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Thread: Bio Additives/Enzymes for Septic Tanks

  1. #1
    DIY Senior Member Mike50's Avatar
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    Default Bio Additives/Enzymes for Septic Tanks

    I'd appreciate it if anyone can make a recommendation about additives.
    I have not emptied my septic for 6 years which I'm pretty happy about.

    Many people will swear by their favorite additive to maintain a healthy system.
    I'm skeptical and would really like to see some solid research that these products are effective enough to justify the up to 20 dollar price tag.

    It sems a lot like the cheap gas additive/cleaners-do we know they work?

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    Plumber Cass's Avatar
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    Don't be to happy over the fact you haven't pumped your tank.

    You think you saved $$$ but not pumping on a regulsr basis is the worst thing you can do. It will shorten the life of the leach field by letting things go to it that shouldn't. Have it pumped, then use the additives if you like.

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    DIY Senior Member Mike50's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cass
    Don't be to happy over the fact you haven't pumped your tank.

    You think you saved $$$ but not pumping on a regulsr basis is the worst thing you can do. It will shorten the life of the leach field by letting things go to it that shouldn't. Have it pumped, then use the additives if you like.

    Based on your expertise Cass..I'm going to make some calls and look into this. To be perfectly honest, I have never heard that before from anyone/neighbors who have lived here for quite a while. I only hear about it when
    their tanks are full and *must* be pumped.

    I live in a very desirable rustic community near Palm Springs, CA. However
    I know for a fact that when these homes were originally built in the 70's-they did NOT use premium materials.
    I guess what I'm saying is that my instincts tell me that when I *Need* it pumped-it will in fact need replacing.
    I'm sure you can understand wanting to delay that expense...?

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    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    Cass is right.

    It's much better to pump the solids out on a regular basis, and prevent damage in the first place.

    Pumping is a few hundred dollars.

    Drainfield replacement can run thousands of dollars.

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    DIY Senior Member Mike50's Avatar
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    Got it. Makes sense...

    I am curious about one thing Terry. When I have my tank pumped-is there anything diagnostic wise to determine the condition of the system to predict
    how many more years of use I can expect?
    It's not curiosity-It's all about managing finances and ear marking cash for something like that.
    Last edited by Mike50; 05-11-2006 at 04:26 PM.

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    Plumber Cass's Avatar
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    There is realy no way to dertermine the life expectancy of the leach field. It would be based on size, amount of usage, and frequency of pumping. That being said the average life is between 30-50 years.

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    DIY Member mariner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike50
    I'd appreciate it if anyone can make a recommendation about additives.
    I have not emptied my septic for 6 years which I'm pretty happy about.

    Many people will swear by their favorite additive to maintain a healthy system.
    I'm skeptical and would really like to see some solid research that these products are effective enough to justify the up to 20 dollar price tag.

    It sems a lot like the cheap gas additive/cleaners-do we know they work?

    Hi Mike,

    I am in a similar situation myself, however I know that my system has not been pumped in quite a few years (I recently purchased the property eight months ago) by the previous owner(s).

    When I first moved in last fall, after reading up on the myriad of different products, I decided to try Septic Seep. If their claims were legit., then it might help. I received the stuff and did a search on what the product was and found it to be basically a nitrogen fertilizer with a little something else added to it. I used it and have noticed a change at the start of the leechfield where there was a wet spot - it is now dry and the soil more like ordinary dirt instead of clay looking. Since then I have bought and used a nitrogen fertilizer a couple of times (46-0-0) to try and help the leechfield. I know I am going to have to spend some money on my system very soon - something I didn't know about when purchasing the property (rural). I thought a little help wouldn't do any harm at this stage. In fact I have someone coming on Monday to locate my tank and then we go from there.

    Over the years I have used different products in my septic tanks in the trailers I have owned. One in particular seems to work well and the tank actuallly smells much better for its use. The product is Septo-bac and is for septic systes as a whole. Don't know exactly what it does other than being bacteria and enzymes that are supposed to assist in the breakdown of the fecal matter.

    I have to agree with the comment about pumping out frequently for just a couple of hundred dollars at a time. Not pumping until something goes wrong is the expensive and shortsighted approach. When you "have" to pump, chances are you have left it too late and expensive work is looming on the horizon. I know I am going to have to shell out some big bucks because of the tightfisted approach of previous owners (I will be going after them for some adjustment as the system was said to be working well!!!! with no problems).

