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 Pirana

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 solubilize 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.

Thanks for stopping by.

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.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bureaucrats, Distinctions Without A Difference

Here I am at the end of my first month putting up ideas and issues in front of what may be no one. I am a liberal and a populist that believes we should all band together to get the disease of large profits out of our biological plumbing. I spent a period in my youth defending my beliefs against the establishment and have a few scars from that period. We call that period Hippie. It constantly makes me realize that if we don't all stand together against bureaucratic ineptness, little gets done and change moves so slowly our children will be lucky to see results from our individual efforts outside of a group. In today's fast moving world of communication, and the horrendous economic collapse our country finds itself in, this snail's pace of progress out of antiquated solutions has to cease. We the people, who pay all the bills, deserve better from our government, especially when the topic is our homes and the forced cost to dispose of our "stuff".
Stories can be fun and I especially like to relate some of my experiences accosting bureaucrats. I've used stories in past blogs and I was asked to mention this one by a friend in another state. I had to call a department head at the state level to discuss the Pirana System I invented and the method for its use. I had state wide approvals at that time in more than 20 states and many local jurisdictions in states where I had no state approval. The fellow I was talking to mentioned a theme I've heard ad nauseam. He claimed the septic systems in his state were different than septic systems in other states. Another opportunity to have some fun.

I asked this department head if we could kinda go through what he stated and see where there might be some understanding or even some misunderstanding. He said sure but what I felt he meant was Ho Hum. We agreed that I could ask some questions and he would answer them to the best of his ability.

I asked him if he would get a sample of everyone of his family's "stuff" while I went to four or five other randomly chosen states and gathered samples of "stuff" from ten or fifteen other families. I said that I would then mix them up with his family's "stuff" and could he then pick out his family's "stuff" from the mix? He said I was being ridiculous that no one could do that. Ah, said I, so your "stuff" isn't different from the "stuff" of families in other random states. If it were, your "stuff" should stand out enough to tell the difference. So we came to an agreement that "stuff" from people in all states are primarily the same "stuff".

I asked him what size septic tanks are required by his department in his state? He said 1000 to 1200 gallon tanks for 3 bedroom houses. The same basic volume required by most states around the USA. We now had our second agreement. Tankage requirements are about the same.

I asked what the tanks were made of in his state and would you believe, he said the exact same materials that are limited to and / or allowed in most other states. We had our third agreement.

I finally asked him how he qualifies soil types. He informed me that they use a Class distinction based on how the soil reacts to the passage of water through it. In other words, he used D'Arcy's Law for percolation and movement of water through soils to determine which Class 1, 2, 3, or 4 (4 being the least desirable or outright not allowable for disposal fields) to qualify the soils of his states. Will wonders never cease, this is exactly what other states do. He said but his state had soils from different sources. I mentioned that Classes of soil are not about the mother stone that created them but how they react to percolation and water movement through them therefore the source of the soil had no issue. Class 4 soils called adobe clay from degraded volcanic ash is no different from Class 4 soils from eroded serpentine. They both react to water identically. So finally we had our fourth agreement. In fact we had no disagreements, yet.

On sizing of disposal fields based on percolation tests we again found that there really wasn't a substantive difference between his states requirements and those of other states. Now we had the fifth agreement. This couldn't last and I knew what was coming.

Lastly, I asked him if he thought the people in government in other states were idiots or less intelligent than the people in government in his state? He said he thought there was a similar cross section of potential in the people working in government any where in the country. Again we had agreement. I therefore asked him if there are 20 or so states that have approved the Pirana and had for years, and the people in government in other states are neither more stupid nor more intelligent than the people in government in his state, then why would he not allow a technology that has so many state's approvals from people that are in essence just like him and his fellow government employees? Here we had our disagreement. His answer is listed below:

"That's just the way it is and you'll have to live with it."

Ahhhh, the fall back of the misdirected, the ill informed, the incompetent or the bureaucrat...sorry, I repeat myself.

