ARE ADDITIVES USEFUL? - Septic System Additives and Chemicals - are they needed?
Septic Additive Companies are Asked for Independent Supporting Research
Many septic treatment producers and distributors contact us with suggested products. We ask for independent, peer-reviewed, professional research supporting each suggested product. Such support is particularly needed for two reasons:
The high cost of replacing a failed septic absorption field or seepage pit system naturally breeds an industry of "magic bullets" which are questionable (see the citations which follow.)
Because of the lack of demonstrated effectiveness, and perhaps more important, because some septic additives or cleaners are dangerous or can cause serious ground water contamination they are illegal in many jurisdictions.
Septic tank additives or "rejuvenators" are not needed in your septic tank, whether the additives are chemically-based (organic or inorganic compounds that claim to break up sludge or scum or to unclog drainfields), or biologically-based septic additives (septic tank yeast cultures, septic tank bacteria, starter bacteria, or septic tank enzymes).
Some septic tank or septic drainfield additives such as yeast or harsh chemicals can actually damage the septic system. Yeast can cause frothing and excessive activity in the septic tank, preventing normal settling of solids and coagulation of greases. This agitation forces solid waste into the drainfield and by clogging the soil, shortens its life. Other septic chemicals intended to kill tree roots or unclog clogged leachfield soils can contaminate the environment.
Can Some Conditions Kill Off Needed Septic Tank Bacteria?
If other conditions at a property have resulted in killing-off the (needed) septic tank bacteria (such as adding unusually large amounts of bleach, disinfectants, or antibiotics to a septic tank) some folks sell bacterial "starters" to "rejuvenate" the septic tank. To me this makes little sense for the following reasons:
Calculations of "septic tank die-off" which demonstrate that about 2 gallons of bleach is likely to harm septic tank bacteria have been based on a "static septic system", a fixed septic tank volume into which no new wastewater, sewage, and their diluting and re inoculating effect have been considered.
If you don't correct the conditions that have caused a bacterial die-off in the septic tank, no amount of starter or booster is going to make any difference.
Adding products such as enzymes which claim to break down grease risk destroying the floating scum layer in the septic tank, forcing unwanted oils and debris into the leach field.
As soon as you stop putting inappropriate bleach, disinfectant, or antibiotics into the septic system and after the first time someone uses a toilet, the septic tank has been re inoculated with what it needs.
Forcing hydrogen peroxide or other chemicals into drainfield or leach field soils can damage the soil and contaminate the environment.