On January 23, 2012, The Pennsylvania Septage Management Association (PSMA) launched its long awaited “Drip Irrigation Inspection-AM” endorsement training. This one day course was a compilation of efforts of Frank Parker, Ray Erb and Jeff Rachlin. Once a candidate successfully completes this training (along with PSMA’s 101 or 102 inspection status) he or she gains an endorsement to enable them to inspect or write a drip irrigation inspection report applying the PSMA Standards to reach a conclusion about American Manufacturing’s Perc-Rite® Drip Dispersal Septic Systems.
This 8 hour course consists of classroom training with video clips from an actual inspection. The concept of unsaturated flows are taught with a video from the Consortium of Institutes for Decentralized Wastewater Treatment (CIDWT). With another video, trainees see how different types of Drip systems are installed and tested during the installation process (Lake County, Ohio Health Department).
The inspection protocol is designed to test manual and automatic functions in a drip system so that a report can be promulgated to a client during a real estate transaction. When components are found to be “unsatisfactory” a probable cause is stated or a course of “more investigation” is suggested.
The endorsement will be required by end of 2012 in order to inspect this type of system. OnSite Management, Inc. now has three properly endorsed inspectors for inspecting drip irrigation wastewater systems. For more information please do not hesitate to contact us at 610-430-3100 or online at www.OnSiteMGT.com . You may also obtain the brochure “The Advantages of A Drip Irrigation Onlot Sewage Treatment System Maintenance Agreement” by clicking here.
Today’s technology is greatly improving. I believe that we have found out more about septic systems in the last 5 years than we have in the previous 40 years. EPA concluded in its 1997 Report to Congress that "adequately managed decentralized wastewater systems are a cost-effective and long-term option for meeting public health and water quality goals, particularly in less densely populated areas."
Typically if a system is:
- Tested for properly,
- Designed adequately,
- Installed properly,
- Used properly and,
- Maintained properly,
It should last indefinitely!
For information on testing click the link and receive a copy of our brochure “Understanding Testing and Design Procedures.”
For information on using your system properly click the link and receive a copy of our brochure “Prolonging the Life of Your Septic System.”
For information on properly maintaining your septic system click the link and receive a copy of our brochure “The Advantages of Maintenance Agreements.”
Do not hesitate to contact us for more information or if you have any questions!
- The average septic system today costs nearly $15,000, with some systems costing as much as $40,000.
- Timely, proper maintenance will promote years of use from your system and avoid premature failure.
- Nearly all real estate transactions require a septic certification. A system must be in complete working condition in order to pass certification, even if you never had a problem with your system.
- The cost of a maintenance agreement is not much more than the cost of having your tanks pumped regularly.
In Pennsylvania onsite septic systems are sized based on the number of bedrooms in a dwelling, not by the quantity of proposed occupants or the water usage by them. Management cycles and pumping are dependent on the size of the system, volume of wastewater the system is receiving, the amount of solids produced, and the percent of solids digested or retained.
Based upon these facts, it is impossible to determine an exact schedule of when to pump a system, clean filters, or repair system failures without constant monitoring. It is therefore important to have a responsible management entity (RME) monitor and maintain your system throughout the year in order to give you a financial advantage and peace of mind.
A balance of monitoring and management is needed to accomplish this. Typically, a good maintenance plan should include:
- At least two system inspections per year
- Pump septic tank/cesspool as necessary
- Clean filters as needed
- Check liquid levels of absorption area
- Check integrity of tank baffles
- Check integrity of septic tank/cesspool
- Check condition of building sewer
- Check condition of delivery pipes
- Check pump wiring
- Check pump alarm
- Check pump controls
- Check pump
- Flush dosing pipes
One of the biggest advantages to a maintenance plan is that emergency service will be performed at non-emergency prices if you need us! If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parties and Septic Systems
Having a party this weekend? Did you ever think about your septic system and what might happen to it with the added load? Let’s take a look.
The septic system is designed for the normal load a dwelling is expected to generate. Usually the sizing of the system is dependent on the number of bedrooms a home has, not the number of occupants. In Pennsylvania, a septic system is designed for a minimum of 400 gallons per day for a dwelling unit up to 3 bedrooms. For each bedroom over three, we add 100 gallons. For example, a septic system that was designed for a 5 bedroom dwelling would be designed to handle 600 gallons per day. Generally, the septic tank and the absorption area would be sized based on this flow.
The Septic Tank
The septic tank separates the solids from the liquids of the sewage entering the tank. Solids (sludge) are retained in the tank and the liquids (effluent) are then passed on to the absorption area to be treated by and dissipated into the soil. Two factors influence the performance of the tank.
