Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Does the type of clothes washer I use matter? This is not an easy explanation, but here I go. Yes, top load washers are generally water wasters and too much water does hurt your septic system. Here’s how. Imagine you do 3 loads of laundry in one day. (A) That washer takes 10 gallons to fill up and 4 cycles to complete one load, that’s 40 gallons of water per load. Now multiply that by 3 loads and you have 120 gallons of fresh soapy water. I also need to add that a septic tank is a disgusting, germ ridden place and now add 120 gallons of fresh water. All those germs and bacteria just got pushed out of your septic tank. Now the septic tank needs to “take over” that fresh water. It’s a case of one step forward, take two steps back. It takes time to recover this load. (B) Now your typical front load washer uses about 6 gallons of water.  For it’s compete cycle.  Times that by the three loads and you have 18 gallons of water for you system to process.  Much easier on the entire system.

2.  Does it matter if I use bleach?  Yes, bleach has great anti-septic properties.  Which is why we use it.  To kill germs and bacteria.  Remember this, anything that is anti-septic will harm your septic system.  It’s okay to use in extreme moderations.  If you use too much you can kill the contents of your septic system.   Instead of pumping every 3-6 years you could be pumping every 3-6 months.  If that bacteria in your tank dies due to bleach it will be obvious to me.

3.  Recently I installed a salt-water purifier in my house.  Is it okay for the septic system?  This is a great question.  Here is the answer.  As long as the salt water purifier does it’s nightly purge somewhere else.  Make sure it is not plumbed to discharge into the septic tank.  Here’s the reason.  Salt water changes the specific gravity in the septic tank.  In short, the sludge that used to sink to the bottom, now can’t sink.  It’s held in suspended animation where it will go out to the drainfield.  And it will plug it.  It has plugged pumps and pipes.  A tall tell sign that your tank maybe the purge is that everything in the tank looks blacker than normal.  It will be obvious to me.  I have seen this many time, and it can be corrected by pumping the tank and redirecting the nightly backflush of the purifier.

4.  Why is my septic alarm going off? or My septic alarm went off? or Septic alarm what to do?  When a Septic alarm goes off it’s almost an emergency.  Or it can be.  There is a small potential that the alarm is malfunctioning, but remember why the alarm was installed in the first place.  It means that the levels in the tank are above normal operating levels, and something is wrong.  Usually when the alarm goes off, septic back-up is imminent.  Traditional gravity systems don’t have an alarm.  Reason, gravity has not failed us yet.  That’s right, gravity is doing all the work, we’ve all heard, water flows downhill.  Same thing in a gravity system.  But in a system where your drainfield is located up hill, well, there is a tank and a pump to send the water uphill.  Since there maybe a blown pump, the water has nowhere to go and it will backup in the house or out in the yard.  This is why they install High-Water alarms in these systems.  Now there are Pressurized Drainfield systems, this is where the drainfield, can be located anywhere on your property, uphill or downhill, but your whole drainfield goes under pressure, and mists the waste water throughout the entire drainfield.  In this case a high water alarm was installed in case something went wrong with the pump or drainfield.

Now there are timer systems as well out there. You may ask yourself, why does a septic system needs timers and programmable logic controllers?  There are many reasons, but the easiest to explain is how drainfields like to work.  They like small doses all day and all night long.  All the time everyday.  Traditional systems are “on demand” systems.  The holding tanks and pumps wait for their to be enough water in the tanks.  Then “on” they go and the send out whatever water they gather.  Pump runs until the on/off switch says there’s no more water, turn off.  This is on demand.

Now imagine your septic system in a church.  They get most of there wastewater during Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  A traditional drainfield would not survive very long here.  It would be deluged with water during the weekend, and hopefully recover by Thursday night. This is one step forward, then two back.  It won’t last long.  Our history and data agree.

