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On August 27th, 2018 by North Texas Septic Design

On-Site Sewage Facility Basics

Posted In:
Maintenance

The Fundamentals of Septic Systems

From Texas Commission on Environmental Quality:

On-site sewage facilities, or OSSFs, must be designed on the basis of a site evaluation that accounts for local conditions.
It's the system of choice for many new homes built in Texas...an On-Site Sewage Facility (OSSF), commonly called a "septic system."
 The sudden increase of new housing in suburban and rural areas means that more Texas households depend on an OSSF for treatment and disposal of domestic sewage. In recent years many new systems have been permitted, most in high growth areas of the state. New approaches to design and overseeing OSSFs ensure systems do their job properly and protect the environment.

Site evaluations determine local conditions and the design of OSSFs. In many parts of Texas, soil analyses are ruling out conventional systems where liquids are separated from solids in the septic tank and then spread throughout the drainfield by means of underground pipes or other proprietary products. Organic wastes are treated as the liquids percolate through the soil. But most soils in Texas can't properly absorb pollutants, so alternative treatment methods are required.

Almost all OSSFs must have a permit prior to any construction, installation, repair, extension, or other alteration. Any work on an OSSF must be performed by a licensed installer or directly by the homeowner. If someone is paid for any part of the process, that person must be licensed by the state.

Who checks to make sure the requirements are followed?

In most areas of the state, local authorities have taken on the responsibility for ensuring that OSSFs in their area comply with all state requirements. Many local governments are "authorized agents" (AA) of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for administering the OSSF Program. Many times, the AA has a "designated representative" (DR) to assist them with their responsibilities, which include reviewing plans for constructing, altering, extending or repairing each OSSF; issuing permits; and inspecting system installation. You can search for your local permitting authority online.

Authorized agents and representatives also respond to complaints to ensure that an OSSF meets minimum standards. If problems are found, the system owner normally has 30 days in which to make substantial progress on remedying the situation. After that, the agent can file a criminal complaint with the local justice of the peace.

OSSFs can handle only domestic sewage. Industrial or hazardous waste will ruin an OSSF by literally killing the bacteria that break down the biosolids. Remember: septic systems are designed to handle human waste, not chemicals.

Maintenance

All OSSFs require maintenance at one time or another. Conventional anaerobic systems need to have the septic tank pumped out to remove the solids and keep the system from backing up. It is recommended that you pump your septic tank every three to five years to prevent short circuiting of the treatment process. Access the Sludge Transporter Query online to obtain a list of registered sludge transporters in your area.

Aerobic systems are more complex and require more maintenance.  Some maintenance may be performed by homeowners for systems using secondary treatment or drip irrigation, and surface application disposal. Some permitting authorities have adopted more stringent requirements, which may require homeowner training or even prohibit homeowner maintenance. Check with your permitting authority to find out if it has adopted more stringent requirements.  Contracting with a licensed maintenance provider to check, troubleshoot and test the system as required in 30 TAC §285.91(4) will help ensure that the system operates correctly. The maintenance provider inspects components of the system and notes whether or not every component is working during each quarterly site visit. If the system uses an electronic monitor, automatic radio or telephone to notify the maintenance provider of system or component failure and to monitor the amount of disinfection in the system, reporting may be reduced to every six months. The maintenance provider will tell the homeowner of any problems or repairs to be made. Any required repairs that are not made will be reported to the permitting authority.

When disinfection of secondary effluent is required, use a chlorine tablet made from calcium hypochlorite that is certified for wastewater disinfection by EPA. The tablets are very reactive and will kill 99% of the bacteria present in the effluent within 10 minutes. Follow all warning and precaution statements of the chlorine tablet manufacturer to protect yourself and the system equipment. DO NOT USE TABLETS DESIGNED FOR SWIMMING POOL USE AS THESE MAY RELEASE AN EXPLOSIVE GAS CALLED NITROGEN CHLORIDE.