The longer a system has been in use without maintenance, the more solids are built up in the tank. Some solids float, like grease and soap. Some solids sink. When both of these solids build up there is less room in the tank to clarify the effluent before it leaves the tank. The fewer the solids that leave the tank the better it will be for the entire system.
Another factor that influences a septic tank’s performance is how fast the flow is passing through the tank. A septic tank is designed to be a tranquil environment. Under high loads that generate high velocity, solids can be carried out of the tank and on to the absorption area.
The Absorption Area
The absorption area is also designed base on the number of bedrooms it serves not the number of people. To simplify, most absorption areas are about a one foot depth of crushed stone with a series of pipes in the stone that deliver the effluent from the septic tank to the crushed stone.
This crushed stone holds the effluent in its voids until the soil absorbs it. A bio-mat, composed of the solids that have left the septic tank and bacteria that is digesting it forms on the soil to stone interface. The more solids that enter the absorption area the thicker the bio-mat becomes. This bio-mat decreases how fast the soil receives the effluent. Usually the thicker the bio-mat the more build-up of liquids are occurring in the absorption area. Not knowing how much liquid is in the absorption can become a problem when flows are suddenly increased. If the absorption area is ponded to almost the full depth of the crushed stone, this sudden inflow can then cause a back-up into the house.
During a party is the worst to experience a back-up. Most parties are occurring after normal business hours or worse, a holiday. To have the septic tank cleaned out at those times not only causes a lot of stress for everybody by adds unneeded expense. A maintenance program that incorporates regular monitoring of the solids in the septic tank and the liquids in absorption area is inexpensive compared to emergency service. The best protection is to be on a maintenance contract. It is probably as close to flush and forget as you can be. Tell your service provider that you are having a party. It would also be a good idea to have your septic tank pumped and cleaned prior to the party. When was the last time you had your septic tank pumped? Call us today for advice! You can download the brochures “The Advantages of Maintenance Agreements” or “Prolonging the Life of Your Septic System” by clicking on their links. Let me know your thoughts.
You Don’t Have to Have an Unsightly Septic System!
Septic systems are usually comprised of three components; the pretreatment tanks, normally septic tanks or aerobic treatment plants, a distribution system (gravity or pumped), and an absorption system. Each component can be handled in a different way. Let’s take a look.
Septic tanks can be unsightly when concrete lids are on grade or above grade. They can also let surface water infiltrate the system. They can be cleaned up by installing proper risers on tanks and green plastic lids that are bolted down, which can be more durable and aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
Distribution systems can be comprised of pump tanks with risers similar to septic tanks. They must be at grade in case the components in the tank require repair. To make them look better they can also have the appropriate risers installed with durable green plastic lids that are bolted down.
Absorption areas or drain fields that are pressure dosed may have lateral cleanouts above grade. They can be unsightly and, if you hit them with a lawn mower, will break if you are not careful. This can not only be unsightly to look at but can be a health hazard as well if untreated sewage is allowed to surface.
Lateral cleanouts can be cut below grade and encased with sprinkler covers. This will allow access for maintenance yet can be mowed over without disturbing the system.
If you have any ideas for cleaning up unsightly septic systems, please leave a comment!
Peat Filter Maintenance
Septic systems in Pennsylvania that have Peat Filters in them are termed “Alternate Systems” or “Experimental Systems”. Maintenance on the peat filter must be done annually. With Ecoflo® Peat Filters, if you bought your filter before 2010 the peat filter came with 7 years of maintenance and maintenance inspections. After the eighth year the manufacture could extend the life of the peat, if conditions warrant, or require that the peat be replaced.
Every year the peat filter needs to be opened, the distribution plates removed, and the peat raked. During the inspection the peat is graded. If the condition is good the peat does not need to be replaced for another year. The peat filter still needs to be maintenanced the following year.
When the peat is degraded it needs to be replaced. Replacing the peat can be accomplished in one day without disruption to the property other than ingress and egress. The filter needs to be opened, the tipping bucket and distribution plates removed, and the peat needs to be removed from the unit. The peat should be removed by vacuum truck and disposed of at a permitted facility. The interior of the shell structure can then be assessed and new peat can be reinstalled. The previous components can then be reinstalled. Complications such as roots growing through the peat, can make the process take quite a bit longer and can add cost to your overall investment.
If the peat is not replaced on a timely basis, damage to the rest of the system can occur. This damage can result in additional expenses for fixing the rest of the system downstream from the peat filter. This can also result in damage to the environment.