I said no I won't because I didn't live in his state, thank the heavens. But that attitude is common in so many jurisdictions around the country that we can't get any progress in dealing with septic issues. We need the people who are being impacted by this silly posturing (that's all of us) to maintain control over our lives (at least the biological plumbing part of our lives) to stand up and be heard on this subject of bureaucratic refusal to allow every type of recognized solution by any other authority to be used in any local area without censure. We've seen what can be done by others who band together in political arenas and the dramatic change they've created, why are we not doing something similar with regard to something so basic to our lives?

In closing, its the same "stuff", its sent to the same tankage made of the same materials and it goes into soils that are classified by an identical yard stick of performance so why does a technology that has successfully worked in a reasonable number of jurisdictions (say five to ten jurisdictions of authority) not be allowed in all other jurisdictions? Unless we stand up as a group and demand this situation to cease, we'll have done what I've heard so often mentioned, "We turned our lives over to the bureaucrats, the least adept and least qualified to make decisions for us." Until we make our politicians step in and stop this, what in reality is blatant protectionism, I guess you'll really have an expensive pay toilet in your house.

I am not against regulatory oversight in some areas of our lives. I do not consider all bureaucrats to be bad people or without redeeming value in our society. But I do consider them an extension of our political system and therefore we can exercise some control by banding together to become politically focused at least on a local level if not on a state or national level to make ourselves and our issues heard. The way you've been treated by the local EHD or DEQ, is entirely different than how the government deals with municipal wastewater plants and those households served by the MWWP.

Imagine the political leaders telling each household that they are going to have to pay $25,000 to continue to use the MWWP for the twenty years not including occasional costs for maintenance issues and we'll take the money now or you have to vacate you home? Wouldn't happen. The people would rise up in arms so no politician would consider such a thing. When its the politician and just you, its a demonstration of power like no other. For your information, MWWPs pollute far more than septic systems.

Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Some Good News In Our Bad News

The recession has finally brought competition to the septic industry. The contractors have dropped their prices by huge percentages. Why? Because they now want any job they can get and there are fewer jobs than there are contractor / installers that want to do them; hell need to do them. This puts competition back in the septic marketplace and if you homeowners think about it, it will give you an idea of how much the general public has been overpaying for the past couple of decades.

No one thinks, I hope, that the contractor / installers are working now at a loss. No, they are now working closer to the actual cost of installing a septic system. The difference is that they are not able to charge anything their "little heart's desire" because there is now no "going rate pricing". My brother in law who is septic contractor said to me a couple of months ago that "We're really having to make deals we wouldn't have considered before the housing market took a dump". (I like the term dump don't you to describe his position...now its in his "backyard") There is competition and its fierce in most areas of the country that have contractor / installers trying to survive the economic and housing down turn. So pay attention now to what is being charged for septic work (you can ask around to find out what costs are now in your area) and then watch out for when better economic times return, and in some form better economic times will return, and compare the difference. By paying attention now, you will have a reasonable yard stick to gauge whether you're being price gouged in the future.

I'm betting my money on the installers and contractors ramping up their future prices when economic "good times" return to as near as they can to what they were in the "good ol' days" of going rate pricing. I intend to watch and raise a red flag against this if I'm proven correct. I have no idea whether anyone will pay attention but I do so love waving around red flags. We have to have reform in the septic industry and we have to break the "unintentional collusion" between the EHDs and the industry. Like we're hearing out of Washington DC these days, we have to have reform and we have to let human ingenuity loose so we can have progress while prospering. No industry needs this more than the septic industry. Some may ask why?

Because that bathroom down the hall affects everyone of our lives. It is one area of our life that is as critical as eating and drinking. Remember, you have to take in food and water and what's left has to come out. Its kinda like a septic system. Its open at both ends. Plug one end up and the other end won't work. You're stuck with the consequence of eating and drinking. Therefore I personally don't want to be victimized because of my personal plumbing and the consequence of using it.

