Morse Engineering and Construction Industries

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Safe Detergents and Cleaning Products for Septic Tanks

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, July 26, 2018
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries - Septic System Construction Fiskdale, MA

Septic tanks use special concrete drainage tanks, buried underground in your home's yard, to let waste products from the home decompose naturally. These tanks require a delicate balance of bacteria and enzymes to quickly break down waste, and some home cleaning products and detergents can disturb this balance. Using the right chemicals can prevent expensive tank maintenance and serious health problems.

Natural Drain Cleaners

Drain cleaning and clearing products often contain harsh degreasing agents and other toxic chemicals. These unclogging products can damage your septic tank drain fields by disturbing decomposing grease in the tank. They also can loosen accumulated material on the inside of plumbing pipes and create a clog in the septic system. Natural drain unclogging products include those that use vinegar and baking soda, according to the Kent County, Delaware, Department of Public Works. Pouring a half-cup of baking soda and a cup of vinegar into your clogged drain also can remove the clog through the foaming process of the two safe household materials.

Liquid Laundry Detergents

Powder laundry detergents, even those that claim they are safe for use in septic systems, can create serious clogs in your tank, according to Laundry Alternative. Powders contain granulated plastic and other materials that don't break down fully during the laundry process. When these materials enter your drain pipes and septic tank, they settle or stick to the sides and build up over time. Eventually you have a clog that requires professional removal. Liquid laundry detergents dissolve completely, and many are available with nontoxic and natural ingredients that do not disturb the enzyme balance of the septic field.

Phosphate-Free Dishwasher Detergents

Phosphates are a common surfactant used in all types of detergents, including dishwashing liquids. Flushing high amounts of phosphates into your septic tank can kill bacteria and enzymes used in the waste decomposition process, according to Inspectapedia. Surfactants pollute water and kill fish and other wildlife, and some forms like phosphates can stay intact until they reach an open body of water. Phosphates also cause dangerous algae blooms. Dishwashing detergents rarely disclose exactly how much phosphate is in the product, so choosing a detergent that is completely free of phosphates is the best choice.

Non-Antibacterial Products

Overuse of antibacterial sprays and hand cleaners can disturb your septic tank's performance, according to the Arizona Cooperative Extension. Products containing bleach are also problematic. Toilet bowl cleaners, sink or bathtub sprays and hand soaps all contribute to the destruction of beneficial bacteria in the septic tank. Limit the use of antibacterial and bleach-based cleaners to keep your septic tank healthy.

For more information on septic tank care, maintenance, and repair, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


How Often Should I Pump My Septic System?

Joseph Coupal - Friday, July 20, 2018
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries - Septic System Repair

We get this question a lot. It is important to know that regular maintenance is the most important thing in making sure your septic system works well.

Regular pumping helps prevent solids from escaping into the drainfield and clogging soil pores. While pumping frequency is a function of use, MassDEP recommends that systems be pumped at least once every three years for homes not having a garbage disposal. If the home's system has a garbage disposal, it should be pumped every year.

If you are a nonresidential system owner, you should determine how often to pump based on prior accumulation and pumping records. Often you can look at pumping intervals to gauge your pumping schedule (i.e., previously did you wait too long before having your tank pumped and it was filled to capacity, or could you have waited a little longer to pump?).

An amazing number of system owners believe that if they haven't had any problems with their systems, they don't need to pump out their tanks. Unfortunately this is a serious and sometimes costly misconception. As your system is used, solid materials settle to the bottom of the tank, forming a sludge layer. Grease and lightweight materials float to the surface of the septic tank as scum.

Normally, properly designed tanks have enough space for up to three to five years' safe accumulation of sludge. When the sludge level increases beyond this point, sewage has less time to settle properly before leaving the tank. As the sludge level increases, more solid wastes escape into the soil absorption system (SAS). If the SAS becomes so clogged that it cannot absorb liquid at the rate at which it enters the tank, the plumbing will "back up" or unsanitary wastewater will bubble to the surface.