Call us if you have any questions about your peat filter! We are a Premier Tech Ecoflo® authorized partner. If you live in Bucks County, Montgomery County, Berks County, Chester County, or Philadelphia County in Pennsylvania, please go to www.OnSiteMGT.com, scroll down on the left and push the “Peat Filter Customer Update” button. Please fill out the form and you will be sent a brochure about maintenance that you need on the rest of your septic system.
Maintenance for Drip Dispersal Septic Systems
Maintenance for a drip dispersal septic system is a three part attack. The maintenance should be broken down by pretreatment, pumping and hydraulic unit, and absorption area or drip dispersal area.
Pretreatment usually consists of either septic tanks or aerobic treatment plants. Both require constant monitoring. Septic tanks are a passive type of treatment and require less maintenance. Septic tanks are sized based on the number of bedrooms in a dwelling¾not by the quantity of proposed occupants or the water usage by them. Management cycles and pumping are dependent on the size of thetankage, volume of wastewater the system is receiving, the amount of solids produced, and the percent of solids digested or retained.
Based upon these facts, it is impossible to determine an exact schedule of when to pump a tank or clean effluent filers in them
without constant monitoring. The best rule of thumb is to cleanout the septic tank when the floatable solids (scum) thickness added to settable solids (sludge) thickness are equal to one third of the liquid depth of the tank. They should be monitored every six months and maintenance are required by the monitoring.
Aerobic treatment plants require constant monitoring and manufacturer specific maintenance. Usually the monitoring and maintenance is required to be completed on a six month interval in order for the specific type of treatment to maintain its NSF-40 (National Sanitation Foundation) approval. Some intervals require measurements of mixed aeration areas with a graduated cylinder to determine the suspended solids. When suspended solids reach a certain amount, the system must be pumped and cleaned. Hollow aerator shafts must be pulled out, checked and cleaned. Fixed media in the aeration chamber must be checked and once per year, bubble scrubbed with a blower. Pumping in these treatment tanks usually occurs once every three years as long as the system has been operation properly. Overall, they usually require maintenance ever six months.
Hydraulic units and pumps need to monitored and screens and filters cleaned every six months. Although disc filters located in the hydraulic unit clean themselves every time the unit cycles, it also cleans itself every five minutes of operation. Screens located on the pump should be cleaned if monitoring information indicates clogging. The hydraulic unit along with its computer control panel should have all of its functions checked to make sure it is operating correctly. All of its functions should timed and compared to the previous interval readings and also startup readings.
The hydraulic unit has a water usage meter located in it. The reading on this meter should be monitored every time the unit is serviced and compared to previous readings. A quick calculation should be made to make sure the unit is not being asked to handle more wastewater than it was designed to. A heat strip located on the bottom of the hydraulic unit should be checked to make sure it is operating properly.
The drip tubing or absorption area needs to be checked every six months as well. Drip absorption areas have between two and four zones. Air release valves need to be checked for proper operation. There are usually two in each zone. Zone dosing and forward flush timing must also be checked and compared to timing obtained at startup. Checking the timing can determine if check valves buried in the ground need to be serviced or replaced. Left alone and not fixed can cause a zone to operate at double its designed capacity thereby creating a failure that may not be able to be fixed.
As you can see, six months seems to be the best interval for monitoring and maintenance. OnSite Management is able to provide its clientele a very cost effective maintenance plan that offers the best blend of monitoring and maintenance.
Please coment on your experiences!
Maintenance and Management
Proper maintenance and management is an effective program developed to monitor, inspect and maintain all components of the septic system on a regular basis. Regular and proper cleaning is one way to help prolong your onlot sewage system. Make sure that the pumper opens the main access of the septic tank when cleaning it out. This allows the tank to be completely cleaned out. Never pump the tank through the 4 or 6" inspection port that is situated over the baffles. Only a small portion of the tank will be cleaned and risk of damaging the baffles inside the tank is high. Inspect the condition of the baffles. If missing, broken, damaged, or deteriorated, they should be replaced immediately. They serve an important purpose in helping to prolong the life of your system.
When the sludge and scum layers are not routinely pumped out, the area in the tank available for clarification decreases. Solids will enter the absorption area at an accelerated rate, and the absorption area clogs prematurely. Effluent forms over the absorption area onto the surface of the ground. Sewage finds its way to a stream or road ditch, or backs up into your home.
Water conservation is and important factor in prolonging the life of any onsite disposal system. Reducing the amount of water used in the home decreases the volume of wastewater that must be renovated and helps to avoid hydraulic overload of the system. In addition, water conservation reduces energy costs and protects the groundwater supply.