The TCEQ's Small Business and Local Government Assistance Section offers free, confidential help to small businesses and local governments working to comply with state environmental regulations. Call us at 1-800-447-2827.

For more information, please visit: https://www.tceq.texas.gov/
OSSF General Information
Information for Homeowners
Information for Licensees
Maintenance of On-Site Sewage Facilities (Septic Systems) — Overview of proper On-Site Sewage Facility (OSSF) maintenance, including when maintenance is required and what type of chlorine to use.

Where can I find more information and assistance?

The TCEQ's Small Business and Local Government Assistance Section offers free, confidential help to small businesses and local governments working to comply with state environmental regulations. Call us at 800-447-2827 or visit our Web page at TexasEnviroHelp.org.

On August 20th, 2018 by North Texas Septic Design

Septic System Tips

Posted In:
Maintenance

How to Properly Care for Your Septic System

To save on maintenance costs, extend the life of your on-site sewage system, and protect water quality.

The average US household consumes over 85,000 gallons of wastewater annually, 250-300 gallons per day! A septic tank is a living filter that separates scum and solids while treating wastewater before it reaches the drain-field for final purification. It's a 24 to 48-hour process. Without proper care, your septic system may become a health hazard causing pollution and property damage. Let's examine how to properly maintain your septic system.

Your Septic Tank

CAUTION: Bacteria at Work!

The septic tank, a large, underground, watertight container, receives all the wastewater from your home. Heavy solids settle at the bottom, where bacteria reduce them to sludge and gasses. Lighter solids, such as grease, rise to the top forming a layer of scum. That which does not decompose remains in the tank and solids must be removed periodically, via pumping. We recommend pumping every 3-5 years. An annual inspection will ensure that solids don't build up and eventually overflow the tank, causing extensive damage.

Septic Tank System with Drain Field Diagram

The Drain Field

The wastewater that leaves the septic tank is called effluent. The soil in the drain field provides final treatment of the effluent and a grid of perforated pipes laid in gravel-filled trenches allows the effluent to trickle out into the soil.

Typical Septic Tank

We recommend pumping when solids reach 25% to 33% in the first compartment or main tank.

A Look Inside Your Septic Tank

Alternative systems such as grinder pump systems, step systems, and many other septic systems have different tank configurations than shown here.

When to Pump Your Septic Tank

  1. When the scum is within 3 inches of the bottom of the outlet device, the tank should be pumped. To measure scum accumulation, nail a 3-inch square block to a 6-foot pole and poke the block through the scum layer. Carefully move the pole up and down to feel the resistance as you move the block up against the bottom of the scum layer. Mark that place on the pole that is level with the ground. Then feel around for the bottom of the outlet pipe and mark that level on the pole, if the two marks are 3" or less apart, your tank needs to be pumped.
  2. When the top of the sludge layer is within 12 inches of the bottom of the outlet, the tank should be pumped. To check the sludge level, wrap a rag around the bottom 3 feet of the 6-foot pole and fasten it with tape. Push the towel down to the bottom of the tank and spin it around. Mark the pole at ground level. Pull it out after a few minutes and measure the difference between the top of the sludge layer (the top of the black material on the towel) and the bottom of the outlet pipe (marked when you checked the sludge level). If this distance is 12" or less, have your tank pumped.

System Failure

Please contact a professional septic company immediately for assistance if you witness any of these warning signs:

  1. Surfacing sewage, odors, wet spots or lush vegetation growth in the drain field area.
  2. Backups in the Plumbing or septic tank.
  3. Gurgling sounds in the plumbing system.
  4. Slow draining fixtures.

Once solids have flowed into the drain field, the damage is done. Pumping the septic tank will not bring a failed drain field back to life.

