Septic Tanks and Additives

Written by: Commercial Real Estate Inspectors, LLC

I came across an article the other day that confirmed something I had wondered about for years. The article dealt with septic tanks and whether or not additives are a benefit or not. The article was from Ravalli County Environmental Health Department. It was very informative.

Septic Tanks

“Septic tank additives are unnecessary and may do more harm than good.

The Environmental Health Department has received a number of calls lately from people asking why they need to pump their septic tanks. Many of these folks regularly flush septic tank additives down their toilet believing they are prolonging the life of their septic system.

Based on a number of independent studies on septic tank additives, our recommendation is clear: The use of any type of septic tank additives – either biological or chemical – is unnecessary, is a waste of money, and may actually harm your septic system. Furthermore, there is no substitute for regular septic tank pumping.”

I was personally impressed with how strong a position a governmental agency held. They have no vested interest that I know of to say the above. The article goes into detail as to why this appears to be the case in what I feel are some very convincing arguments.

Per this article minimal maintenance will ensure a properly functioning septic system.

Here is their brief discussion of how septic systems work and how to maintain them.

How Septic Systems Work

Household wastewater flows into a septic tank where it separates into three components – settleable solids (sludge), clarified effluent (liquid), and floatable solids (scum). Both the sludge and the scum are retained in the tank until they’re pumped out. The liquid passes through the tank into a drainfield where it is filtered by the soil and effectively treated by soil microbes.

Individual household wastewater treatment systems are remarkably simple and effective, and require a minimal amount of maintenance from homeowners.

The key word here is “minimal,” because they are not maintenance free!

Recommended maintenance includes regular septic tank pumping – every three to six years on average, depending on use – and for systems with effluent filters, hosing off the filter once or twice a year.

Septic tank pumping is analogous to changing the oil in your car. Doing it regularly will definitely prolong the life of the engine, doing it too often is probably a waste of money, and not doing it at all will surely hasten the engine’s demise.

And just like the myriad oil and gas additives on the market that claim to add life to your car’s engine, so too are there a plethora of products promising problem-free septic systems.

The typical costs for septic tank pumping can be anywhere from $195-$350+ per tank depending on size, location and access.

I hope this helps.

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