When hiring a pumper, be sure the local Board of Health has licensed them, and always make sure you get a paid receipt from the pumper that spells out the details of the transaction (how many gallons were pumped out of the tank, the date, the charges, and any other pertinent results). Retain this receipt for your records. The pumper sends a copy of this report to the local Board of Health.

For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.

Septic Systems & Title 5 New Construction

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, July 12, 2018
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries - Septic System Repair

Whether you're building a new septic system or upgrading an existing one, there are Title 5 requirements that apply to new construction. If you are building a new septic system (including a conventional septic system or an innovative/alternative (I/A) system) or upgrading an existing one, there are Title 5 requirements that must be followed in order to prevent damage to human health and the environment. Whether or not you are the person actually doing the construction, it is always the system owner's responsibility to ensure things are done in accordance with Title 5 regulations. If you have questions related to building or expanding a new Title 5 system, you should contact your local Board of Health directly as they are the primary regulatory authority for new construction.

Bear in mind that building a new septic system or upgrading an existing one is very different from repairing a system that has failed. If your septic system has failed, you need to take action to fix it. Failing septic systems are expensive to repair or replace, and poor maintenance is often the culprit. Check with a septic system professional or your local Board of Health if you have problems with your system. If you have financial hardship, you may want to look at opportunities for financial assistance.

For new construction of a system, the first step is to go to your local Board of Health as well as your local Building Department. You will need to obtain permits from both separately. You should initially provide each department with a verbal explanation of what you're proposing.

In your initial conversation with the Board of Health and Building Department, it is important to ask them what Title 5 requirements and local requirements must be complied with in your particular case, and what specific approvals are needed from them. Both Departments will give you applications to be completed and returned. Once the Board of Health and Building Department have approved your applications, they will send you a letter in writing that either a) approves the request, b) approves the request but with specific conditions that must be met or c) denies the request.

Also, the Board of Health will tell you whether MassDEP has to approve any of the applications. MassDEP reviews an application only after the Board of Health has made a final decision. You must ensure that all of the necessary approvals from the Board of Health, the Building Department, and MassDEP, if appropriate, are received before you or anyone else begins any work.

Depending on the type of work you're proposing and approved for, you may need to hire a licensed system inspector to verify the location of system components, and perform the necessary work. There can be a variety of professionals involved: designer, soil evaluator, installer, inspector. However, even if you've hired a licensed inspector or system designer to do the work, you as the system owner are always responsible for your system. As work is being completed, you should be getting regular and detailed information and receipts from the professionals you've hired. For more information, refer to the Local Septic Management Homeowner Checklist.

If you have specific questions, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


Septic Tank Pumping: When to Clean the Tank

Joseph Coupal - Wednesday, July 04, 2018
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries - Septic System Construction Fiskdale, MA

Common septic tank pumping frequency mistakes

Failure to pump the septic tank frequently enough: leading to an early drainfield failure and costly repairs

Pumping or cleaning the septic tank too frequently, wasting money (though you're wasting a lot less money than the cost of a new drainfield.

Some septic pumping contractors and some other "experts" give a fixed rule of thumb that serves their own interest, such as "pump your septic tank every year" or "pump your septic tank every two years".

Contractors may give this advice without first having actually considered any information about the septic system capacity, level of usage, age, or other conditions. It's a great example of "OPM" or "other people's money" - spending someone else's money to reduce your risk that they'll complain that your advice wasn't safe enough.

Pumping the septic tank with the fantasy that doing so will "fix" a clogged or failed drainfield. All you really gain is a few days of toilet flushing before the tank has re-filled.

Actually inspecting the septic system, diagnosing any problems or failures, and inspecting conditions inside the septic tank will tell us whether the tank is being pumped at the correct frequency.

The removal of septic waste by cleaning the septic tank is a critical step in septic system care as it extends the life of the septic field. Even if you don't care how septic systems work you need to know when to clean the septic tank by pumping out septic waste.

For more information on septic system pumping and inspections, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.