Dirty Thoughts

How often do you think about your septic system? I mean really think about it, dive into it, somewhere between the top layer of fats and oils and the bottom layer of solids and consider just how important it is to our health and environment.

First and foremost, your septic tank is more than just a waste holder, it’s a biological wonderland. Just the word “septic” refers to an anaerobic bacteria environment for decomposition. Bacteria from our bodies, our food, and products we use all end up in the tank playing a role in the decomposition of the wastes we “flush”. As we all remember from biology class, anaerobic bacteria work without oxygen.  In the septic tank then, anaerobic bacteria are working to get rid of nitrates that would otherwise cause algae blooms in the water shed. We have seen how disastrous an overabundance of nitrogen in water can be. One particular example is the dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico caused by fertilizer run off in the Mississippi river. Nitrogen found in the fertilizers (along with other chemicals) have caused algal blooms on the surface of the water, removing the oxygen in the water that is important for plant and animal life. We are talking specifically about nitrogen in water, and not nitrogen in the soil, and even more specifically about issues with industrial agriculture.

Looking inside the septic tank, one would see three developed layers: fats & oils, water, and solid waste. As your household waste enters the tank a series of bacterial processes occur to break down whats coming in. Fats, oils and solids are not broken down by the bacteria in the tank and are known as sludge. Sludge stays in the tank and has to be pumped out. What the bacteria does breakdown is added into the water that makes up the middle layer, and is then sent out of the tank into the drain field. The drain field is comprised of gravel, coarse sand or plastic chambers, and pipes. As the “clarified water” is leeched out, it runs across a filtration surface and is further separated and broken down by aerobic  bacteria found naturally in the soil. These bacteria work to finish breaking down waste and destroy pathogenic organisms that could cause serious health problems. This is why septic system design and implementation is so heavily regulated.We depend on our septic systems to function properly so that we have safe, clean water for human and animal consumption and agricultural purposes; and so that our land does not become a health hazard or worse: inhospitable. The picture in my mind is like something out of Mad Max, people with extra or missing limbs/organs or serious health problems and land that can’t support life.

 

Last Friday, the septic tank for our Loveland site was delivered. Check out some of the photos below:

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