Septic tanks – myth busting the things you shouldn’t be doing

Sam Warren's Photo
Written by Sam Warren

Septic tanks. You would think operating one would be a simple, uniform process. Stuff goes in. It naturally separates. The cleaner content soaks away into the surrounding ground. The nasty stuff is periodically vacuumed out and taken away by a friendly tanker driver. Rinse (not literally) and repeat. In a nutshell, that is it.

Until they stop working as they should, of course. Septic tank problems can cause a real headache, and some people will sell you `solutions' that they say will help to avoid them. But are they really the solution they claim to be? Read on to find out!

Septic tank worms

Suppliers that advertise septic tank worms normally position them as some sort of additive that will assist in the biological process and remove odours. Ignore for one moment that no credible evidence has been produced to confirm these claims. More importantly, what we, as humans, put into a septic tank is more than sufficient for any processes to occur and bacteria to grow. If there’s an issue with a septic tank or there are noticeable odours, worms just aren’t going to help. You’ll just now have a tank with noticeable odours and a worm colony. Performance issues and unpleasant smells are a sign of a problem with the tank. Get a septic tank inspection sooner rather than later. It could be a crack in the tank or a tree root coming through. Either way, you are far better advised to get to the bottom of the issue as it is not likely to fix itself and will only get worse. Don’t waste your time, money and effort chucking worms in.

Assorted dead animals

A dead chicken, a dead sheep, perhaps a small dead horse, there are plenty of old wives’ tales about what to throw into a septic tank to assist the growth of bacteria. Just like the worms, there is absolutely no need to deposit anything into a septic tank apart from that which us humans produce. Without wishing to be needlessly graphic, foul and grey water from our toilets, dishwashers, washing machines, showers and baths will generate all that is needed for our septic tanks and sewage treatment plants to work. Throwing in dead creatures isn’t going to help and your tanker operator won’t appreciate having to spend his or her time dislodging bones from the suction pipe.

Soakaway crates

A less grim myth but important all the same. Soakaway crates must only be used for rainwater. They are not to be used as a soakaway for a septic tank nor can they be used for a combined soakaway i.e., receiving both foul and rainwater.

There are two separate documents detailing the test procedures, design parameters and installation options for foul and rainwater soakaways, namely, the BS 6297:2007+A1:2008 British Standard – Code of practice for the design and installation of drainage fields for use in wastewater treatment and the BRE DG 365 (revised 2016) design and construction procedures for rainwater soakaways.

There are several options described for a wastewater soakaway both in the BS6297 and the Building Regulations 2010 Part H document, but you will not find soakaway crates listed in either. Crates cannot handle the suspended solids and other matter that finds its way out of a septic tank or sewage treatment plant, they choke and blind the soakaway, quickly causing it to fail. A crate soakaway system is relatively cheap and easy to install, but it’s a false economy if used as a foul water soakaway as it will fail quickly. A classic example of buy cheap, buy twice. Save yourself the bother and get it done properly by avoiding crate solutions for foul water systems.

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Sam Warren's Photo
Written by Sam Warren

Sam's career prior to UKDP was spent in the marketing and service industries, so she is focused on making sure we look after our customers – and getting the UKDP message out there! Sam has overall responsibility for business operations and for delivering the best customer service we can.

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