We see and feel the affects of government, sometimes its good and sometimes its not so good and all to often its just plain bad. In the way the EHDs operate around this country, I believe it is more "just plain bad" for the homeowner. As I pointed out above and before, septic issues are different than other building related issues. We don't have to fix the leaky roof if we don't like the price. We can put plastic over the roof or put a bucket under the drip. We have a choice that doesn't affect our neighbors or the environment. We aren't forced by a daily bodily function to do anything. Unlike the other areas of the construction industry, we have to take care of septic problems (unless you like many don't really give a damn about a bit of nasty liquid surfacing in your yard). Septic issues should therefore be considered in an entirely different framework.

I believe that septic problems and solutions from a governmental point of view should not discount, nor casually waive off the idea that government can't be concerned with cost of installations and repairs when making decisions (quite cavalier when it ain't their money...remember none of the money in government is their money ITS OUR MONEY!) on what is allowed or not allowed assuming we can't stop the government from limiting our options (I should say since government will not stop interfering and limiting our options). Ideas that are a bit out there but ideas none the less: Every business involved in doing work in the septic industry be required to provide a cost breakdown for the job to the homeowner with all profit clearly delineated; control of allowable profit margins is another idea. I don't personally like either as a life long contractor and businessman. But something has to be done to stop the escalating cost of septic installation and repairs so that costs are affordable. That something is the Pirana System technology.

I will keep bringing this issue to point...if the government wants to limit my options then limit my costs. What I want is government to stop limiting my options. I have no problem with requiring me and every other homeowner that has a septic problem to fix it, but don't tell me how. Make government's job to make sure our septic systems are functioning properly. We're all hearing that the future holds changes in our standard of living. I didn't get the idea that the changes are going to be upward financially. We are most likely not going to like what occurs. This is all the more reason to join together as homeowners and tax payers to loudly protest to our local governments to make changes that protect us from this particular financially damaging situation the government has created. (I don't want to diminish the recognition of any other damaging situation our over paid and over controlling government has created so I use the word "particular")

I talk to many many homeowners across the country every week. They all sing the same song that should be titled, "I Can't Pay $10,000 For My Septic Repair and I Don't Want Any Of Those SOBs On My Property". Who the hell can and does? The $10,000 is a discounted price!

I just had to get this one out. Don't miss the point. If you hear that costs of repairs are substantially lower during this economic crisis, you know how much you were over charged before the crisis. Don't let it happen again. Join with your neighbors who are on septic systems and make your discontent heard by your local government and point to the price reductions to back up your position.

Thanks for stopping by.

Doggie Doo Doo or Doggie Don't

There are two messages in this missive. I am outlining both because they occurred together. I really never considered the issue of doggie doo doo until this particular day.

One of my customer/clients asked me to meet with an inspector at his property because the inspector was demanding that he immediately replace his drain field. I was to say the least in absolute disagreement with the inspector (I was barely containing my rage at the abuse of authority). He claimed the leach lines were failed and I said they were marginal but still functional. We had nice green grass growing over the leach lines and the striping was obvious. There was no degradation in the soil structure over the leach lines (the ground wasn't spongy or wet) and there were no signs of failure; surfacing effluent over the leach lines or septic tank, nor backed up or slow draining plumbing fixtures. Just really vigorous and rich green growth over the leach lines. As a contractor, I've seen this condition last for five years without the conditions of failure.

The inspector was making noises about how there might be a surfacing event soon and therefore the disposal field had to be immediately replaced. I said I disagreed because he couldn't specify how long in the future this surfacing event might take place. He said that he has to protect people, the environment and drinking water and that if the effluent surfaced, then the potentially harmful contaminants and microbes in the surfacing effluent could make someone ill. I said I can't get the police to pick up someone who might be stalking my daughter sometime in the future. Until he or she actually does something to my daughter (that is defined as illegal) no police action can be taken on what might happen. I said that the same logic applies to septic failure.

