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Dec
11
2011

The Absolute Truth About Septic Tank Additives: They Don’t Work

by Karl Holt

Many property owners in the United States must use on-site waste water treatment systems, or septic systems, to treat organic waste water created on their property. Estimates are that somewhere between one-quarter to one-third of all waste water is treated by property owners with septic systems.

Since these systems are underground, they are often forgotten about. But when problems occur, homeowners remember how expensive this asset is. Therefore, it is only natural for these property owners to want to maintain their septic system and keep it working efficiently for as long as possible. Unfortunately, they fall for the hype from television commercials for sellers of septic system additives who claim that their products will revive and keep septic systems flowing freely along with extending the time between septic tank pumping.

These assertions, however, are absolutely untrue! In fact, studies conducted by the Kansas State University and Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service found the opposite to be true. DeAnn Presley, K-State Research and Extension soil management specialist said:

This research has found no benefit in septic tank function to using any type of septic system additives. In fact, some additives potentially could be detrimental to the function or components of the septic system or to groundwater quality.”1

Presley further added:

One research study, for example, found that the use of a biological additive caused the solid sludge layer at the bottom of the septic tank to decompose too rapidly. This led to rapid gas production.”2

The county and city of Peoria, Illinois, alerts consumers  that the use of septic tank additives is not warranted.  They say:

…………..don’t use septic tank additives (these do not help and sometimes can be harmful to your system.)”3

You could spend days searching the Internet and never find a single scientific study that concludes that any septic tank additive works. The reason, despite manufacturers’ and sellers’ claims, is that there simply isn’t any research that proves the effectiveness of these additives. Most research has, in fact, suggested just the opposite; septic tank additives are harmful to septic tank systems.

Some scam artists urge that bacteria or enzymes be added to new or recently pumped septic tanks. They claim the bacteria are needed to help dissolve waste. Wrong! Human waste supplies the septic tank with ample quantities of bacteria for the septic tank to break down waste efficiently.

Research by two universities, however, does prove that aeration of the water in a septic tank changes the bacterial environment from anaerobic to aerobic, allowing up to 40 times more active bacteria to consume and break down organic waste in the septic tank and the drainfield. Studies from Purdue University4 and Baylor University5 concluded that the addition of an aeration system to a septic tank improved the over all system operation and prevented early septic system failures.

So, don’t be taken in by scam artists who offer nothing but empty promises. Only a controlled aeration of a septic tank can convert the system from an anaerobic to aerobic environment. This conversion has shown to be a valuable tool in the treatment of wastewater by septic tank systems and reviving failed or failing septic systems.

1http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/news/story/septic_tank021709.aspx

2http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/news/story/septic_tank021709.aspx

3http://www.co.peoria.il.us/pcchd/sewage

4http://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/HENV/HENV-14-W.pdf

5http://sharepoint.byecommerce.com/Private/case_studies/Case_Studies/Baylor%20Univ

Your Comments

4 Comments so far

  1. steve says:

    I have to agree with the conclusion that septic tank additives are not necessary,however the introduction of aeration into a septic tank can cause other problems. These problems are as follows: premature clogging of effluent filters due to the rapid growth of bacteria wanting to attach to any surface available. Premature breakdown of the concrete due to corrosive gases.
    It is always best to let the septic tank function as intended and add another component specifically designed to treat the wastewater in controlled conditions.

    • admin says:

      Steve: I would like to offer some facts regarding your misconceptions. Our patented bio-brush provides media for the attached growth bacteria, so the growth on the filter is negligible. Concrete and steel tanks corrode only in an anaerobic process (septic- lacking oxygen). The anaerobic bacteria produce hydrogen sulfide gas. The hydrogen sulfide gas will mix with low levels of oxygen and water in the head space and produce hydrochloric acid. The hydrochloric acid attacks the concrete or steal near the water line. Converting the tank to aerobic eliminates the anaerobic bacteria, thus eliminating the hydrochloric acid. No acid, no corrosion. Many people install our product specifically for this reason. Thanks, Karl

  2. Tom says:

    Karl,
    Can you validate what you say by leading me to University studies available on line for reading. I have known people who have never done anything to their septic systems for 30 years and more and have had no problems. I went 20 years without doing anything to my system till I refinanced and the bank required the septic system be pumped. The pumper said the system was fine, but because the bank said I needed it done he performed the operation.
    Thanks,
    Tom

    • admin says:

      Tom:

      Below are links to university studies:

      https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/HENV/HENV-14-W.pdf

      http://www.aero-stream.com/wp-content/uploads/CS-01-Baylor-University-Study.pdf

      The average septic system life expectancy is 15-20 years with a range of 5 – 50 years. It is not a matter of if a system is going to fail, but when will it fail. A tank should be pumped when the combined solids and scum layer reach about 25% of the tank volume. Each system develops sludge/scum at a different rate depending on use, misuse and biological make-up of the system users. Typically a tank needs pumping every 3 – 5 years.

      A septic system relies on holding time in the tank to breakdown the organic material. When a 1,000 gallon tank is about 25% filled with solids and scum its’ functional treatment capacity is only 750 gallons. This results in a 25% reduction in the amount of organic treatment being completed. The effluent flowing to the field has 25% more organic material suspended in it accelerating the growth of the bio-mat.

      The old wives’ tale is that a properly functioning septic tank never needs pumping. This is true in a PERFECT environment. However: we live in less than a PERFECT world so solids will accumulate in the tank. Anyone that believes a tank never needs pumping simply does not understand how a system works.

      Feel free to contact us if you have any further questions


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