Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Hello from the other side. I've been gone for a couple of years developing my new concepts and products in a couple of other industries. I'm now back focusing more time and mental energies to the septic industry. I've got some very valuable things to point out...at least I believe I have. Others who have listened to what I've had to say and understand the relevance. I hope I can provide you with more understanding, better questions asked and answered.

I've always said that if you don't ask the right questions, you'll never get the right answers. Right answers to wrong questions don't do much for problem solving in dealing with most human issues. Certainly in general pollution issues, and for our focus, human waste pollution issues.

I rather enjoy pointing out the nonsense of the regulators, engineers and septic "experts" but I'll try and refrain from enjoying myself here and now. I want you all who read this to consider a very important issue....BIO-SOLIDS. No one ever questions bio-solids in septic systems other than to expect it, control it, demand that it be pumped and removed to a NIMBY sight (not in my back yard) for improper treatment and disposal to pollute elsewhere. Removal of bio-solids from the waste stream is really the treatment with all other subsequent processes being "polishing" of the primary treated effluent.

Just what are bio-solids? It is the organic material you put in water to take it away from you. Its that nasty stuff that started out as the wonderful meal you had last night. The production of bio-solids is the only really honest measurement of how efficient a septic system "treatment process" actually is. I'll try and make the explanation short. May be a bit cryptic.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Well here we go again. I've been very lax about posting my missives. My associates believe that I have been derelict in my duties, as a person of blogs, for not having posted more "informatives" (I kinda like that title) on this site.

You need to understand the difference between the word "aerobic" or "requiring free oxygen" vs what I call "atmospheric oxygen". "Atmospheric oxygen" means being in an atmospheric like environment. This is a crucial difference when discussing aerobic treatment devices. The crucial difference is efficiency.

Aerobic bacteria, or bacteria functioning metabolically with an aerobic metabolism, need free oxygen but they need it instantly and constantly to be efficient at digesting or metabolizing organic compounds (stuff). Aerobic devices that depend on dissolved oxygen (DO) in water to supply the "free oxygen" to aerobic bacteria (we trap within these devices and force them to work for us) are not efficient. Why you ask because I have your undying attention? DO is not constant within water. There is a mosaic of "free oxygen" in the water (7mg/l in water is considered saturated). Not very much oxygen by the way and saturated DO does not exist in most aerobic devices (except mine).

The DO is not a constant in every measurable amount of the water. The bacteria are not in constant contact with the "free oxygen" at all times as they would be if in atmospheric conditions. They have to wait (like waiting for a bus) until the "free oxygen" molecule happens along (again like the bus) for them to metabolize the oxygen and organic compounds (stuff). Luckily bacteria don't appear to have the same frustration potential as humans (again like the bus).

So if we want efficiency in "aerobic treatment, we don't want the treatment to merely be aerobic, we want it to be atmospheric like. Welllllllll, guess what? There are such devices that have atmospheric like conditions within them, while they sit on the bottom of your septic tank.
They are the various Pirana System models.

They are quite small, three feet tall and twelve inches in diameter or less, and very easy to install. They use very little electricity, require 2 cfm or less of air at less than 4 psi. Why small, easy and use little energy? Because the bacteria live in "atmospheric like oxygen" conditions within the devices. This means the bacteria have instant and constant access to oxygen to metabolize organic compounds (stuff). This means efficiency. Efficient allows for reduced size but increased effectiveness.

So when you think of aerobic treatment, qualify your thinking and think "atmospheric like" aerobic treatment. You now understand the difference and have a choice.

Well, thanks for stopping by. Remember, unlike my wife, that its out there so check your shoes before entering the house.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


I hope that Leslie and "Hey Culligan Man..." will forgive any transgressions they may perceive form this missive.

