Tag Archives: environment

Septic tank management: A fragrant problem

Inspect cess pools and septic tanks regularly to avoid problems.

Walking around a small village in Rutland recently I noticed the fragrance of septic tanks in the air. In rural areas it is common for properties not to be connected to the mains drainage system. These properties have to rely on a private drainage system such as a cesspool or septic tank. These types of drainage systems are very effective, provided they are managed correctly.

An average household will produce some 124,000 litres of waste each year. This is equivalent to emptying an 18,000 litre cesspool approximately seven times a year. If properly managed, most septic tanks or small sewage treatment plants do not cause problems – but if they are poorly designed, installed or managed, the discharge from them can damage the environment. Domestic wastewater can contain substances that are potentially harmful to human health and the environment.

A septic tank is a complete mini sewage system in which effluent is treated naturally. The primary purpose of the tank is to separate solids from liquids, as wastewater flows through it, and to help to break down contaminants.

A cesspool is a sealed underground tank with an inlet pipe but no outlet. It is connected to a property by a series of drainage pipes. The cesspool stores sewage and other wastewater until the time of disposal. Cesspools must be watertight to prevent the leakage of foul water or the ingress of groundwater.

Under the provisions of the Public Health Act 1936, it is an offence to allow a cesspool to overflow or leak. If this happens the owner is liable to prosecution by the local authority. In addition, if pollution of a watercourse takes place, the Environment Agency may take legal action under the Water Resources Act 1991. The penalty for allowing a polluting discharge is up to £20,000 and/or three months imprisonment.

A smell of sewage in the area, slowly draining sinks, toilets or baths, liquid overflowing from the inspection cover, surface flooding ‘downstream’ of the tank or nettles and vigorous plant growth ‘downstream’ can all be indicators of problems with your septic tank.

To avoid problems:

  • Put all wastewaters from your home into the system – any of these can contain environmental pollutants. All roof and surface water should discharge directly into a ditch or watercourse.
  • Use bleaches and disinfectants sparingly because these could kill the useful bacteria that help to digest the waste in your septic tank. Some brands of domestic cleaner are ‘septic tank friendly’ and are preferred.
  • Try to avoid excessive discharges from washing machines by using the ‘halfload’ setting. If possible use showers instead of baths.
  • Inspect the system at least once a month.
  • De-sludge the tank at least once a year. Ensure that air vents are not blocked and that all covers are secured and easily accessible.
  • Act immediately if you find a blockage or any sign of pollution.

Do not:

  • Use your toilet or kitchen sink as a bin. Put disposable nappies, sanitary items, plastic or other large solids which may cause blockages into the bin.
  • Empty chemical toilets into the drains of the septic tank.
  • Pour paints, solvents, oils, fats or heavy greases into the drains of the septic tank. These should be kept in their original containers and disposed of properly.
  • Allow roof or surface water into the septic tank. Excessive discharges into the tank will flush solids through before adequate digestion has taken place.

At Drain Doctor Plumbing and Drainage we understand septic tank systems and how they work.  We are experts in both the maintenance and installation of the systems.  We can upgrade existing systems to ensure they do not pollute ground water aquifers or water courses.

We can carry out ground forosity tests and lay down new soak-away or nitrification fields, with all work carried out in accordance with building regulations. We can also ‘audit’ existing septic tank systems and ensure the correct bacterial balance within the system.  This can be done by ensuring all materials used in the house are bio-degradable.  We also sell products to redress bacterial imbalance in septic tank systems.

Call us on 0800 3357 999 for a free septic tank consultation.


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Toilet without water

It is not likely to put plumbers out of business – but Microsoft founder Bill Gates is putting up cash to help invent a toilet that works without water.

The  “Reinvent the Toilet” competition financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded $3 million to researchers at eight universities to find ways of using new technology to create toilets that need not be connected to sewers, or to water and electricity lines, and that are cheap to use. A later stage of the competition will provide money for one or more of the winning prototypes to be produced commercially.

It may all sound a bit silly but even in the developed world the cost of providing sewage treatment is considerable and in many parts of the world the absence of proper sewage systems is a major threat to health.

We wish the inventors luck with their work – but we don’t think it is likely to reduce Drain Doctor’s workload in dealing with blocked drains anytime soon.

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No drugs down the drain

Some things are supposed to be flushed down the drain – and some things are not.

Drugs are one of the things that should definitely not go down the drain. They can cause all sorts of environmental problems.

Which is why I was pleased to see this programme in the USA to help prevent the disposal of medicines into the drainage system. Maybe it is something we should consider here in the UK.

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Hose pipe ban – are you wasting water?

Follow a few simple rules to save water - get your plumbing checked.

News that a ban on the use of hose pipes is being introduced in parts of England because of a shortage of water (in an area that only recently was in the headlines because of floods!) reminds us just how precious and fragile our water supply is.

We can all help to save water by following some simple tips (see http://www.water-guide.org.uk/tips.html, for example) and by making sure that we are not losing water through leaks and drips. If you have a tap that will not shut off properly and continually drips or if you have water running from overflows, you are wasting water. If you are on a metered water supply you are also wasting money!

So give your plumbing a quick check – or get Drain Doctor to do it – and help yourself and your community to cut water waste and avoid the need for more hose pipe bans.

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Harvest time for summer rain

Collect and use rainwater with a harvesting system.

After a recent spell of dry, warm weather in the UK we are now getting wet under heavy rain showers. However, the amount of rain is still not enough to fully replenish our reservoirs. No doubt, later in the summer, we will all experience the usual hose pipe bans.

We all need to take our responsibilities for the environment seriously, which is why we at Peterborough-based Drain Doctor Plumbing are offering rainwater harvesting systems as part of our portfolio of plumbing and drainage services. 

Usually rainwater runs off roofs through the soakaway system and is lost. In properties that have the old combined sewage system, rainwater joins the foul water and flows through the drainage system to the local water treatment plant for cleaning. 

Now it is possible for homeowners to collect and use rainwater and re-use ‘grey’ waste water from sinks and baths – helping to save money and the environment in the process. Reduced water consumption can lower bills and help to create a more sustainable built environment. 

In addition to existing plumbing and drainage services, Drain Doctor provides a complete rainwater harvesting installation service that includes site surveys, planning consultations and building and inspection work. 

There are two types of water harvesting system. By installing a collection tank in the garden, rainwater runoff from the roof can be collected and used to fill a water butt or supply a garden tap by use of a pump. 

Rainwater is harvested for non-drinking water applications and can also be pumped back into the house for use in flushing toilets and filling washing machines. 

The second type of water harvesting involves collecting grey water from sinks, washing machines and dishwashers and using it to flush the toilets. With this system household water is used twice which has an immediate payback on the water meter. 

Drain Doctor franchisees offering the service will project manage the whole installation from start to finish. We will liaise with planners and complete the work using selected highly trained subcontractors, tailoring each solution to the customer’s requirements. The customer will have one point of contact from the start to final completion of the project.

 Robin Banks, operations manager.

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