Failure is defined to a narrow set of conditions. All conventional septic systems will fail but no one knows exactly when. Therefore until one or more of the conditions of failure occurs, and green striping isn't one of the conditions, the inspector had no authority to demand the homeowner to immediately replace his disposal field. Otherwise he should make the demand that every existing conventional septic system disposal field should be replaced because a failure event is going to happen sometime in the future. Besides which there was a Pirana System installed in the septic tank and the disposal field was being remediated. While we were "discussing" the situation, I watched the owner's teenage son take a shovel and bucket and scoop up a couple of days worth of dog "stuff" from two big German Shepard dogs.

I saw the kid pick up at least six large piles. He put them in the bucket and walked out a back gate into the field behind the fenced area and tossed the dog "stuff" out into the high grass. I mentioned this to the inspector. He said, "So what?" I retorted with I didn't understand why he doesn't care about the dog "stuff" because I didn't want to drink water contaminated with dog "stuff" nor swim in a creek or water way with dog "stuff" in it either. He said, "Well shucks, golly gee..." (he didn't I just put that in to give this narrative a bit of humor) What he said was that wasn't an issue because there were no pathogens in dog "stuff" that could make humans sick. I said, "Okay then, why don't you eat some of the dog "stuff" if it won't make you sick?" (I was being serious with this inspector) I said there are plenty of contaminants in dog "stuff" that are still problematic. Dog "stuff" can't be that far removed from our "stuff". Read the label on dog food and we as humans could probaby survive quite well on dog food. Hell, I know people back in the Haight that ate dog food on occasion. Kal Kan Beef Stew was quite tasty I was told. So what goes in, in part comes out.

I said if everyone can toss their dog "stuff" over the fence or put it into the trash can to be taken to the land fill, why not put our "stuff" in the trash can and take it to the land fill? The land fill has plenty of toxics in the fill and most land fills are a toxic catastrophy waiting to happen anyway. This would keep the problem "stuff" out of the water and therefore eliminate the problem of septic systems.

I was not being serious (kinda) but I was trying to make a point. I wanted him to recognize that that aside from our human waste, there are probably 100s of millions of pets who's "stuff" is daily tossed around and about without one bit of concern by us, him and his ilk or any government agency. Since none of us will eat this "stuff" or willingly swim in it (nor walk bare footed through it), then it can't be all that healthy just tossing it any ol' place. I told him that if the regulators and inspectors are really concerned about our health, they should consider regulating what we do with the 100s of millions of pounds of daily pet "stuff" we just throw anywhere we want. (I don't want them to regulate anything but it was part of my arguement)

I know this may sound silly on the surface but if I am forced to pay taxes and my tax dollars are then given to people like this inspector who doesn't understand why I don't understand that his job is to "take care of me" (bless his little heart), and when he (they) defends his (their) position in a contraversy by claiming he (they) is looking out after my health and welfare, then why is he only concerned about part of my health? Dog "stuff" is filled with contaminants that are not good for me and CAN POTENTIALLY pollute if tossed carelessly in the wrong place, so why isn't he demanding that something be done about dog "stuff" (because sometime in the future I or others might be made ill from inappropriate contact with it)? If he's being paternal in his personal defense (and he was) about protecting me from me and all of us from each other, then hey, let's go all the way...PROTECT ME! His reply isn't printable. He left and my client didn't replace his disposal field. In fact the striping is gone and its working fine thanks to the Genie.

In a conclusion, I want to finish with these two points. It ain't failed until the situation fits the defination of failure. Make sure you know what the local codes define as disposal field failure. Also, you need to think about who you've empowered to tell you what to do in the name of protecting the environment, drinking water and your health. Some people may have been sickened by pet "stuff"? I haven't heard of anyone off hand but I can say without pause I haven't heard of any epidemic from people being sickened by our "stuff" in this country either. Let's all of us think about how we view issues around waste and what is being forced on us under the claim of protecting us from ourselves. Personally, I don't need to be protected but I don't have a problem with regulatory oversight of all of us with regard to making sure we do something about our waste. I do have a problem with being told how to do it and limiting my options while not limiting my costs. When costs get as high as they are today (though the recession/depression has reduced prices for septic repairs and new installations - but that's a blog for another day) its no wonder a great majority of homeowners will not inform the EHD about any problems their disposal system may have. The EHD's attitudes about their money make the EHD the enemy. No septic system is worth tens of thousands of dollars.

