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Facts and Folklore

We at Dixie Septic Tank Inc. hope the following information will answer some questions regarding the maintenance of your septic system. We also hope it will put to rest some old and new myths regarding these systems.

Septic System Folklore

The folklore of septic systems could probably fill a small book. Like most folklore, the stories reflect elements of truth, ignorance, and humor. The purpose of this pamphlet is to dispel some of the myths about septic systems and explain how they actually work. Hopefully, this information will help you keep your system working well for many years.

How the system works: The septic system is a natural sewage treatment and disposal system. By natural, we mean that it relies on bacteria to digest and clean wastewater. The bacteria in the septic tank literally eat the solids in the tank turning them into liquids and gasses. As you might expect these gasses have a foul odor. To avoid these bad odors they are vented off through pipes on the house roof. The liquid wastes flow to the drainfield. The final purification occurs by organisms living in the soil.

The bacteria in the septic tank eat and digest most of the waste. But there’s always some waste that doesn’t even appeal to these critters. As a result, the Health department and Dixie Septic Tank Inc. recommends pumping out the tank every three (3) to five (5) years. This will remove excess sludge that has accumulated.

Common myths-dead cats and a pound of yeast: Theories abound about the best way to startup a new septic system. Most theories deal with “seeding” the septic tank to get good bacteria growth started. Advice has ranged from flushing a pound of yeast into the system (we don’t recommend this) If you had toast for breakfast or a sandwich for lunch, or drink a beer, the system will get yeast. To seeding the septic tank with manure (we don’t recommend this) all the way to placing a dead cat in the septic tank (we don’t recommend this) Neither Dixie Septic Tank Inc. nor the Health department recommends any of these. See additional comments about additives at the end of this report.

Starting a new system: Most of the folklore is believable because it contains elements of truth. The concept of seeding a septic tank is partially true. Septic systems are biological systems and must have bacteria to work. However no special seeding is necessary to get them started. The simple act of using the system will provide all the bacteria necessary to make the system function well. Let your regular body waste do its thing. Yeast, manure, and especially dead cats will not develop the colony of bacteria in the tank any faster.

Additives for old systems: Septic system folklore doesn’t stop with seeding a new system. Many products are sold that claim to make old systems like new. Other products claim to eliminate the need to pump out the septic tank. Some even say they will kill the roots in the drainage pipe. These products usually contain yeast, bacteria, enzymes or chemical degreasers. None of these have proven to be effective.

People often ask if additives can reduce or eliminate the need to pump a septic tank. It’s a good question. So far, no additive has proven effective in a controlled scientific study. In fact pumping out your tank gives it and the drainfield a chance to dry out and rest for a few days.

Why additives don’t work: Some of the solids in the tank are sand, grit, hair, pieces of plastic and similar materials. No enzyme or bacteria can digest these. Other organic solids are not very digestible. Hence they accumulate. Bacteria that is added must compete with our natural bacteria that are adapted to living in your septic tank. These adapted (natural) bacteria have a home advantage. The newly added organisms can’t compete and become dinner for the resident organisms. Enzymes on the other hand are not living and cannot reproduce. Bacteria grows, enzymes don’t. Whatever is added to the tank is all that will ever be there. Most septic tanks are between 900-1000 gallons or larger and the quantity of enzymes are too low to be helpful.

In short, adding enzymes or bacteria usually won’t cause any problem but they won’t help either. The solution is simple. Pump your tank every three (3) to five (5) years. This solution is easy, safe, and often cheaper than buying septic additives. Apply the money spent on additives to your next pump-out cost.

Additional comment, taken from an industry magazine: Reprinted here with their approval. These reflect other installer’s thoughts about additives.

“ I believe that use of additives to the septic tank is detrimental, as they tend to agitate the scum and sludge layers, creating a “soup,” which then flows into the drainfield, causing irreparable and permanent damage.” Comments from Australia. Additives with “surfactants or emulsifier” in them, can cause much more harm than good.

Many studies have been done regarding septic tank additives.
I have yet to see one showing any positive effects, other than the seller’s profit. Yet I have seen some additives that cause harm. The only exception is if a household member is on chemotherapy or long term antibiotics. These would be killing the naturally occurring bacteria and that is the only time the bacteria would need to be replaced or supplemented. All of the university-related studies I’ve seen show no difference between systems with, and systems without additives.

Yeast has no bacterial value to a septic system: Yeast only breaks down starches. That’s why a baker and brewmaster use yeast. Our body has already broken down the starches going through it.

Like most of the academic world, I agree that additives are not necessary.

If these products worked so well, why would we need a sewage treatment plant? A tank would never have to be pumped. We could run all of the sewage into a holding area, and just add the magic product and forget it. That doesn’t happen and we know it.

The routine maintenance of pumping your tank: After a system is working it requires very little maintenance. About all you have to do is pump the tank every three (3) to five (5) years. The purpose of pumping out the tank is to remove-accumulated solids. These solids can and will stop up the flow of liquids into the drainfield, and plug up the soil where the wastewater is absorbed. When you have your tank pumped, it is wise to inspect the condition of the tank.

Here in Florida, if you had a new tank installed after the year 1994 your tank will have a filter on the outlet end. This should be checked and cleaned every six (6) months. Unscrew the filter cover (this is not the clean out plug usually located close to the house). The filter port is usually located under the sod in the yard on the outlet end of the tank) and with rubber gloves reach down and pull the filter out. rinse it off with water getting all residue out of it and clean it thoroughly, and reinstall it back in its holder. Some filters have a directional flow arrow on them, make sure you reinstall them in the correct position. We at Dixie will be more than happy to guide you through this call us (386) 738-3030. The most often heard myth though is the concept that, “I never had to have my septic tank pumped before.” This reflects an unfortunate attitude of neglect. Another way of looking at is, “If it isn’t broke don’t maintain it.” The health department certainly doesn’t promote this attitude. We prefer to think of it like changing the oil in your car. It’s always wiser to do it before the system stops working.

Septic System FAQs

We are pleased to offer a few articles we have written over the past several years. We hope they might offer tips and answers to questions or issues you may have in regards to septic tanks, septic systems and drain fields. Please contact us directly with specific questions for a personal consultation.

Septic System FAQs
Smart Septic Systems
Going Green
Aggregate Rock System
Equal Distribution™
Pre-Contract Checklist
Septic Systems 101
Septic System Maintenance
Bio-Mat 101
Flushing Medication
Facts and Folklore
Pipe and Rock System
Septic Tank Installation
What is OSTDS?
Fat, Oil and Grease
Septic Industry Problems?
Sewer or Septic System?
Time to Take the Gloves Off!
Failing Septic Systems
Eye Opening Definitions
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Dixie Septic Tank, Inc.

335 N. Boundary Avenue
Deland, Florida 32720

Phone: (386) 738-3030
Fax: (386) 740-7666
Lic# SRO991327
Contact Dixie Septic Tank

Home Page Failing Septic Systems Septic System Maintenance What is OSTDS?
Septic Services Going Green Bio-Mat 101 Fat, Oil and Grease
Smart Septic Systems Aggregate Rock System Flushing Medication Septic Industry Problems?
Concrete Septic Tanks Equal Distribution™ Facts and Folklore Sewer or Septic System?
Septic System FAQs Pre-Contract Checklist Pipe and Rock System Time to Take the Gloves Off!
Contact Us Septic Systems 101 Septic Tank Installation Failing Septic Systems
Septic Tank Cleaning Eye Opening Definitions
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