The introduction of sodium chloride (hereafter called salt), in the form of brine from water softener backwash into septic tanks is very questionable at best. There have been claims that excessive levels of salt in effluent will stratify in certain types of drain field soils, and will clog soil pores kinda like biomat, increasing the potential for early failure of drain fields. Reducing the ability of a septic tank to sequester bio-solids in our waste will certainly help shorten the functional life of a drain field. Bacteria are responsible for this sequestration process. Bacteria are responsible for separating settlable and floatable solids, allowing these solids to be retained in the septic tank. Salt and bacteria aren't exactly a good mix.

Septic systems do not function properly if there is a reduction or the outright destruction of bacteria in the septic tank. Salt is a food preservative. It kills bacteria that would otherwise "eat" your food (another way to say this is it keeps food from "spoiling"). You wouldn't want to spoil your septic tank would you? So back washing water softener brine into your septic tank is putting in liquid that has the potential to reduce or outright kill the bacteria in your septic tank. Doesn't make sense that you are often forced to do this by your local officials does it?

Government officialdom often forbids the removal of the backwash from your water softener from your septic tank. They also insist that you do nothing to inhibit the proper function of your septic system. This has always been a head scratcher for me.

The backwash brine from water softeners is loaded with salt (guess that's why its often referred to as brine). The concentrations of salt in the back wash will not only stress the bacteria in the septic tank but the salt will leave the septic tank in the effluent and (possibly) stratify in the soils around the leach lines reducing or even stopping the movement of liquid through the stratified layer. As drain field failure is designed into and expected for conventional, anaerobic septic systems within a couple of decades of the installation, excessive amounts of any material capable of clogging drain field soils potentially decreases the time period to failure. Enter salt, stage left....

There are several products on the market that claim to reduce or mobilize stratified salt that could be clogging soils around drain fields. I personally have never used these products but I have heard of claims of drain fields being very temporarily restored to proper function after application; though there was no proof that the drain field problems were related to salt blockage. The chemicals could perform some other function to temporarily create pourosity in the soil. Most likely these problem sites were a combination of Biomat clogging along with other clogging materials, with salt possibly being one of the materials.

What to do? Well, there are only a couple of choices that are reasonable. If you don't want to remove the backwash from your septic system, switch from sodium chloride to potassium chloride. You shouldn't find a significant difference in water quality. This may not be a perfect answer but it certainly will help. Another, and the most tried and true method for a solution, is REMOVE the backwash from the septic tank and send it somewhere else where it can't cause problems with the proper function and potential life of your septic system!

You should remove the discharge line for the water softener backwash from your septic tank and have it discharge to another place and leave the septic system to handle your biological waste from the home. Installing a small drain field to handle the water softener backwash is easy and relatively inexpensive. After all, the salt is still going into the soil so what's the difference between your septic drain field and a backwash drain field? Interesting designs are available. Let me know of your interest.

Anaerobic conventional septic systems have been historically treated as a dumping place for any type of waste liquid. This is fast becoming a problem for the industry as new standards are being adopted. With the increase for, or outright requirement of, aerobic treatment for septic systems, backwashing water softener brine into septic tanks should be prohibited when aerobic treatment is used. This is still hit and miss with officials.

Basically putting anything into a septic tank that you wouldn't first put into your mouth, or anything that is fundamentally toxic to bacteria, should not be put into septic tanks. Since we have not paid attention to what goes into a conventional septic system until recently, it is difficult to change people’s thinking and behaviors. Fortunately, reasonable amounts of the normal products we use in our homes can go into a septic tank with the rare occurrence of catastrophic consequences. The foundation problem for septic system failure still remains Biomat clogging of infiltrative soils around disposal fields.

Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Here's my latest nugget of new information about septic drain fields. Before I start, I can only encourage people to become informed and educated about septic issues as the future surely holds more potential for being "laid over a barrel" by the generic industry and officialdom.