I hope I've given you something to chew on (pardon the pun) and hope I brought a different insight to your attention.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, March 23, 2009

So You Like Your Cesspool?

I was talking to a fellow from one of the southern coastal states today and he was curious about cesspools since he has one. What he wanted to know was why regulators or "government men" didn't like them as his had worked for 40 years. I told him I didn't know as they are fundamentally the same as a conventional septic system. In fact, a cesspool is a vertical disposal system and a conventional septic system is a horizontal disposal system.

The soils around a cesspool clog with biomat just like the soil around leach lines. This causes the cesspool to hold liquid like a tank. This allows for separation of solids just like in a septic tank. There just isn't as many square feet of absorption area for a cesspool as a leach line for a septic tank. The primary treatment is the same (separation, settling and sequestration of biosolids) but the disposal capabilities are much reduced in a cesspool. This translates into more maintenance and the potential to abandon the existing cesspool and moving it more frequently than replacing a leach field. Often the homeowner merely digs another cesspool to act as a seepage pit or disposal pit and doesn't bother to mention this to the local regulator. For shame. For some reason regulators don't like this lack of control over your toilet discharges. What all this means is the conventional septic system with leach lines is merely a horizontal cesspool.

In forested environments, a cesspool is actually less likely to have problems with roots than a conventional system with leach lines. The large volume of the cesspool doesn't clog with roots as does the distribution lines and the rock infill for the trench. But the regulators don't care about logic or good design. I had a debate once with a regulator in a county in southern California. I tried to reason with him about what seemed an illogical position he was taking. He stood up, looked over the short work space dividers and called out, "Hey Dave. This guy is trying to use logic on me". Dave and he both got a real laugh out of the situation. I retorted with, "I should have realized that I wasn't dealing with people with intelligence and beg your pardon". Needless to say I'm happily not a popular guy in that county.

The Pirana System can restore cesspool soils to proper function just like leach line soils. As I stated, they both fail from exactly the same cause. "Logic" dictates that if you can solve one problem caused by biomat, you can solve another caused by biomat by the same means. In math its stated that if A=B and B=C then A=C. Logical. If you have problems with your cesspool, you really should look into the Pirana. Installations are slightly different for a cesspool than for a septic tank but installation is not a problem. The Pirana can make your cesspool as "dependable" as a conventional septic system (I use the word dependable to mean as long lasting).

The idea of "upgrading" a septic system when its functioning properly, and if its not can be made to function properly again, doesn't make good sense to me. Upgrades from cesspools to conventional septic systems doesn't do a damned thing for pollution or doing a better job at disallowing water contaminated with human waste from entering the environment. We should all stand up and start to resist these arbitrary decisions by bureaucrats that cost a fortune and don't really have sound logic or a good argument to support them.

Thanks for stopping by

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Getting A Good Look At Stuff In A Disposal Field

Well here's another day and another set of issues to consider in my world of the unmentionables. I want to try and put up a couple of pictures to save you all the discomfort of having to read my musings. I hope this will make the discussion concerning the problems with the leach field more understandable for those who have no real "view" of what the problem looks like or what the Pirana System can do to solve the problem.

The picture is a clogged leach line in Kansas. You can clearly see the black nasty (and smelly if you were standing there) biomat in the gravel and the soil. If you look closely you can see the black liquid effluent in the hole in the upper right of the picture. This is what eventually happens to every anaerobic conventional septic system leach line and is the primary problem every homeowner faces with these conventional septic systems. They were designed to fail from biomat clogging.

