Indoor plumbing is a marvel of modern technology. Most Americans take it for granted, but it wasn't so long ago that waste disposal was a major public health hazard. Today, modern sewage removal and treatment has made an enormous impact on human quality of life. However, there are still areas ripe for improvement, particularly in home septic tank systems. Read on to learn more about how researchers are working to improve septic technology.
From Your Household Plumbing to the Ground
If you live in a town or city, there's a good chance that waste goes straight from your household plumbing into a municipal sewage line. But millions of homeowners who live a little further from centralized infrastructure have to rely on septic tanks instead. Different septic tanks work in different ways, but in general, they slowly percolate liquid waste into the ground while they hold the solids until they are either broken down by microbes or removed by a pumping truck.
The problem with conventional septic tanks, however, is that they can release significant nitrogen into the environment as part of the waste dispersal process. In turn, the nitrogen can compromise the ecosystem, particularly if it gets into a water source, by provoking algal blooms that block sunlight, reduce oxygen levels and release toxins into the water. Although isolated septic tanks here and there do not usually cause a problem, there can be issues in sensitive environments or near wells.
Intervening to Stop the Algae
Attempting to address the nitrogen problem is a site near Martha's Vineyard billed as “the country’s largest alternative septic system test center.” The center provides the equivalent of one household's worth of sewage to 15 different septic systems to try out new initiatives and see what works best. One method that has proven successful is using a mix of saturated wood chips and sawdust in the leech field to soak up more of the septic liquid.
The alternative systems are usually successful in reducing the nitrogen output by at least 50 percent, but do require extra maintenance, which can be a barrier for some households.
“Let’s face it,” George Heufelder, director of the Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Test Center, said to the Vineyard Gazette. “Most people do not want to deal with this stuff at all. They just want to flush and go.”
Environmentally Friendly Household Plumbing
No matter how you remove waste from your household, you want to make sure it is done in a safe, sanitary and environmentally friendly manner. If you need your waste disposal system inspected, or any other work done on your household plumbing, contact a qualified residential plumber today.