I realized years ago that there is very little thought or consideration given to the eventual physical degradation occurring to a typical drain field or leach line. The issues are occasionally acknowledged and heads nodded about them, but no one ever seems to look into the what they are nodding about. There is biological degradation or biomat clogging of drain field soils that is inherent in conventional, anaerobic septic effluent that is discharged to a drain field and everyone should understand that issue. There are other physical issues that also reduce some of the potential of a drain field. They are few, but need to be described. Because we introduced the general idea of remediation for drain fields over ten years ago, we have made a serious study of what problems could reduce our success in remediation. We found that there really aren't that many physical issues that can or do occur. I will attempt to describe the most common of these physical issues: siltation.

Over time, silt in the soil will be percolated into the spaces between the drain rock from years of rain and or snow melt; that is if you don't live in Arizona and the Southwest. I was told when I started in construction that siltation spelled the end of a drain field. Well it doesn't. Here's why. An engineering study was done by an engineering group (surprise that an engineering group does engineering studies) here in Northern California. They discovered, with round or spheriod shaped stone, or man made stone replacement, that when you take a cubic foot of space and fill it with any round or spheriod shaped material of any diameter, the material took up approximately 65% or the volume of the cubic foot of space. That left 35% for air space. That includes all diameters from bowling balls to marbles to sand to silt. What was critical was that there be no flat surfaces that can "marry" together eliminating the air space (i.e. crushed aggregate doesn't apply to this study).

This translates to a potential liquid storage volume per cubic foot of drain field as follows: 7.48 gallons per cubic foot minus 65% or 4.86 gallons which equals 2.62 gallons of space for liquid storage per cubic foot of drain field. If one had, say, a 100 foot leach line, with a width of one foot and one foot high of aggregate (natural or a man made synthetic replacement) you would have a total liquid storage capacity of 262 gallons. **This example is for descriptive purposes only and is not meant to indicate anyone's particular drain field.** When siltation occurs, 65% of the air space is filled with spheriod shaped silt particles. There are two issues of importance when siltation occurs.

The first issue to understand is the silt does not become compacted as would be expected in normal soil conditions. Compaction does not occur because the aggregate carries the compressive load to ground around the air spaces now filled with silt. Therefore, there is no pressure on the silt to cause compaction. The silt remains light, airy and permeable to the passage of liquid through it. Being permeable means there is capacity for leaching liquid through the uncompacted silt (liquid that is not filled with biomat producing bacteria).

The second issue is there is still air space between the silt particles. Remember the example above? I'm trying to remember. The silt is spheriod in shape. It therefore takes up only 65% of the air space between the aggregate. What we now have is 35% of 35% of air space and therefore liquid volume for storage. Here it is in numbers. In the example above, we had 262 gallons of storage capacity in the air spaces between the aggregate. Now the air spaces are filled with silt. That means we have 35% of 262 gallons of storage capacity or 92 gallons. There are many more times the cubic foot area within a drain field in a typical septic system.

Let's say we have three hundred linear feet of leach line described above. That would mean we now have a minimum of liquid storage capacity of 276 gallons. For a family of four that is most likely one day's residence time. The aggregate is surrounded with very permeable silt that will not resist the passage of liquid through it. Therefore this example of a drain field (with leach lines) would still be able to function for disposal if we were dealing with rain water or drinking water. We're not dealing with rain water or drinking water so what's the reality?

Anaerobic effluent will carry biomat producing bacteria with it into the drain field. Biomat will fill the voids in the infiltrative soils and clog the voids. These bacteria will also clog the voids between the silt particles with biomat making the silt non-permeable. Remove the biomat from the infiltrative soil voids and the silt and you now have a functional drain field.

Now we have the pitch. But a real solution. This is where the Pirana System comes into play. They both remove biomat from the silt and the infiltrative soils by biologically reducing the viscosity of the biomat slime (liquifying), thus creating permeability, and then the Pirana System will eventually consuming the biomat. The effluent that leaves a septic tank with a Pirana operating within it will not contain the biomat producing bacteria nor a significant amount of organic matter that can clog soil pores or soil voids. The effluent now has nearly the same clogging properties as rain water or drinking water though you absolutely shouldn't drink septic effluent (I know some people I believe should). Which is to say both don't clog pores or voids.