    Hope this helps Mike - I am learning a lot since buying this place and from what I have learned, there is no substitute for regular maintenance (in anything), especially septic systems.

    Mariner

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    DIY Senior Member Mike50's Avatar
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    Thanks for your post Mariner- I will make note of the additives and have now decided to do a "preemptive" pump because of the pro advice here. lol

    I will be curious to hear the pros comment on your situation.

    To date I have had no problems with my system for 6 years. It's my understanding that here in California escrow requires pumping/inspection of the tank
    prior to sale. The previous owner conveniently "forgot" to have this done
    before closing. It was discovered and she DID pay to have it pumped. (before escrow close)

    I also am in the country BTW. They call this area "Rustic" probably because it's very close to the big city.
    "Country" issues like septic tanks are a very small price to pay for the beauty and peace I enjoy. I'm sure you know what I mean. :-)

    I don't know the laws where you live in B.C.----but it's not Kosher and not legal
    to inherit a badly compromised system here.

    Mike50
    Last edited by Mike50; 05-12-2006 at 10:25 AM.

  9. #9
    DIY Senior Member Mike50's Avatar
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    Alrighty. I made some calls regarding pumping/new tank information
    which was pretty enlightening.

    Regarding additives:

    Company 1:
    sells their own brand or recommends RID-X.

    Company 2:
    says do-not-waste-your-money. They are all useless as
    food and waste contain all the needed material (Bio-matter) to break this all down.
    They also reminded me to use liquid laundry detergent.
    No Kleenex or baby wipe products in system.
    Both firms are well known and here for years.

    They were also the company that replaced the lid on my tank in 1999 as it turns out. They informed me that I have a 750 gallon metal tank.
    Last edited by Mike50; 05-28-2006 at 10:10 AM.

  10. #10
    vaplumber
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    DO NOT BE HAPPY BECAUSE YOU HAVENT PUMPED YOUR TANK!!! 80 % of the biological action happens within the tank. When the sludge builds, there is less room in the tank to retain the sewage so that it can continue to settle and digest. What happens next is if you are lucky, the sludge will clog the baffle, and the tank will back up into the house. If you are not lucky as is the case most of the time, you will be pushing sludge and raw sewage into your drainfield which will soon fail. At this point DO NOT ADD ANY ADDITIVES to the tank. If you really do find something that works, and it does begin to break down what is already in the tank, then you will have a lot of loose junk in there escaping into your drainfield. If you want to use an additive, pump out the tank first and start your additive from the begining. My experience with them is even if you do use an additive and you pump your tank regularly, I have never noticed any reduction in the sludge and scum from the pre additive period, so do they work? Question of the day. Also to get an idea of your drainfield condition, if you have bright green strips of grass over it, it is on its way out. If that part looks fine, determine where your lines are, and use a post hole digger to dig a hole about 24 inches deep about 2 or 3 feet oout from each line. If the hole fills with water shortly, your field is saturated and is on its way out. If it doesnt fill with water, put the dirt back into the hole, and be happy that your drainfield survived your six year old sludge which you are hopefully removing from your tank. Best of luck. Hope I have been of help.

  11. #11
    DIY Senior Member Mike50's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Quote Originally Posted by vaplumber
    DO NOT BE HAPPY BECAUSE YOU HAVENT PUMPED YOUR TANK!!! 80 % of the biological action happens within the tank. When the sludge builds, there is less room in the tank to retain the sewage so that it can continue to settle and digest. What happens next is if you are lucky, the sludge will clog the baffle, and the tank will back up into the house. If you are not lucky as is the case most of the time, you will be pushing sludge and raw sewage into your drainfield which will soon fail. At this point DO NOT ADD ANY ADDITIVES to the tank. If you really do find something that works, and it does begin to break down what is already in the tank, then you will have a lot of loose junk in there escaping into your drainfield. If you want to use an additive, pump out the tank first and start your additive from the begining. My experience with them is even if you do use an additive and you pump your tank regularly, I have never noticed any reduction in the sludge and scum from the pre additive period, so do they work? Question of the day. Also to get an idea of your drainfield condition, if you have bright green strips of grass over it, it is on its way out. If that part looks fine, determine where your lines are, and use a post hole digger to dig a hole about 24 inches deep about 2 or 3 feet oout from each line. If the hole fills with water shortly, your field is saturated and is on its way out. If it doesnt fill with water, put the dirt back into the hole, and be happy that your drainfield survived your six year old sludge which you are hopefully removing from your tank. Best of luck. Hope I have been of help.

