Septic Tanks

 

Hello John,
We have recently been having problems with the drainage from our villa, the water goes down the toilet very slowly and the garden where our septic tank is situated is very soggy and smelly, have you any suggestions.

 

David P.  Calpe


These are sure signs that your septic tank is not working properly. It may be of help to firstly explain how a septic tank works and then explain what may have gone wrong and what can be done to resolve your problem.


A septic tank is basically a concrete, block work, steel, fibre glass or plastic tank which collects waste water from your property and converts the solids and liquids into a cleaner liquid effluent before discharging it into the filter bed. A septic tank uses anaerobic bacteria that digest the solid waste; anaerobic bacteria are capable of living or growing in an environment lacking free oxygen. These bacteria grow in the septic tank and digest the solids that are in the wastewater. The bacteria reduce the solids into liquid, fats and grease, and insoluble particles. The fine insoluble particles settle to the bottom of the septic tank forming sludge, greases and fats float to the top forming a scum layer and the cleaner liquid effluent in the centre flows through an outlet pipe into the filter bed. Even if the system appears to be working well, sludge in the bottom may have built up to the point where waste water is released without sufficient time in the tank for treatment and settling of particles. This situation may result in pollution of groundwater or cause eventual clogging of the filter bed. When these conditions occur, waste water does not move through the soil as it should and instead rises to the surface creating a serious health risk and odour problems. Toilets run slowly or backup: in the worst cases sewage enters under builds and lower areas of the property.


Your first course of action is to find the septic tank and have it pumped out; however that may be easier said than done. Quite often the Spanish septic tanks are not easy to find, do not have inspection access, are not well built and hence vey difficult to service. On average a septic tank should be pumped out every 2 to 5 years, the frequency drops as the number of people using the system increases. Once the tank has been emptied it needs to be inspected, not a nice job but a necessary one, any faults found need to be rectified before reuse. Once the tank is ready to reuse it should be restarted by adding an additive which can be bought from most hardware shops or by the addition of a kilogram of raw liver. This will promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the septic tank, healthy bacteria is essential for proper septic tank operation as healthy bacteria digests organic waste. Once you up and running again there are some simple rules to follow of what not to throw down your toilet, the following items will either stop the anaerobic bacteria from working or will block up the filter bed, these are - fats, motor oil, grease, cooking oils, ammonia, bleach, detergent in excess, epsum salts, paint thinner, cat litter, panty liner, sanitary towels/tampons, cotton wool, cloths dryer sheets, medicines, coffee grounds and food scraps. Also try to avoid overloading the system - this is the primary cause of system failures. Early morning and bedtime are peak water use times in the bathroom. Run dishwashers and washing machines at other times of the day. Don't do all the family laundry in one day. Dense grass cover and other shallow rooted plants are beneficial over a septic field, however, do not plant trees because large plant roots can clog or break the pipes. Also avoid compacting the soil over the filtration area eg. do not drive or park vehicles over the area and do not build a shed or driveway in this area. These activities can also crack pipes or cause the tank to settle unevenly, meaning that effluent will only flow into part of the filter bed.

John Phillips (F.I.A.S. F.A.B.E. M.I.B.C.O. F.F.B. M.R.S.H. C.M.W.O.B.O. M.B.I.M)
Construction Buena Vista

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Urb. Palmeria. Orba 03790

 

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