Some things you can do to conserve water are:
- Install water saving plumbing fixtures in you home. Theses would include water dams for toilets, water saver aerators on faucets and water saving shower heads. Most building codes require that all new construction have these water saving devices routinely installed.
- Check your toilets periodically for leaks. This can be done quite easily. Place a few drops of food coloring in the toilet tank. Do not flush the toilet for several hours. If the colored water appears in the toilet bowl during this time, your toilet is leaking. Have it fixed immediately.
- Fix leaking faucets.
- Operate the dishwasher only when full. Do not pre-wash dishes for the automatic dishwasher unless absolutely necessary. Wash dishes using a dishpan or plugging the sink. Do not let water run for washing.
- Refrigerate a bottle of water for drinking to avoid letting the water run to obtain a cold drink.
- Select the proper load or water level on your washing machine. Do not wash multiple loads of laundry, one right after the other.
- Take a shower instead of a tub bath. Also try to limit the length of your showers.
- Do not allow the water to run while brushing teeth or shaving.
Hazards To Your Onlot Sewage System
Contractors should pump the treatment tank through the main access, not the inspection port.
- Do not clean paint from rollers or dispose thinners down the drain.
- Do not flush large numbers of unused antibiotics.
- Materials that do not rapidly decompose (e.g., sanitary napkins, coffee grounds, bones, eggshells, wet strength towels, disposable diapers, kitty litter, facial tissues, cigarette butts, baby wipes, etc.) should never be flushed into a septic tank.
- Do not use garbage disposals. Garbage disposals increase a treatment tank's workload. The increased organic solids load requires more frequent tank pumping.
- Do not dispose oils and grease products.
Do You Have Any Good Tips?
Post them here under comments!
OK, I confess! I love this season! Our thoughts turn from the winter season, to Hockey and Basketball playoff games, the beginning of the Baseball season, and the beginning of a new pace. Admit it. The last thing on your mind is your septic system. That’s where we come in. In our business, the spring is the time when we encourage preparation for the upcoming summer and fall seasons. Many customers wait until “peak” season to call us (like this past July for example!) for what we call “demand or emergency service.”
Now “demand service” isn’t quite as bad as it sounds; it refers to customers who call us needing septic services NOW. Demand service is great for my business, but it’s hard on our technicians and sometimes our customers, too.
Were you one of those customers?
If so, thank you, and we hope you were served properly for what you feel was a fair price. The way I see it, I want to get the most for my money, and I treat my customers the same way.
"Our commitment to you is to use our knowledge to preserve the environment, conserve the valuable asset of your property, and to minimize or eliminate the costly expense of system failures."
We especially want to hear from you this season if there is something we did really well or something we need to do better. Our team works very hard to get the job done and I’m proud of them. So whether it’s a complaint or praise, we welcome you to share it with us.
As the summer approaches, there is one very serious question that you should ask yourself each year. Do you know when your septic tank was pumped last? Please, if you can’t answer this question “within the last 3 years,” call now for a septic tank cleaning and pumping. Even if you have another company do it for you, please have it done! Every year we are busy replacing systems that have failed due to improper maintenance.
Call us to schedule a pumping or to explain our maintenance plans and click here to download a discount septic tank pumping coupon! Thank you for your patronage.
Please comment if you have had emergency service and your thoughts on how to avoid the situation.
- The cost of replacing a septic system can be from $5,000 to $45,000, or more.
- There are many components in septic systems that can be defective or malfunctioning.
- The systems components are usually buried or out of sight.
- The buyers need to know the condition of the system.
- Permits for repairs or replacement may take up to eight weeks to obtain.
- An invasive inspection should be performed.
Advantages for the seller:
- Problems can be identified before the buyer arrives on the scene, so seller can retain control.
- Allows the seller time to make an informed decision before listing their home for sale.
- Allows needed time for any repairs or replacement to be made.
- Most of all, it will eliminate discouraged buyers and deal killers due to problematic septic systems.
The septic tank & system inspection should include:
- Inspecting the main sewer line from the house to the septic tank / cesspool.
- Inspecting the integrity of the septic tank / cesspool after septic tank pumping.
- Inspecting the condition of the inlet and outlet baffles.
- Flushing toilets to observe level changes in the tank or possible problems.
- Inspecting the delivery pipe from the septic tank to the absorption area.
- If applicable, check pumps, pump controls, pump wiring, and pump tank alarm.
- Check the liquid level in the absorption area.
- Obtain a written report of the condition of each component and the overall condition of the septic tank & system inspection.
You should only use an inspection company certified by PSMA or NAWT.