Septic System Reminders

To extend the life of your on-site septic system, save on maintenance costs and protect water quality:

  1. Inspect your system once each year.
    Inspection, by you or a professional, may reveal the need to pump more or less often. Regular pumping ensures solids will not flow from the septic tank into the drain field.
  2. Pump your septic tank as needed.
    Generally, septic tanks should be pumped every three to five years. Don't wait until you have a problem. Routine pumping can prevent system failures. If you can't remember when your tank was last pumped, it's time for an inspection!
  3. Keep accurate records.
    Keep a diagram of your system's location and a record of system maintenance for future owners.
  4. Practice water conservation.
    The less wastewater you produce, the less strain on your septic system. By reducing water use, you can extend the life of your system and decrease the possibility of system failure.
  5. Check with a certified septic technician for assistance with any system problems.

More Tips

  1. Keep these OUT of your septic system:
    • Fats or grease
    • Motor oils or fuels
    • Coffee grounds, egg shells, nut shells
    • Filter tip cigarettes
    • Disposable diapers
    • Sanitary napkins, tampons or condoms
    • Paper towels or rags
    • Paints or chemicals
  2. Keep traffic off your drain field
    No vehicles, heavy equipment or livestock because the pressure can compact the soil or damage the system pipes. Do not plant a garden; construct a building or a pool near the septic system without checking with the health department first.
  3. The best coverage option for your septic system is grass
    Do not place impermeable materials over your drain field. Concrete, asphalt, and plastic prevent oxygen from getting into the soil. Oxygen is necessary for bacteria to break down the sewage.
  4. DO NOT poison your septic tank
    Drain cleaners, floor cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, paint solvents, waxes, polishes, coating or strippers may destroy the bacteria in the septic tank and contaminate ground and surface water.
  5. No garbage disposal
    Garbage disposals add solids and grease to the system. If a garbage disposal is used, more frequent cleaning of the septic tank will be required.
  6. DO NOT dispose of water from hot tubs or spas in the system
    The large volume of water will overload the system and the disinfectant in the spa water can destroy important bacteria in the system.
  7. Keep runoff out of your system
    Water from roofs, driveways, and patios could overwhelm the drain field, causing irreversible damage.
  8. NEVER enter any septic tank
    Poisonous gases and/or lack of oxygen can be fatal. Any work to the tank should be done from the outside.
  9. Additives are not recommended for use in the septic system
    Additives may provide short-term benefits but create long-term problems. If used continually, these products do not reduce the need for routine pumping.

The Pump Chamber

The pump chamber (a concrete, fiberglass or polyethylene container) collects the effluent. The chamber contains a pump, pump control floats, and a high water alarm float. The control floats are adjustable and are set for pumping a specific volume of effluent. When the effluent rises to the level of the "ON" float, the pump begins delivering the effluent to the disposal area. Once the effluent level is reduced to the level of the "OFF" float, the pump stops. The high water alarm float in the pump chamber initiates an alarm, warning of any pump/system malfunction. The alarm should consist of a buzzer and easily visible light. It should be on an electrical circuit separate from the pump.

For easy removal of the pump, the discharge pipe should have a union or other quick disconnect coupling. A piece of nylon rope or other non-corrodible material should be attached to the pump for taking the pump in and out of the chamber.

Proper Care Includes: Checking the pump chamber, pump and floats every year and replacing or repairing worn or broken parts. Pump maintenance follows the manufacturers’ guidelines.  Electrical parts and conduits should be inspected for corrosion. If the alarm panel has a "push-to-test" button, it should be tested regularly.

Installing a septic tank effluent filter or pump screen, if your system does not have one. Screening or filtering the septic tank effluent provides an effective way of preventing solids from clogging the pump and pipes. Inspecting a screen or filter and cleaning when necessary is quick and easy and prevents costly damage from solids entering the disposal system.

Taking action to protect the disposal area after a prolonged power outage or pump failure. Effluent will continue to collect in the chamber until the pump resumes operation. With additional effluent in the pump chamber, the pump may deliver volume greater than the disposal system or drain field can handle. If all of the reserve storage inside the chamber is used, the plumbing in your home may back up.