    Thanks very much to all of you in this situation.
    I will be pumping this tank asap for sure and hopefully all is well.
    I do have plenty of green weeds in the general vicinity----whereas the other side of the property is relatively barren.

    **I live in high desert-my Lot is all sandy material and rock.**

    I also had a sink hole develop a little over a year ago (while it was raining in the winter). I don't know if there is a connection, but I think so.

    I'm also ready for the fact that my field may be on it's way o u t.

    I've asked people about septic tank issues around here....and I'm sorry to say that not one person ever mentioned maintainance pumping or I would have done this 2-3 years ago. damn.
    Nonetheless..it's my screwup and I'll deal with it.

    I'm not looking forward to the expense obviously BUT a "forever" concrete
    tank sounds pretty appealing.

    Oh BTW....even though this is desert-we are on a water table.
    I would hit water anywhere I dig.

  12. #12
    vaplumber
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    I'm not looking forward to the expense obviously BUT a "forever" concrete
    tank sounds pretty appealing.

    Oh BTW....even though this is desert-we are on a water table.
    I would hit water anywhere I dig.[/QUOTE]

    If you are on a high water table then your drainfield may be fine. My opinion is that the sink hole is not caused by this, rather is from the changing level of the water table from the rains. Your green weeds over your lines could easy be caused by the fertilizing affect carried to surface by the water table. I will say pump the tank, and because it is metal check it to make sure it is not rusting away, and then use it without worrying. If the drainfield is on its way out, you will know soon enough. It wouldnt hurt to save up to replace the tank in the future, but if the system seems to work fine, I would leave the drainfield alone. Metal tanks dont have a long lived lifespan. Some will live 20-30 years, many much less.

  13. #13
    DIY Senior Member Mike50's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vaplumber
    Quote Originally Posted by mike50
    I'm not looking forward to the expense obviously BUT a "forever" concrete
    tank sounds pretty appealing.

    Oh BTW....even though this is desert-we are on a water table.
    I would hit water anywhere I dig.
    If you are on a high water table then your drainfield may be fine. My opinion is that the sink hole is not caused by this, rather is from the changing level of the water table from the rains. Your green weeds over your lines could easy be caused by the fertilizing affect carried to surface by the water table. I will say pump the tank, and because it is metal check it to make sure it is not rusting away, and then use it without worrying. If the drainfield is on its way out, you will know soon enough. It wouldnt hurt to save up to replace the tank in the future, but if the system seems to work fine, I would leave the drainfield alone. Metal tanks dont have a long lived lifespan. Some will live 20-30 years, many much less.

    Well, Lid was replaced on 7/1/99 and home was built in 1977 so at least I know that IF the field is messed up it's not new by any strech.
    I'm getting someone out here as soon as I can.

    The company that replaced the Lid said it's possible the sink hole
    could be caved in Lid--but she was unsure about that.
    Sink hole is about the 18 X 10 inches and about 8 inches deep.

    I'm Very careful about what I put in my drains and toilet and it's just me here most of the time so maybe I'll get lucky with the field. Very little
    grease and food goes down my drain--I recycle everything thru my big ole desert dogs.

    Great Forum--Great advice as usual.

    If it wasn't for Terrys Message Board I never would have known how screwed up I am....lol

    ;->

  14. #14
    DIY Senior Member Mike50's Avatar
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    Lightbulb

    After sleeping on this and speaking with the contractor--it looks like I'm putting in a NEW tank.
    I'm leaning towards the concrete tank.
    I have material now that was mailed to me. This firm had the old service record.

    It's nearly 3X as expensive because of crane and so on and I don't mind that
    if it's going to last a "lifetime."

    Will it last 30+ years is my question? Any brands or designs to avoid if possible. Experience with root growth?

    Any other information about installation and features is appreciated.

    Cass-Terry-I owe you one for the original posts.

    For anyone interested I found this gem at Amazon. If Im going to spend a few grand+ on this and live with it for 20 years--this book looks like good primer.
    It has the highest 5 star rating.

    small publisher direct:
    http://www.shelterpub.com/


    Mike50
    Last edited by Mike50; 05-17-2006 at 06:42 PM.

  15. #15
    Plumber Cass's Avatar
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    It should last 30 years if installed correctly and you don't experience any direct hits from earthquakes.

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