A septic system is an underground treatment facility for managing wastewater in a household. It consists of a septic tank and a drain field or a soil absorption capability. It ensures that the plumbing system of the house will not be filled with organic matter or scum, or solids such as grease, oil, or soil. This system also helps to separate wastewater properly so that the groundwater will not be contaminated and cause a health and environmental problem in your property.
Usually, a septic system is necessary if a house is on a raised area or far from the sewage pipes installed by the water supply company or the local government. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, about 95 per cent of homes in NSW rely on the local sewerage system for their wastewater disposal, while only 4 percent require a septic system.
However, you may still benefit from having a septic tank even if a sewage facility exists where you live. Below are some reasons why you may need a septic system for your house.
1. Your household wastewater management and water use become more efficient and economical.
A septic system serves only your property compared to a sewer system where many households are connected. If this sewer system breaks down, it won’t just affect one house. Instead, the whole block or city section could also be affected. That can be such a big problem and could have city-wide consequences.
If you have a private dedicated waste and drainage facility, then you can independently manage your wastewater system instead of relying on the council or the water company. You also won’t need to pay any monthly maintenance fees for your sewer service which can get quite expensive and increase without warning.
When you own a septic system, you become more aware of your water usage. You’ll also realise that you have to cultivate good habits to reduce the burden and strain on your septic system.
- Doing laundry. Gallons of water are consumed within a laundry cycle. If you do a wash every day, imagine the amount of water that goes through your septic system each week. Thus, a weekly or bi-weekly laundry schedule would be better to prevent overloading the maximum amount of water the septic tank can hold.
- Washing dishes. In the same manner, dishwashers also consume gallons of water with each cycle. If you have a septic system, you’ll be more conscious about running the dishwasher when it is completely full instead of using it after every meal.
- Long showers and running water. People who are accustomed to a sewer system often don’t realise how wasteful this is. While it’s true that showers go full blast in pipes that connect to the city sewer, it can still take a toll in the long run. A 10-minute shower should suffice if you use a septic tank at home so you’re less wasteful and you won’t burden your plumbing and septic system.
2. Your use of a septic system is beneficial for the environment.
Groundwater can get contaminated when sewage lines leak or break, and this is how environmental pollution can start in a city or community. Septic systems can also leak, especially if they are not properly used or are poorly managed and maintained. Containing this damage is easier because it only affects a particular area in your property and you won’t likely cause a neighbourhood issue.
Septic tanks can also use drain fields or leach fields to act as natural filters that strain the wastewater before it reaches the soil. Hence, bacteria have essentially been removed by the time the water is on the ground. This natural filtering process, in turn, benefits flora and fauna around your home environment.
Moreover, the kind of water that comes from the septic system and goes to the ground can enrich the soil around your house and neighbouring areas. As a result, this helps plants to grow abundantly and provide food for insects, birds, and other animals.
You also reduce your carbon footprint when you have a septic system at home. Aside from becoming more conscious of the amount of water you use you also help replenish the water under the ground where your property stands with an efficient septic system at home. That is what sustainable living is all about.
3. You develop better habits to become a more responsible homeowner.
As with becoming aware of your water usage, having a septic system at home encourages you to become a more responsible homeowner. You will learn to take good care of what you use in the house, such as the toilet or sink. The truth is, you probably never paid attention to this until you became a homeowner and encountered problems with the sink or toilet’s plumbing.
- Toilet or Sink Care. You’ll realise that you cannot throw just about anything in the toilet or dump stuff down the sink because it could damage your septic system. Some of the worst items to dump or flush down into these facilities include the following:
- Cat litter – Flushing cat litter down the toilet can easily cause a plumbing problem as the litter can cause a major blockage.
- Chemicals – Thinners, paints, automotive chemicals, and other toxic agents are unacceptable to flush or dump. These things can easily degrade the plumbing system in your house.
- Cigarette butts – Though they’re soft and small, cigarette butts aren’t supposed to pass through the toilet pipes or siphons.
- Condoms – These are made of rubber and can’t dissolve in water; thus, they will remain in the septic tank for quite a long time and contribute to clogging.
- Cotton balls, sanitary napkins, and tampons – Though these can naturally break down, they will likely clog your septic tank as they absorb liquid.
- Diapers – These contain materials that can clog the septic system and they do not break down.