If the pump is off for 6 hours or more, to help protect the drain field:

  • Reduce your water use
  • Turn off the pump at the control panel or exterior switch

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Contact us today for a free estimate! 214-675-4447

On August 15th, 2018 by North Texas Septic Design

What is a Septic System?

Posted In:
Maintenance

From our Friends at Royal Flush Septic Systems

Septic Systems: An Environmentally Sound, Affordable Option

Sewage systems are much more typical since they're funded as well as maintained by city governments. Septic tanks, nevertheless, are proving to be more preferred as a budget- and eco-friendly choice, while also providing homeowners complete control over their drainage.

A septic system is one of the approaches used to drain wastewater from residences. The system contains a septic tank, which is put below ground someplace to the side or rear of a property. The septic tank receives outbound drains from sinks as well as bathtubs (greywater) and also commodes (blackwater) of a home. Inside the septic tank, crud and waste are divided from the water, and then the water is sent out to an outbound grid of perforated leach field pipes, where the water is leached into the soil.

All septic systems include 2 main components: a septic tank where solids gravitate to the bottom, as well as a leach field (additionally called a drain field) where the water dissipates. Specifics concerning the kind of septic system you have will be detailed in documents you got when you acquired your residence. The state environmental agency or health department may have back-up documents if finding them is a problem. In addition, a plumber could aid in determining just what you have.

Components of a Septic System

The Septic Tank

The objective of the septic tank is to decrease the circulation of water through the septic system for enough time for the solids to settle. It's where solids are liquefied. As the wastewater goes into the container, its motion is brought to a grinding halt. This permits the solids to gravitate to the bottom of the septic tank where enzymes and microorganisms begin to digest them. The procedure starts with the enzymes, which dissolve the natural solids. As soon as dissolved, bacteria begin to do their task by soaking up the fluid. In this procedure of digestion, methane and also various other gasses are generated as a by-product.

The enzyme/bacteria activity has to be preserved in the septic tank to ensure that the solids are dissolved at the normal rate. The more activity within the container the quicker the solids will dissolve. The more solids dissolved, the cleaner the effluent will certainly be when dispersing in the leach field. A proper environment must be maintained for the microorganisms to thrive. This would certainly consist of having the septic tank installed deeply enough to preserve a temperature level over freezing. The enzymes and bacteria thrive at warmer temperature levels. Consequently, in chillier environments, the activity will certainly be slower.

The reality is, there are several sorts of bacteria. Some require oxygen to make it through and are named aerobic bacteria. Others die when exposed to oxygen. These are called anaerobic bacteria. There are good and bad bacteria. Tossing yeast right into the tank will certainly add some kinds of microorganisms, however definitely not nearly enough of the good bacteria to materially aid your septic tank. As such, yeast is considered somewhat practical, however, it is much better utilized for making bread and beer.

Leach Field Design

A leach field plays a critical role in the efficient operation of your septic system. They can't be casually placed and a qualified professional must be involved, so installing a septic system isn't really a great DIY project.

Leach Field System

A substantial investigation is called for prior to placing a septic leach field near your home. One of the most essential determinations is whether the soil will enable water to percolate through. Various other important tests will also be conducted. It’s critical to establish a firm understanding of drainage direction to avoid any possibility of interaction with community water systems. Even groundwater commonality should be avoided as it translates into the water supply.

After approval is received for the installation of a septic system and the leach field is fully tested, engineers will bury a network of 3- or 4-inch perforated pipe at a depth determined by their testing as appropriate for the soil conditions. To encourage the absorption and distribution of the water seeping from the perforated pipes, an aggregate is incorporated to surround them and allow a less impeded flow.

What Challenges Your System?

The microorganisms that do all the work in your septic system are limited in their ability to process some compounds. Catabolizing chlorinated solvents and petroleum products harsh and unable to dissolve metallic substances. These may become part of the septic tank’s sludge or even absorb into the leach field soil.

