Q&A / 

Septic Tanks and Oxygen Bleach

There's a big misunderstanding about how septic tanks work and whether it's a good or bad idea to add oxygen bleach to a septic tank. Let's clear the tank, er air, now about all this confusion.

Let me start by telling you up front two things: I'm a master plumber with decades of experience with raw sewage, septic tanks, municipal sewer lines and all that swirls into these systems. When I was still active each day in the plumbing business, I was a licensed master plumber for over 25 years.

I'm also the co-founder of Stain Solver. At the time of this writing, it was the only Certified organic oxygen bleach I'm aware of sold in the consumer marketplace.

Here are a few of the myths surrounding septic tanks and oxygen bleach:

Myth 1: Septic tanks are anaerobic - meaning there's no oxygen - and the bacteria in the tank THRIVE in this environment.

FACTS: The wastewater flowing into a septic tank is no different than the wastewater flowing into a city or town sewer line. What's different is that the waste going to a septic system is entering a CONFINED SPACE with little or no access to atmospheric oxygen. The bacteria in a septic system does NOT thrive in the absence of oxygen.

Wastewater going to a municipal sewage treatment plant is exposed to oxygen and air as it travels in the sewage lines. In many instances the wastewater in the sewer lines is agitated and falls just like water gurgles in a forest stream or brook. This agitation adds oxygen to the wastewater as it travels to the sewage plant.

Wastewater in a septic system is stagnant and devoid of movement. As the waste decomposes, methane gas is produced and fills the air space above the wastewater in the tank forcing out any oxygen in the tank. This is what makes the environment inside a septic system ANAEROBIC. It's not by choice the wastewater enters this oxygen-deprived pit.

Myth 2: The bacteria in a septic system is different than the bacteria in a sewage treatment plant.

FACTS: Once again, the wastewater entering both systems is the same. Same toilet water. Same solid waste from humans. Same liquid waste from humans. Same gray water from laundry, kitchen sinks, bathroom sinks, showering, etc.

The wastewater has the same bacteria in it and pathogens no matter what system it enters.

The brand new septic tanks from the concrete, plastic or fiberglass manufacturing plant do NOT come with secret anaerobic bacteria loaded into to them. The tanks are clean and new.

Myth 3: Septic tanks are completely different than a municipal sewage system and that's why they're anaerobic.

FACTS: For decades jet aeration septic systems have been hidden under the grass of many homes. These systems are miniature sewage treatment plants. They were installed because the building lots were too small to support a traditional leach field.

An electric motor sits on top of the tank. A hollow shaft is connected to the motor. At the end of the shaft is a propeller. When the electric motor is turned on by a timer, air (oxygen) is forced into the tank and the propeller stirs up the sewage and ADDS the oxygen to the sludge.

The bacteria in the tank THRIVES in the presence of this oxygen and rapidly works to consume and decompose the solid waste in the septic tank.

The liquid water exiting the tank is CRYSTAL CLEAR and only needs to be treated by passing through a chlorine tablet to remove the final pathogens before flowing out on top of the soil where your toddlers play and roll in the grass.

Myth 4: Municipal sewage treatment plants perform magic on wastewater before allowing it to flow back into the rivers you swim, water-ski and boat in.

FACTS: No. There's NO MAGIC. When the wastewater enters the sewage plant, it goes to a massive settling tank where the solid things that didn't come out of our bodies settle out. This can be sand, clay, plastic caps, plastic army men, or any other object that's flushed down a toilet that didn't come out of our bodies.

As the wastewater makes it's journey to the sewage plant, the solid waste from our bodies is broken down as the water flows through the sewer pipes. When the wastewater gets to the sewage plant, it's a stew of nasty WATER that's an ugly color.

Once this liquid that's full of tiny solid waste particles has settled, it's transferred to the secondary treatment part of the plant. This is where OXYGEN is added to the sewage so the oxygen can help the bacteria in the wastewater to break down and decompose the microscopic solids in the wastewater.

The secondary treatment can be huge spray arms where the liquid waste water is pumped and allowed to drop back into the massive tank. Think of it as a giant rotating lawn sprinkler. There are other systems that incorporate huge linear waterfalls that stir up the water and add oxygen by the water splashing. Air can be pumped into the wastewater with giant bubblers.

This secondary treatment can last for hours or a day or two. The end result is treated water that's safe enough to dump back into the river you catch fish from and swim in. Well, that's if you trust the people working at the sewage plant and if everything is working properly.

Be aware in periods of heavy rain, sewage treatment plants can overload and dump RAW SEWAGE into rivers. This happens in older cities where the storm water drains and municipal sewers are interconnected. The sewage plants can't handle all of the storm water and sewage at the same time in periods of heavy rain.

Myth 5: Adding BLEACH to a septic tank is very BAD.

FACTS: It depends on the type of bleach you add. If you add CHLORINE bleach, that's VERY BAD. Chlorine bleach is a SANITIZER. It KILLS BACTERIA rapidly.

You want the bacteria in the tank to LIVE AND THRIVE, not DIE.

Oxygen bleach FEEDS AND HELPS the bacteria thrive and survive. Thus, it's a GREAT IDEA to ADD Oxygen Bleach to a septic system.

BOTTOM LINE: If you have a septic system and want to HELP the bacteria in the system, you should ADD OXYGEN to your septic tank. If you can figure a way to pump air into the sludge like you'd blow into a straw in a soda, do that.

If you can't do that, then just add Stain Solver to your septic tank once, twice or four times a month depending on how many people are in your home.

I add one-half cup to my septic system once a week. I pour it into the toilet and flush it TWICE. It's that easy. My septic tank LOVES me.

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2 Responses to Septic Tanks and Oxygen Bleach

  1. Great article that explains the processes in layman's english. So how can I tell if it's working, or just assume it is? Can the septic pumper guy tell? Can we pump less frequently (assuming there's no non-biodegradeable things added to the system - i.e. baby wipes, etc)?

  2. Very interesting.....I had no idea.....but will forward this email to my sister in ky, they were needing a new septic tank, but instead of buying a new one for ($4,000.) this guy that does handy work on them, told her all she needed was a top.....so he cleaned it out, and put on a new top.....is this going to work ? Wouldn't the tank in the ground be rotted too ? Some one had told her she needed to get a new one, but she went this route.....hope she won't be sorry....I believe she said it cost her $500.00.....

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