Here is a close up of this wonderful hole in the soil that our septic experts, the septic industry and the regulators think is the way to deal with our "stuff". Obviously Ma Nature isn't impressed and doesn't agree other wise this "stuff" wouldn't be here.

Two months after the installation of the Pirana System this is what the leach line and gravel looks like. Biomat gone and the liquid effluent in the line has been absorbed into the soil.

Here's another close up of the inside of the leach line. Not bad if I do say so myself. The Pirana System technology has won the day. The leach lines are working again and the homeowner saved himself or herself thousands of dollars and one hell of a mess in their yard. No more biomat and no more liquid effluent stored in the leach lines. The next picture is a real eye catcher. Its an Eljen GSF unit with biomat accumulated on it so you can see what pure biomat looks like and what is all through the soil clogging your leach line soils up so your leach lines no longer work.

A friend who is just a homeowner who personally saw this had one thing to say, "Nasty". It is just that. This slimey, gooey and smelly biomat is what is clogging the soils and can be eliminated by the simple installation of a Pirana.

I will leave you with this information and see what other surprises I can bring in my next communication.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Second Problem Component for our "Stuff"

I had a week off due to physical problems and didn't get a chance to write some additional ideas about our "stuff". Kinda missed not doing it. So here's some more information about what we do wrong. By the way, all these septic systems that are working against Mother Nature can be dramatically improved with the Pirana System technology.

The natural process of waste treatment isn't hard to figure out. Just watch what other animals do. They have a very easy time of it. They just stop, drop their waste on the ground, possibly scratch a bit of dirt or leaves over their "leavings" (waste) and walk off. Come back a month or so later and the "leavings" are gone. Almost makes me nostalgic for my hunter gatherer ancestors. They had no net loss for needing to leave "stuff" behind. Magic? A miracle? Nope. Just working within Nature's evolved process for dealing with organic waste left on the surface of the planet.

Micro-organisms like molds and fungus first start breaking down the waste (another way of saying they're eating it) and then bacteria take over. The bacteria that take over are the ones that are found within the "leavings or stuff" and the leaf litter and humic soil bacteria (some of the very ones we use in the Pirana technology) and they completely recycle it into what is essentially plant food. If the plants haven't been able to get at the processed nutrients from the fungus, molds and bacteria immediately, they will when it rains or there is some form of water soaking these nutrients into the soil around the rood masses.

What do we do. Well, its really quite a different story. We build these strange constructs called drain fields (no matter the design). No time in the history of this planet has any animal ever put its "stuff" in water, sent the water and "stuff" every day for decades to a containment or septic tank to concentrate and then to some constructed void in the soil, or a mound of voids built on the soil, so that the soil can act as a filter. Filter? Doesn't sound like what the other animals do with their "stuff" working with fungus, molds and bacteria to feed plants...?

As a filter, the soil over a minimum depth determined by some "experts" (not a natural process this) will capture (supposedly) the organic material (stuff) and harmful bacteria and viruses and will hold these in situ for aerobic soil bacteria to destroy and consume them. But there's a problem if not several to this idea.

There are anaerobic bacteria that create biomat (organic slimes) within your "stuff", that over years penetrate the soil and clog it up so that the aerobic soil bacteria can't get to the "stuff", containing the afore mentioned harmful microbes. The biomat becomes another filter of sorts, a biological filter. But if the biomat and the soil are filters, and it rains or there is snow melt with or without high ground water, the flush of water can carry a portion of this "stuff" and these harmful microbes downward into the soil and possibly into stored ground water, if the ground water isn't down to deep. In fact, "experts" are afraid that if there is high ground water, this "stuff" and the micro-organisms can be flushed downward with the high ground water as it recedes and contaminate our drinking water. Not good? Heck, I'm an expert and I'm not worried. You've all probably heard of this potential, maybe even heard of it happening. Makes me wonder how good a system it is, this disposal field made by man?? Eventually, the depth penetration by the biomat into the soils around the disposal field is great enough to disallow all of the water and "stuff" you put into the septic system every day to get out, or all be absorbed every day. This is failure of a dispoal field. Another not good.