Now, put in the standard septic tank with a huge holding tank. But now we’ll call it a timed dosing tank. Now we program the pumps to only allow water to go to the drainfield every 2 hrs.  And we only allow the pumps to come on for 45 seconds.  Depending on the tank size, that’s usually 22 gallons every 2 hrs.  Now I know what you’re thinking, it won’t take long to fill those tanks.  During the weekend rush, the water will be going in faster than what is being treated and released.  Correct.  But we put in a big enough of a surge tank to handle that.  So when Monday morning comes, it is still discharging 22 gallons every 2 hrs.  and it will process that all the way through through Thursday night.  Ready for Friday to begin.

Now, you’re thinking, what does that have to do with the Alarm?  Okay, here it goes.  There is a high level alarm.  In case you have a huge wedding and party on the weekend at this church.  The alarm bypasses the timer and goes back to on demand dosing, but gives you an audible warning saying, “hey, you are giving me too much water to handle” you better cut back, or it can hurt the drainfield.”

This is true, now in some jurisdictions, this Safety feature is disabled.  It is disabled in our County.  We are not allowed to have this feature here.  In Clark County if the alarm goes off, you just simply better stop running water.  Or wastewater is coming back into the church.  Now at first glance you’d think, what are they thinking?  It makes sense to have the alarm go off and have the pumps go into an “emergency state” and discharge the water.  But in my experience, and those in the Health Department, this will turn into a regular occurrence and problems wont be addressed or corrected.

If this problem is frequent enough, or it happens all the time.  Then a bigger surge tank needs to be put in and a bigger drainfield to handle the church’s new wastewater load.

This timer system isn’t only for churches, it’s good for bars and nightclubs too.  Think about it.  Their wastewater surge is between 9-2 am.  And it’s a huge wastewater load too.  It would flood the drainfield, and then it better dried up and ready again by nightfall.  Not  a very good way of treating wastewater.

Another component in some septic systems is a Sand Filter.  A Sand Filter is basically a giant bathtub installed in the ground, with different grades of gravel to sand at different stages put into it.  Then there is a pump at the bottom.  This pump waits until there is enough water to send a dose out to the drainfield.

Now a Sand Filter is an Aerobic Environment.  What does that mean?  Okay, Simply put the bacteria in the Sand Filter need Oxygen to survive.  The Sand filter does it’s treatment in an Aerobic state.  If the pump was ever to fail the water would fill the Sand Filter, and then it would go Anaerobic, and die.  Effectively drowning the Sand Filter, if you have one of these components, you need to call someone quickly.  You don’t want your sand filter to drown.  Sometimes, they won’t come back.  and need replaced.

I know I rambled a lot on this question.  There are many reasons why the alarm maybe going off.  But honestly, you better make a call quickly.  Cause something bad may happen.

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4 thoughts on “Frequently Asked Questions

  1. I emptied my tank last night and this morning the alarm was going off! One kid had showered. Why would it go off?

    1. Hi Kristin,

      It sounds like a low level alarm, or it could be a high level alarm. High level alarm might indicate that the service technician forgot to turn the system back on after cleaning.

      I would contact your septic company that you paid to clean the tank and ask them to send out a service van to see what’s going on.

      It has to be something simple, like they forgot to turn your system back on. Or open a valve.

      Let me know if you need anything else. And thanks for writing.


  2. Our installer has recently raised our aerator above ground level to hopefully stop low flow alarms from water leaking into risers. However they have sealed around risers several times and it is still leaking and still holding water about 6″ below the aerator. We were told that we are to remove any water and check for condensation on clear pvc outlet piece if it alarms again. Are all homeowners responsible for doing this on an ongoing basis? Also, any ideas on why they can’t get leaking stopped? And should water be covering the outlet which the aerator is plugged into?

    1. Hi Nancy,

      I am sorry to hear about your issues you are having with your aerobic treatment plant. Ground water should not be getting in and there should be no homeowner involvement in keeping your system running. Ground water intrusion can be a tricky problem to solve, but it’s not your problem. I don’t know where you live, but the installers in my area cover this under their 2 year warranty. I would contact the installer, and have them fix it. The only involvment you have is to silence the alarm and call the installer/service provider to find out what’s going on and fix it.

      I hope this helps you, but if it doesn’t, please don’t hesitate to write back,


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