This means that the infrastructure of the drain field has value. We don't need to throw it away; or spend thousands of dollars replacing the drain field; or worry about unknown costs for landscape repair to have a functioning drain field.

I hope I've been clear and informative. I want again to increase your knowledge and widen your perspectives. In these horrific economic times saving every dollar is critical. In normal times spending a dollar that wasn't or isn't necessary should be critical.

Well thanks for stopping by and remember its out there so wipe your feet before you enter a house.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Septic Tank, Septic Tank Additives and the Septic Genie?

Its been a month or more since I've left a blog for anyone who discovers this site to read. Due to the economic down turn changes in my schedule have taken up most if not all of my time. But as Jack Nicholson is famous for saying, "He's back!!!!!!"

Here is a subject that may be common knowledge (or not?). The subject is frequently asked in two questions: Is it a good idea to put in additives into my septic tank on a monthly basis? When my septic system is nearing failure, should I start putting additives into my septic tank? Here's how I answer these questions.

No one can say with absolute certainty when a disposal field will fail. The only judgments anyone can make are based on the averages that have consistently been observed over the years for disposal field life expectancy. 20 to 25 years is the most common time frame.

When a disposal field is nearing failure due to age, or there are early indications that failure is imminent, putting bacteria, enzymes and chemical additives into a septic tank on a monthly basis by the homeowner, hoping to extend the life of the disposal field, is not a good idea. Putting additives monthly during the life of a septic system is even a less good idea. It is not possible to stop people from doing so, therefore the EHDs don't make prohibitions about doing it. They rightfully recommend against it however. Here's why.

The ultimate purpose of a septic tank is to sequester and thus remove bio-solids from the waste stream by separation into sinkable and floatable solids through intestinal bacteria activity within the septic tank. This is commonly called "primary treatment". The intestinal bacteria in your solid waste don't digest the organic material in the septic tank (they didn't in your intestines so how can they in a septic tank?) but they break apart molecules making up the solids into solids that can sink to the bottom of the tank forming what is called sludge and this allows solids that can now float or rise to the surface of the effluent to form a solids layer called scum. This removes between 70 and 90 percent of the solids you just put into water to take them out of your house by gravity. To do this most effectively, there is a minimum retention time for the effluent to remain in the septic tank. This is why you have to pump your septic tank; to remove these sequestered solids so the retention time for liquid to remain in the septic tank stays within the design limits. Eventually solids take up space and reduce the liquid capacity of the septic tank, reducing retention time. What people are doing with the additives they put into their tank every month is short circuit the sequestration process.

The bacteria, enzymes and chemicals additives breakdown and solubolize some of these sequestered solids and allow them to leave the septic tank (where they belong) and travel in suspension within the effluent to the disposal field. There these solids form a congealed sludge and can potentially decrease the functional life of the disposal field. People feel better and believe they are doing something powerful for themselves by having to pump their septic tank less frequently. The reality is different. They aren't removing solids from the system, they are merely moving them to another area of the system, the disposal field. The potential for decreasing the functional life of the disposal field is more problematic and could be more costly than saving some pumping costs. Homeowners putting these products into a septic tank are potentially damaging the most expensive aspect of their septic system...the life of the disposal field.

If you are willing to pay for a highly over priced disposal field replacement, then my comments about these additives are not germane to you. But if you want to make certain that you are not doing anything to compromise the potential functional life of your disposal field, then you are well advised not to put these bacteria, enzyme and chemical additives into the septic tank. Allow the tank to provide the sequestration as its designed to do and pay for periodic pumping. Pumping is cheap compared to the potential for early disposal field replacement.