Why this problem with biomat and why aren't there problems with biomat for all other animals dropping their waste on the ground? Again the answer is simple if you look at it. They aren't using an artificial construction called a drain field that is deep in the ground away from atmospheric oxygen and plant roots. There is a limited amount of oxygen in soils so that anaerobic biomat producing bacteria can survive. These anaerobic biomat producing bacteria can't survive the harsh conditions of the soil surface. The aerobic soil microbes have never encountered this situation before, nor have they had to compete with biomat producing bacteria from animal's guts, being re-enforced with countless more every day the septic system is used. They are simply overwhelmed over time.

I've run out of time and space. I will have the next View in a few days. I am trying to be as human and as true to the average homeowner as I can, while maintaining a level of factual information to inform and educate. If you don't like the style I am using, I am trying to have a little fun here, please let me know. I will consider all critiques.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The First Problem Component for "Stuff"

I would really like to be able to use another expression for waste but it isn't allowed and can't be used in polite company. I get tired of using waste, organic material or mass load etc so if you'll allow me a little lee way, I'd like to use "stuff" for awhile to describe the unmentionable we all know what I'm discussing. Thanks. Without a little humor, this business would really be....oh, I can't use more expressive words. Sorry.

What the component that makes our septic systems so problematic, with so little stuff going into it every day, is the septic tank. By accident, as a septic tank wasn't some brilliant idea by some inspired designer a hundred years ago or so, but the adaption to a problem called a cesspool because we use water to take our stuff out of our houses and business by gravity. I'll get into that later. Just realize that the modern concept of a septic system went through a lot of changes to problems that cropped up until we've found ourselves in our current situation.

The septic tank inadvertently became a collector of solid stuff by separation of solids that allowed sinkable stuff to settle out and this allowed light floatable stuff to do just that, float. The two types of solid stuff became known as sludge (on the bottom) and scum (floating on the top). This separation occurs because the intestinal bacteria that enter the septic tank every day in that cup or less of stuff concentrates until the septic tank is "matured". I love the words that are used and makes me think of my maturity...? This concentrated community attacks the solids with enzymes and other proteins that break the solids up into the above mentioned two types. Not complicated but not normally considered by homeowners. But the concentration of these bacteria bode ill for the disposal field.

If we were to deal with this less than a cup of stuff each day, we wouldn't have the problem of a highly concentrated problem bacteria that has a such a drastic affect on the disposal field. They wouldn't leave the septic tank every day in concentrations that gives them more potential for clogging disposal field soils. This concentrating of these problematic bacteria reaching the soil each day, adds additional masses of new members of their problematic group to guarantee that they will be able to set up "house keeping" in the soil and start their clogging process with vigor. We need to remove these problem bacteria from the effluent leaving the septic tank and the place to do that is, yep you're right, in the septic tank. We do that with the Pirana System technology.

I've said enough for today. I'll be back in a couple of days with another bit of information. Can't have too much information on stuff put into our heads at one time.

Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Ever wonder how much human generated solid waste (“stuff”) going into a septic system you have to deal with on a daily basis for a family of four? The average sized family in America has 4.3 people living and occupying the home as their primary residence. One day I asked myself that question and decided to find out. I asked four people to give me their day’s production of “stuff” (I gave them the means to do so). They of course believed that I’d lost my mind and considering what I’ve been doing for 40 years, I may have quite some time ago. None the less, I persevered.

I completely de-hydrated the “stuff” because the water component doesn’t count when trying to determine what the daily volume of “stuff” four people create. I was quite frankly shocked. I couldn’t fill up a measuring cup with the de-hydrated “stuff”. When viewed from that perspective I had to ask more questions. Like, why is it so difficult to deal with that small amount of organic “stuff”? Why does the government and septic industry have so little creativity that they can’t figure out a simple and inexpensive way to remove that relatively small amount of organic “stuff” from our septic systems on a daily basis? What’s important is that property owners realize how little organic “stuff” they put into a septic system every day.

