, you should be using bioaugmentation products.
We are installing a new tank. What do we need to do?
useful document is available from the Environment Agency. Pollution Prevention
Guidelines PPG4 "Disposal of Sewage where no Mains Drainage is Available." Here
is a link to it
What is Bioaugmentation?
The addition of bacteria. This augments the existing biological population, or biomass.
Why do we need to add bacteria?
Bacteria, like all living things, die. If the environment is perfect, the biomass will be self-sustaining; new bacteria replace those that die. But, a septic tank is rarely a perfect environment and some strains of bacteria find it harder to live there than others. The regular addition of a bioaugmentation product guarantees your tank has the right number of the right bacteria in it.
Is there anything I shouldn’t flush down the loo or pour down the sink?
Bleach or any "biocide". Paints, solvents or caustics. Try and limit the amount of kitchen fats and coffee grounds to a minimum. Your septic tank is a biological solution for treating biological waste. It cannot cope with physical blockages, so cigarette ends, sanitary products, balls of hair and any paper other than soft tissue will cause a physical blockage that will require physically unblocking. No amount of bacteria will move Junior's nappy
Can I just put a dead rabbit in my septic tank to get it started?
This is a classic example of using the wrong sort of bacteria. The bacteria which your tank needs, exist in nature in the soil, not an animal's gut. So, no. Ask us for a free start-up pack with the first year's supply that you buy.
My tank stinks! What’s wrong?
Probably, the biomass has died. You must add some bacteria to the septic tank immediately. Then try and work out what has killed the biomass. It's highly likely to be a cleaning product you use.
What are my legal obligations is I live in a property with a septic tank?
to maintain your septic tank in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions
and you need to keep a record of all maintenance, this includes regular
How much does it cost to register my Septic Tank with the EA?
How do I register?
You can do it by post, but it's very straightforward to register online on the EA website.
We have a reed bed. Will your products block this up?
No. They can only help.
What’s in OE42?
What you can see is bran. The bran carries 14 strains of bacteria, a bio-enhancer (which is a little food for the bacteria) and micro-nutrients which give them strength. All of these are much too tiny to see. There are 5 billion bacteria in each gram of OE42. So there are 125,000,000,000 bacteria in every 25 gram sachet. The sachet is water soluble. It disappears in seconds.
How do we dose OE42?
Once a month, last thing at night, drop one sachet of OE42 into the loo, and then flush the loo.
Why last thing at night?
This means that the bacteria spend as much time as possible in the pipes leading to your septic tank forming a biomass on the inside of the pipes as well as in the tank itself.
My local farmer has offered to desludge my tank. Is this OK?
By law, desludging should be carried out by an operator registered for the carriage of such waste by the Environment Agency. It's unlikely that your friendly farmer is registered.
How do I find someone to desludge my tank?
Look up Waste Disposal in Yellow pages, or enter Waste Disposal in a search engine. If you're new to the area, ask your neighbours. If you have a septic tank, probably so do they. It's a great way to introduce yourself -much more original than asking for a cup of sugar!