Frequently Asked Questions:
What is a Septic Tank?
A septic tank is the first component of a home wastewater system that collects all the refuse that goes down the drains of your home or business if you are not hooked up to a municipal sewer system. Most residential tanks start from 1650 L in size and are buried underground.
How often should I have my tank pumped?
The rule of thumb for septic pump outs is 2-5 years, but it all depends on use. Not all waste is organic; the sludge layer in the bottom of the tank contains a lot of dirt from clothes washing that will never decompose, and the scum layer contains grease from dishwashing that will float forever in the tank. When either of these layers encroaches on the baffles (threaten to leave the tank by underflowing or overflowing the baffles), or when the tank volume has been reduced, your drain field is at risk and the tank needs to be pumped.
Why should I maintain my septic system?
To save money: An overflowing, blocked or damaged septic system is expensive to repair or replace, as opposed to a regular pump out, which is much cheaper.
All systems require maintenance: When septic systems are properly designed, constructed, and maintained, they effectively reduce or eliminate most human health or environmental threats posed by pollutants in household wastewater. However, they require regular maintenance throughout their serviceable lives or they can fail.
Protect health and the environment: Inadequately treated sewage from septic systems can be a cause of groundwater contamination. It poses a significant threat to drinking water and human health because it can contaminate drinking water wells and cause diseases and infections in people and animals.
Protect the value of your property: An unusable septic system or one in disrepair will lower your property value and potentially delay or prevent a sale.
Who can pump and dispose of septic and grease trap waste?
The Department of Environmental Regulations (DER) classes septage and grease trap waste as a 'Controlled Waste'. Only authorised Controlled Waste Carriers are permitted to pump and dispose of this waste. All waste disposal requires a tracking form to be kept and submitted to the DER. At Geographe Liquid Waste we hold all the required licences to carry septage and grease trap waste, and ensure all tracking paperwork is completed for each job.
Should I use an additive in my septic tank?
No. At best, you will waste money and gain nothing. At worst, you can will damage your septic system and harm the environment.
Septic tank additives fall into three categories: inorganic compounds, organic solvents, and biological additives.
Companies market inorganic additives, generally strong acids or alkalis, for their ability to open clogged drains. These contain similar ingredients to popular drain cleaners and can destroy the biological function of your septic tank, sterilizing it for days, allowing raw sewage to flow directly into your drainfield, potentially clogging pipes and soil pores. These types of products can also corrode concrete tanks and distribution boxes, causing them to leak and potentially break apart. Research found hydrogen peroxide degrades soil structure in a drainfield, reducing its ability to treat and absorb wastewater effluent.
Organic solvent additives contain concentrated amounts of chemicals used for degreasing machine parts due to their effectiveness at breaking down oils and grease. Unfortunately, these products also kill bacteria and other beneficial microbes in your tank and may contaminate groundwater.
Biological additives combine enzymes and bacteria to supposedly enhance the existing biota in septic tanks to provide a start for new systems or to augment stressed systems. For new systems, many people believe you must add bacteria. While septic systems require bacteria to work, no additives are required. Normal use of your septic systems provides sufficient bacteria.
Can I park over my septic system?
No. Driving vehicles over the drainfield can crush the distribution pipes or compact the soil. Even off road vehicles can compact the soil around the pipes and reduce the life of your system.
It is important to maintain good ventilation and adequate sunlight in order to promote evaporation. Oxygen needs to be able to get into the soil to aid the bacteria responsible for digesting the wastewater as they need oxygen in order to survive and function. This means not constructing anything over the drainfield including parking areas, patios, above ground pools, decks, or any other structures.
How do I know that my septic system is failing?
The warning signs of a failing system are:
Sewage surfacing over the drainfield.
Lush, green growth or soggy areas over the drainfield.
Slow or backed up drains, toilets or sinks.
Sewage odours around the property.
Poor well water test results.
What can I do if I have a problem with my septic system?
Call us! At Geographe Liquid Waste can assess your situation quickly and offer advice on how to fix the problem. Not all problems need to be fixed with a complete system replacement. Often, cleaning the pipes, from the tank to the d-box, will fix many problems at a fraction of the cost of replacing the system. Remember, there are no chemical cures for system failure.
Have your septic tank pumped. Frequently, this will help the problem temporarily, especially when it is combined with drastic water conservation.
Conserve water in your home. This is particularly effective if your system has not failed completely. It can help lessen the problem for a short time. Water-saving devices and reduced consumption, especially in your bathroom, can have a significant effect.
If liquid waste is seeping to the surface, fence off the area to prevent people and pets from getting in contact with the effluent.