If the prospect for disposal field failure is high due to the disposal field having lasted the expected 20 to 25 year time period, the amortized cost per year of a septic system is the lowest when the useful life or your disposal field reaches this period of expected failure. In my opinion, this issue needs to be considered in making a decision for any improvement to a septic system and is seldom considered. When you add the low cost option of installing a Pirana System, you don't increase the low amortized cost of owning a septic system that functions properly to the expected design life by any significant amount.

Allowing failure to occur doesn't make sense, when remediating the disposal field using the Pirana Sysytem technology is available. Keeping the disposal field from failing keeps the potential problems within the homeowner's control. Installing a Pirana System at this point will eliminate the potential for failure while remediating the biomat already in the soil.

If a homeowner wants to stop the process of biomat clogging and keep his or her septic disposal field from failure, then installing a Pirana System is the least expensive and guaranteed solution to this problem. The Pirana System will also improve septic tank performance and reduce pumping providing the same benefit as the additives without the potential problem in the disposal field. It is in fact, restoring the disposal field. With the unconditional money back performance guarantee, what does a homeowner have to loose? Nearly fifteen hundred homeowners over three to four years have installed the Pirana System without a failure to remediate their disposal fields.

Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I don't know if anyone reads these musing but if they did and found that I've not posted anything for a month then finding me back might be uplifting. I had so many contacts that required my whole day that I decided to wait to post something until I had something from working with people that would be valuable for others. I now have a number of topics that will give me something to write about.

One of the most common topics that people who contact me want information on is the question of why can't they use other methods for dealing with septic disposal field failure than the few options "allowed" them by their local EHD or DEQ. They understand the Pirana System and the Septic Genie technology and can't understand why the employees at their local health department can't understand it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Just Think One Day At A Time

I get a lot of calls from people who don't understand much of anything about septic systems other than they are "supposed" to pump the septic tank from time to time and that eventually you'll have to replace the system (meaning the disposal field). They listen to the "experts" and having no other source of information, they blindly and most often dumbly follow what they are told to do. It seems this is a sad commentary on so much of the decision making we in America do these days.

There is for me an interesting aspect of the commonly accepted designs for septic systems that property owners with septic systems really need to be think about...the common anaerobic septic tank. In fact, it is just plain silly to demand that septic systems have standard anaerobic septic tanks now that the Pirana technology is available. The government regulators and bureaucrats continue to force us to use anaerobic septic tanks to concentrate contaminating organic waste and bacteria, building up the "inventory" or both over time, until we have to remove them to some other facility, in very concentrated form, for digestion and disposal. I've mentioned this fact in passing before, but the more I think about it, the more ludacrious the whole premise is.

We humans build on what we know. We started out with outhouses, moved with flush toilets to cesspools, and with the maintenance required of cesspools, septic tanks and leach lines were created to reduce maintenance and increase the time before failure of the soil. Now we have aerobic systems but they were designed to be inefficient because they are designed to deal with the effluent leaving septic tanks that have sequestered the vast majority of the organic load as stated above. The aerobic systems can only handle what's left in the waste stream after the septic tank has sequestered and concentrated the vast majority of the load. Even then, the aerobic systems need constant maintenance. The Pirana in the septic tank is digesting and recycling the daily load each day. There is no concentration of organic matter or bacteria that are the ultimate problem. Removing each days organic load received by the septic tank each day is such a simple solution to this most common problem.

There Pirana doesn't disinfect the effluent. The Pirana System easily deals with the daily organic load and deliver out of the septic tank highly treated effluent that we can now do something beneficial with the effluent, or at least the disposal fields won't fail from the most frequent problem...biomat clogging of the soil. The key is only dealing with one day's organic load each day in the septic tank, instead of allowing the waste and contaminants to concentrate creating the classic problems of septic systems. Its the old ounce of prevention vs a pound of cure trick Granny always mentioned to me. Deal with problems when they are small and you won't have to deal with big problems.

Think about it.

Thanks for stopping by.