Think twice before you flush! Keeping the “good” bugs alive

Did you realise that your septic tank system contains a living, breathing community of helpful organisms?

All too often we see our process of waste disposal – flushing things down the sink or toilet, as being a straightforward process that simply sends things we don’t want around any more down a drain to some far away place where it will be dealt with.

The reality is quite different. Disposal of human waste needs a little more management to ensure that the outputs are not unhealthy or damaging to the environment – the environment in which humans and animals tend to like to play, work, fish and drink.

With issues like the contamination problem in Havelock North hitting the headlines, it is even more important to gain an understanding of how these systems work, and what you need to do to assist the system to maintain health and work as intended.

Urban Human Waste Disposal

Flushing toxic substances down your drain or toilet is never a good idea, even when you are in the city.

Finding more responsible ways to dispose of waste liquids like bleach, hair dyes or chemicals, left over medicines, as solid items like pills, wipes etc is definitely advisable – your municipal waste workers will be grateful!

Rural Human Waste Disposal

When you live in the country, what you flush is completely your responsibility, and the negative outcomes of flushing the wrong things will be something that you have to live with in terms of the smell and the cost of restoring a healthy, functional bacteria community.

From time to time your system may be smelly if the bacteria have been affected, but with time they are likely to recover.

Our earlier blog post has a list of all the things you shouldn’t be flushing into your septic system. Keep in mind also that a small quantity of something sub-optimal will not do as much damage as a large quantity, so dilution definitely makes a difference.

Keep the bacteria fed

One thing you might not be aware of is that the bacteria in your system need to be fed – which means if you have a bach or holiday property with a septic system and no-one is living (or flushing) for long periods of time, when the whole family arrives at Christmas it is highly likely your system will smell as the bacteria community will have declined with the lack of food.

If you can, encourage someone nearby to regularly visit and use the toilet facilities, to help keep your system functioning properly, or if you are visiting for other maintenance like lawn mowing – make sure you use the facilities too.

How an Airtech system works

The primary elements of an Airtech wastewater treatment system are the Primary septic chamber where the household sewage and wastewater is discharged into and anaerobic organisms start breaking down waste; the Aeration chamber where aerobic bacteria set to work; the Clarification chamber where the liquid is filtered and remaining solids are returned back to the primary chamber; the Irrigation pump chamber which pumps out the clean, clear odourless effluent out of the system usually as trickle irrigation; and the Blower box which houses all the electronic connections and provides all of the air required for aerobic digestion of your waste.

Have your system serviced regularly

Your septic system will come with a homeowners manual and a recommended service period which is typically every six months.

The air blower and discharge pump are both essential parts of the system, and need to be kept in good condition. If air is not flowing into the aeration chamber, then the system will fail to operate.

This is as important as any other kind of maintenance, but once again keep in mind that you don’t simply have tanks underground, you also have a live community to be looked after.

Clean the discharge filter, which sits above ground, regularly – at least every three months.

Find out more about how your inground septic system operates and how you can look after it in the video featured here.

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