The following guidance is a collaborative effort of wastewater professionals within the National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association (NOWRA). The purpose is to identify common issues that can cause problems with the operations of newer onsite treatment and traditional septic systems. Many operational problems exist today because owners are unaware of the results of daily practices to these systems.
NOWRA's goal is to ensure that owners are educated and informed about the safe practices for their treatment systems in order to avoid costly repairs and to protect groundwater quality. The items listed below are known to have caused failures of septic and onsite treatment systems and must be considered if waste generated by/from a particular site will contain them in excessive quantities. This means that tanks must be pumped more frequently. Since "excessive" is a subjective word, it is highly recommended by NOWRA that you share any concerns with a Wastewater Professional to come up with a treatment strategy for your particular needs.
Plastic, rubber, scouring pads, dental floss, kitty litter, cigarette filters, bandages, hair, mop strings, lint, rags, cloth, and towels do not degrade in an onsite treatment system. Inert materials build up solids and lead to system malfunction, clogging, or increased need for cleanout of tanks.
Disposable diapers, paper towels, facial tissues, baby wipes, lotions, or scented/quilted toilet tissue do not readily dissolve in an onsite treatment system. It is important to remeber that excessive amounts of toliet tissue do not easily decompose and can lead to system malfunctions, backing up, or the need for the more frequent cleanouts of system.
Do not put animal fats, bones, grease, coffe/tea grounds, citrus/melon rinds, corncobs, or eggshells down the sing. It is not recommended to use a garbage disposal; best advice is to throw everything in the trash. Spoiled dairy products and yeasts of the microbes that do not degrade sewage and are recommeneded to be thrown either outside or in the trash. Pickle juices or any vinegars are strongly advised against as well.
Do not flush female sanitary products, cotton balls or swabs, or condoms into the system. Antimicrobial soaps and automatic disinfection tablets (blue, clear or otherwise) may kill the organisms needed to consume waste.
Normal use of over-the-counter medications will not affect the performance of onsite systems; however, do not flush expired medicines/antibiotics into an onsite treatment system. Some prescription medications are known to cause biological disruption. Diseases or conditions which can affect septic system function include bulimia, severe infections (including AIDS), cancer, chronic diarrhea, intestinal/colon bypass, or other gastrointestinal conditions.
Both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Small Flows Clearinghouse report that there is no evidence to support the use of additives with normally functioning onsite treatment systems. Some septic tank additives have been shown to do more harm than good. A normally functioning system should not require additives. RID-X and products alike are never recommended by Brighteyes
The following materials kill the microbes necessary for the biological treatment to occur: paint, paint thinner, solvents, volatile substances, drain cleaners, automotive fluids, fuels, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, metals, disinfectants, sanitizers, bleach, mop water, floor stripping wastes or excessive use of household chemicals and backwash from water softener regeneration.
Because onsite systems process water as it enters the system, laundry should be spread out over the week and not ran all at one time. Excessive use of detergents, especially those containing bleach, can affect system performance. Liquid detergents are recommended over powder. Fabric softener sheets are recommended over liquid softeners, and bleach should be used sparingly and at half the rate indicated on the container.
Excessive flows from A/C discharge lines, floor drains, gutters, whole house water treatment systems and sump pumps can increase the flow to your treatment system. These flows can at least disrupt, if not destroy, your treatment process.