There are components of a conventional anaerobic (without atmospheric oxygen) septic system that accepts this very small amount of “stuff” and make it problematic for our septic systems. The ultimate problem is in the disposal field, whether it’s a leach field, leach bed, seepage pit / dry well or mound.

Next I will discuss the component that creates the septic system problem from this small volume of daily organic "stuff".

Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My First Posting

This is my first time at trying my hand at "blogging". I'm not sure how it will turn out but I believe that there is a huge need for other voices in the septic industry that are interested in the homeowner who has to pay the bills. The influences that have brought me to this place in time I'll outline so there is hopefully a baseline for what I'm hoping to accomplish.

I am a 64 year old general contractor / consultant / inventor / designer licensed for more than 40 years. I decided in the early 1990s to find a solution for the homeowners to the costly, limited options being forced on homeowners by government regulations. Having patented a number of revolutionary products in several industries, I guess I've become a bit of an arrogant SOB when I think I can find a solution others can't or don't. I designed a device in 1995 as a solution for the homeowner. The method for its use was finalized in 2000. I succeeded far beyond what I'd hoped for. I started marketing my device and method for its use as the Pirana System. I created another dimension for the homeowner marketing a variant under the name Septic Genie.

My device changed my way of thinking about septic system repair and the septic industry in general. My device and its method of use has been teaching me how to think and view the septic industry and the governmental agencies that control and limit the homeowner's septic options (to the extent government can enforce control). The general septic industry promoted these limited options, and now my opinion is the general industry has been unknowingly acting as a decentralized monopoly.

I remember when ex-President Eisenhower left office and gave a speech that has a line in the speech that has been mentioned and quoted to this day. I paraphrase it here. "We must be wary of the military industrial complex..." Well there is another "complex" that the property owner with a septic system has to be wary of and that is the "regulator / septic industry complex" that has developed over that past three or four decades. This is a very important concern because which of us does not use the bathroom every day. We're trapped by having a biological imperative that impacts our daily lives no matter where we are. This makes a regulatory agency's decisions regarding septic systems and the business behavior of the septic industry in general very important and very different from other government agencies and other industries we deal with. We don't have to fix the roof if it leaks but we do have to fix the septic system failure.

In some ways I dislike to use the following comparison but I think its real and the impact is powerful. Property owners needing to "fix" his or her septic system that has a disposal field problem, are not that dissimilar to an addict needing a "fix" (interesting way of putting this solution) and the septic industry is not unlike an addict's supplier...they both can charge pretty much what they want and addict or property owner has to pay.

Under the guise of protecting us from ourselves and our neighbors, the regulators over time have limited our septic solution options promoted by the general septic industry interests, while not limiting our costs. Anyone living in the USA should know that if government limits our options and doesn't limit our costs, then there is no direction for costs to go but up. This is exactly what has happened to the homeowner with a septic problem; his costs have not only gone up but in many areas of the country have skyrocketed upward.

Anyone who has experienced septic system problems or drain field failure, and has had to work within the limitations the regulatory agencies have imposed on them to fix their septic problems, knows the horrendous costs they would have to pay if they followed these limitations. It is no wonder that the regulatory agencies are viewed as the enemy.

My intent will not be to bash the governmental regulatory agencies (I will not hesitate to call them to task for their positions vis a vis their employers the tax paying property owners), or the septic onsite treatment and disposal industry in general. My intent will be to give readers different perspectives, different ideas and different information than they will get from either the regulators or general septic industry businesses. I want to stimulate the reader to think independently while hopefully I educate the reader on subjects surrounding septic systems, septic system problems, disposal field failures, (often referred to leachfield failure) or generic disposal field problems.

My next postings will be about septic issues that have been sent to my web sites and my answers and perspectives to the issues.

Thanks for stopping by.