Septic systems are used primarily in rural areas where homes tend to be too far away from the areas where a city sewer connection is possible. They are designed to treat and dispose of wastewater that is flushed from the home. Septic systems that receive regular maintenance and inspections should last for decades.
Many homeowners have seen advertisements for septic tank additives, and they’re often deceptive in that they lead homeowners to believe they’re a necessity. However, septic tank additives are unregulated, lack standardized testing, and have no formal certification, making it hard to tell if they actually benefit septic tanks at all.
Septic tanks hold different types of bacteria that are essential for keeping the system working. Without these types of bacteria, oils, fats, and solids wouldn’t be able to separate, filter, or break down in the right way. Septic systems are designed to need as little human intervention as possible, so it is important to not fall for septic system myths that suggest the contrary. Septic tank additives are one of these septic tank myths.
The fact is, homeowners don’t have to buy expensive bottles of additives for their septic systems. In fact, they shouldn’t. Any additives or harsh chemicals used in the septic system could kill the important types of bacteria – including beneficial bacteria, so the anaerobic process that takes place inside the septic tank could be stopped by using additives, resulting in the whole septic system failing. Various additives for septic tanks claim to reduce formaldehyde, quaternary ammonium, and zinc sulfate odor, but they actually poison the system and its bacteria. It’s actually possible to cause extensive damage with store-bought additives, which will result in hefty repair or replacement costs. In fact, septic tank additives have resulted in enough system failures that some states have completely banned them.
Additionally, septic tank additives can corrode pipes and tanks while actively destroying the bacteria that is responsible for efficiently handling a pretty nasty job. If a homeowner notices a new smell coming from their septic system, they should call our septic experts at Acuantia to diagnose and treat the issue before it damages the septic tank beyond repair.
Various studies have been conducted to determine whether or not septic tank additives are beneficial, and as of now, there is little evidence to prove that additives improve the performance of healthy septic systems. In fact, they have been shown to kill and manipulate the bacteria and enzyme populations within the tank, making it less efficient.
Also contrary to popular belief, additives do not eliminate the need for septic maintenance. They may actually increase the need for maintenance due to additives eliminating bacteria and enzymes. Without the necessary bacteria and enzymes, organic waste can’t be broken down as easily or quickly, therefore the septic tank will fill more quickly and require maintenance more often.
Ultimately, maintenance on every septic system should be conducted every 6 months to one year regardless of the addition of additives – so you’re not buying yourself time by using additives, even if they do not damage your system. Regularly scheduled maintenance will allow our septic experts to identify and repair any damage to the septic system before it’s too late. A small maintenance fee twice a year is nothing compared to the cost and stress of completely replacing a failed septic system because a homeowner tried a shortcut with unregulated and unproven additives.
While there isn’t much data to prove that additives are beneficial to septic systems, there is significant data to show that they damage and ruin septic systems. Here are the various ways a septic system can be affected by using additives.
Septic tank additives can cause the insides of the septic tank to corrode. This means that leaks and significant amounts of damage can occur within the tank. If left unnoticed, the corrosion could compromise the integrity of the system, causing the contents of the tank to leach out and contaminate groundwater, ruin soil, and necessitate a potential complete replacement.
The various chemicals that septic additives contain can cause severe damage to the soil in the drain field. Once this has occurred, the drain field can be less effective at purifying the effluent that comes out of the septic tank. Hydrogen peroxide is a common ingredient in septic tank additives, and it has been found to harm bacteria and cause the drain field soil to not purify the effluent correctly. This puts the natural surroundings as well as nearby children and animals and even drinking water from your well at risk.
Before using any kind of septic tank additive, it is important to research local and state septic regulations to ensure they aren’t already banned. Some states have banned the use of additives due to the fact that they have caused complete failure in multiple system types.
In some areas only certain additives are allowed, so always check regulations before using additives. Many additives can contaminate local bodies of water, aquifers, and drain fields. This can cause significant health risks, and no homeowner wants to be responsible for contaminating their or another home’s water supply.
When a homeowner wishes to use additives in their septic system, they should contact our team of septic system experts at Acuantia before doing so. We will be able to provide all the pros and cons of using additives with the homeowner’s particular septic system design, as well as try to diagnose the root cause of the problem they’re looking to treat. More often than not, when septic systems begin to emit weird odors or back up into the home, an additive will not fix it, contrary to the claims these additive companies make.
We can perform a diagnostic inspection of the entire septic system so that any damage or necessary repairs are identified. More often than not, once our team has fixed the issue, the homeowner will no longer feel the need to use additives, as the root cause of the odor or sewage backup has been repaired.