Cleaning products may damage the efficiency of your system:

  • Laundry bleach - Microbial activity in the leach field may become sluggish, or stop altogether.
  • Sanitizing or Deodorizing Compounds - Similar to the effect caused by the bleach, microbial activity is impeded.
  • Detergents, drain cleaners, and solvents may facilitate the transfer of emulsified, saponified or dissolved fats into the leach field before they’ve had time to be catabolized to organic acids in the scum layer.

A Failed Leach Field

The leach field may over-fill with nonbiodegradables from the septic tank, impeding the water’s ability to commute into the soil. The water will ride the surface and the field will seem wet all the time. Just before you see actual puddles forming, you may notice the grass becoming very lush and green. It makes sense they would suddenly be thriving with the boost in nutrients they would receive from the overflow. Bushes and shrubs will also look lovely. All well and good, enjoy it for a minute, then take a breath. Very soon the odor of sewage will compliment your lovely setting and you’ll know for sure you have a challenge. If you do nothing and the septic system is untreated, it might be time to move… for everyone in range …and nobody’s going to be happy about it. Save yourself the grief and maintain your septic system carefully.

Tips for Planting the leach field

When growing a lawn over a septic tank leach field area, do not include added dirt, unless it is a very small amount to repair erosion effects or replace dirt removed incidentally, such as when removing a plant. If you need to till the soil before you can put down any seed, be extremely careful and DO NOT use a rototiller. The pipes could be as close as 6 inches from the surface, well within the range of an enthusiastic rototiller. When you’re area is ready and you’ve laid down your seed, only cover it with two or three inches of soil. Much more could stop the air and water exchange required for leach field effectiveness.

Why Plant Anything?

There are numerous factors that might motivate you to plant your leach field. Mitigating the risk of erosion is a big one. Plants also enhance the septic system’s efficiency by optimizing the exchange of oxygen and moisture removal through transpiration. From this standpoint, the best choice is grass.

Alternatively, your reasons may be more aesthetic. Perhaps your leach field is the only area to receive regular sunlight, or it’s your front yard. If you’re planting anything but grass, consult the experts before making any decisions on what to plant. Some types of vegetation have root systems that may potentially damage your perforated pipes. If that happens, you’re in for a multitude of problems. Gradual decay of your septic system, leading to floating effluent with the attendant odors, followed by inconvenient and costly repairs. It pays to consult with a septic system professional.

No Vegetables!

Although the drain field may appear to be a vegetable paradise, it is not advisable. Different soils are able to filter contaminants from the effluent, but to varying degrees, and by no means are they guaranteed to filter ALL harmful contaminants. The health risks affiliated with bacterial contaminants make a leach field highly inappropriate for planting any kind of consumable. Even without the health risks, the need to cultivate the soil and maintain it throughout the growth cycle with supplemental watering and fertilization poses a risk to the components of your septic system. Even raised bed planting is not recommended as it interferes with soil moisture evaporation.

Multiple Disposal Areas

Some leach field designs incorporate multiple disposal areas, allowing rotation of which areas are filtering effluent, from a single tank. This lets an area rest periodically. The nematode community will continue to consume the biofilm and fats, naturally cleansing and potentially reducing clogging. This hopefully results in improving the field’s hydraulic capacity as the consumed material is oxidized and increases available interstitial space. The rested area may never fully realize the original percolation rate held prior to resting, but it’ll come close. The potential benefits are felt by many to be worth the risk.

Final Thought

If you feel a septic system is your best option, then it is highly recommended you contact a qualified professional installer for further advice and examination of your property for suitability. They will be able to determine if your property is appropriately configured for installation of a septic system and answer any further questions you may have regarding sustainability and maintenance.

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Contact us today for a free estimate! 214-675-4447

Nortex Septic Design

Site evaluation, Septic System Design and Installation, Designed by Registered Sanitarian

Contact information

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Fairview, TX 75069
Phone: 214-675-4447
Email: info@nortexsepticdesigns.com
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