Septic tanks are extremely low maintenance and are the closest you will get to a ‘town toilet’, but unfortunately they are usually third choice of three for the environment. They require more soil disturbance and the effluent is only primary treated, with secondary treatment happening in the soil. In times of water logging soil microbes cannot perform efficiently to provide the secondary treatment service. To be safe for the environment and residents they need to be a certain distance from ground water, creeks, flood-plains and bores. Unfortunately there are not many places here that meet these requirements.
- If you have an older septic system it is recommended you get a soil and site assessment to ensure it isn’t contaminating your creek, ground water or yours or your neighbours’ bore water (note: you will be required by law to upgrade if it doesn’t meet standards).
- The biggest killer of septic systems north of the river is tree-roots invading the trenches. Check yours by turning on all the taps and flushing all the toilets in the house at the same time – if the water is slow to go down you probably have a problem. If you get to it early your plumber may be able to flush the system with Rootox, which will encourage the roots out of the trench. Otherwise you will need to get it replaced.
- If you are allowed to install a septic system, check how much trenching needs to be dug and try to ensure it is done in already cleared areas away from vegetated areas to minimise environmental impact. Even if you don’t need to clear around the trenches, they will damage the surrounding trees by cutting through the roots. Also, the roots will eventually grow back and are the main cause for septic systems to fail.
- An underground dripper system will need to be dug to disperse the wastewater – this will also damage surrounding vegetation and should be designed to fit into the already cleared area if possible.
- Be careful about bleaches and harsh chemicals entering the system – they can destroy the bacteria that make the system function and harm the environment. If the septic require microbe inoculation add some molasses or some blood and bone or specifically designed microbe innoculants
- Septic treatment will not remove phosphates, so try to use products that don’t contain them.
- The wastewater is only suitable for fruit trees using subsurface irrigation, with no direct contact between food crops and water
- drainage lines or any source of drinking water.
- One of the big plusses of a septic system is that it requires no power supply.
- MAINTENANCE: you will need to have the solid waste removed every 3-5 years. You will also need to install grease traps in your kitchen and bathroom, and dispose of trapped grease and food periodically.