- Grease or cooking oil – These fats can cause a build-up and collect gunk in the inlet or outlet of your septic tank.
- Hair – Putting a filter on the bathtub or shower drain can prevent hair strands from going through the septic system.
- Paper towels – These are thicker than toilet paper and consequently more damaging to the septic tanks.
- Pharmaceuticals – Pills, tablets, and capsules washed down on the kitchen sink may also clog the drain pipes and sometimes might not even dissolve.
- Vegetables – Though foods are biodegradable, these too are troublesome for the septic system as fibres can jam the pipes, especially for thicker veggies like celery.
The best way to dispose of these items is in the garbage. Be sure to properly seal your bins so as not to attract pests or violate any garbage ordinances in your community.
- Water Fixture Care and Maintenance. Beyond bad habits, however, your water fixture at home may also be contributing to the problems in your septic system. You should be sure that you are inspecting, and, when appropriate, replacing, some of the water fixtures in your house. For instance, if you live in a house built over 30 years ago, then you likely have a toilet that wastes five gallons of water per flush. Newer toilet models are more efficient and often use less than two gallons of per flush.
4. Different types of septic tanks can cater to your requirements.
State governments in Australia regulate the design and installation of the septic system based on the Australian Standards (1547 and 1546). A design accreditation must be secured with NSW Health before installation, and any design above 2,500 litres must comply with additional regulations, per WaterNSW.
Assuming you’re complying with the relevant standards, you have free rein in choosing the type of septic tank to install at home. The durability and strength of your septic system will depend on the materials you pick.
- Concrete septic tanks require less maintenance than those made from other materials. The disadvantage, however, is that concrete may crack and clog, and these problems can remain undetected for a long time. Regular manual inspections of a concrete septic system are necessary.
- Steel septic tanks will not last longer than concrete because this material is prone to rust and can lose its structural integrity in due time. It has an advantage when replacements are required, though, as this can be done part by part, so there’s no need to replace the whole tank. It’s also easier to spot rust because signs of corrosion on the baffles will not be hard to miss.
- Fiberglass septic tanks are probably the most durable of all materials. They won’t crack nor rust, unlike concrete or steel tanks. However, its effluent levels may not be as efficient as the first two options. Since fiberglass is light, then the septic tank could shift underground if the soil around it dampens.
- Aerobic septic tanks are most efficient, but they can be expensive to use and to repair, should they break down because they run on electric power.
The installation of a septic system costs significantly less in the long run than installing new pipes to connect your property to the sewer lines. You might pay within the range of $5,000 to $10,000 for a septic system of a four-bedroom house, but this is a one-time expense. City sewer connections, on the other hand, can cost anywhere from $500 to $20,000 but this rate also depends on the regulations of your local government, which might not even include the maintenance fees.
5. A septic system is low maintenance
Regardless of the material you pick, a well-built septic tank can last for many years. And you will only need to have it pumped and serviced every three to five years, depending on your water usage. You might also need to have this inspected every two years or so just to ensure that it is still functioning optimally.
Generally, there’s no need to replace a septic tank if you follow through on the regular inspections or draining. The most you might have to do is to have the tank repaired in case of clogging. That is likely won’t happen if you’re diligent about the inspections.
Before installing a septic system
An assessment from appropriate agencies may be necessary before the installation of the septic tank as your local government will likely require a permit for this. Even if an inspection is not mandated by law, it’s still be prudent to get your site checked. That way, you’ll know the status and condition of having a septic system in your property.
It would be better to know the nitty-gritty details now than to begin work on the septic system and then run into problems during the installation.
Cleaning and maintenance of septic tanks
Cleaning the septic tank will largely depend on your household’s water usage. Thus, there is no strict timeline to follow, and it may be different for every household. However, if the septic tank hasn’t been cleaned out for years, there’s a good chance that clogging has occurred. A lot of homeowners, unfortunately, don’t pay enough attention to septic tanks because they are underground. As such, they only remember to call for help when the problems start to surface.
Ideally, you should leave the cleaning to a professional plumbing and wastewater management company, such as Green Planet Plumbing. This way, you can be sure that the water treatment is done the proper way, and that there will be no unpleasant odours after the job completion.
If you need help with septic tank installation, maintenance or inspection, contact Green Planet Plumbing to get top-notch service.