A septic tank is a small scale sewage treatment system
used at properties without a connection to the mains sewerage utility network. Looked after properly, and regularly, it is an effective method of dealing with foul waste, but it should be monitored
and maintained to make sure that it continues to operate adequately.
Any hint of pollution from your septic system and you
could face prosecution with large fines or even imprisonment. But there is an easy way to avoid having to worry about that: make sure you use an operator who will empty your tank automatically at
regular intervals, and check that the system is in good working order at the same time. Like JD Drains Reading
With our credentials as a registered waste handler, our
expertise with drains and sewers, and our nationwide resources of people and plant, we have everything you need to maintain a septic tank, cesspit or soakaway: from regular emptying and waste
disposal to unblocking soakaways and installing new systems.
A quick look at Septic Tanks
The term ‘septic’ refers to the anaerobic bacterial
environment that develops in a tank to decompose the waste discharged into it. It is a micro version of the main waste infrastructure and, working correctly, a simple solution for otherwise isolated
or inaccessible locations.
The system consists of a tank and a soakaway, where the
tank provides conditions in which the organic matter decomposes, so that the solids settle at the bottom as sludge; and the liquid effluent flows out through the soakaway (often a permeable chamber
or system of perforated drains) so that it disperses (‘soaks away’) into the ground.
Naturally, there is strict regulation as to how, when
and where the system discharges (see the Environment Agency’s Pollution Prevention Guidelines PPG4), with fierce penalties for anyone flauting the law.
What is the problem?
Odour, flooding and pollution are the most common issues
with septic tanks, and may be caused by inadequate maintenance or faulty installation.
Smelling trouble: The tank should be adequately
ventilated so that noxious gases disperse into the atmosphere without creating an odour nuisance. If you do notice a smell, it could be that the tank or soakaway is not functioning properly, and
For instance, the biologically balanced digestion system
of a septic tank may be negatively affected by flooding. The influx of too much water (for instance a surface or ground water wrongly connected to it, or because of climate related flooding affecting
the water table) dilutes and flushes away ‘friendly’ bacteria which digests the waste. That, in turn, may force sludge and solids out of the tank, potentially blocking the soakaway.
It is worth noting here that ground conditions should be
suitable for a soakaway to work properly: if the surrounding earth is not permeable enough (eg clay), the effluent discharge will not ‘soak-away’, ultimately backing up into the tank. A simple
Percolation Test will establish whether this is an issue, and JD Drain Solutions can help you with that. Naturally, a septic tank’s capacity should also be appropriate to the population it serves (ie
number of people in the house).
Remember that it is an offence under the Water Resources
Acts 1991 to discharge effluent into a ditch or stream, with fines of up to £100,000, but it can be avoided with simple good housekeeping and routine de-sludging.
Industry reports (a national programme of inspections by
the EPA in Ireland) highlighted the lack of maintenance in septic tanks. Extreme weather with heavy downpours and high water table pushes an inadequately maintained or too full septic tank to
overflowing. The result? Sewage floating in the garden. Not recommended. And an extremely good reason not to wade around in flood water without proper protective clothing.
Keep it working
Here are a few simple rules for keeping your system in
peak operating condition.
Make sure that the septic system is installed according
to PPG guidelines in the first place. Recommended criteria for the design and installation of septic tanks are given in BS6297. And all sewage effluent discharges, irrespective of age, volume or
location, must be registered with the Environment Agency. Use professionals.
Be aware that our old adversary ‘FOG’ (aka fat, oils and
grease) does not degrade readily and will lead to blockages in a septic system just as it would (and does) in the mains sewer network. Dispose of fat and food residue in the household waste, not down
Non-biodegradable items such as nappies, sanitary towels
and wet wipes will rapidly clog the tank. Even the ones which claim to be flushable. Always put them in household waste, never in the loo.
A recent and lengthy thread on mumsnet.com revealed that
there is some confusion out there when it comes to septic tank do’s and dont’s. Generally, follow your manufacturer’s instructions for which chemicals to avoid. Pesticides, herbicides, paint,
solvents or high levels of bleach can all damage the naturally occurring bacteria which is there to digest the raw sewage. If in doubt, leave it out.
Finally, enlist the services of a local professional
maintenance operator — like JD Drains Reading — to remove the accumulated sludge from your tank annually. We operate from a UK-wide local depot network so, wherever you are, there is one near
With JD Group looking after your septic system, you can be confident
everything is taken care of. We will empty the tank, take care of all paperwork and dispose of the waste at a registered site, and check that your tank is good to go for the next twelve months — all
without you having to ask.