Frequently asked questions
When Do You Need A Septic System?
When building in the country away from sewer mains and public utilities you need an alternative to manage your wastewater. A Septic System is an underground wastewater treatment structure designed and built to handle your wastewater. They are absolutely necessary in rural areas. This method of wastewater treatment is a combination of nature and innovation. A successful septic system requires a septic tank and a properly designed soil treatment component.
Do septic tanks require regular cleaning and/or pumping?
Yes. Septic tanks do require regular cleaning and pumping in order to prevent failure of the septic system. A septic tank that is too full does not have enough "storage space" and does not allow for the correct amount of time for the solids within the septic tank to be properly digested by the microorganisms prior to being released into the dosing chamber and out into your field. This can result in suspended solids and organic material being released into your septic field which will, in time, clog up the soil and cause the failure of your system.
To clean your septic tank we recommend contacting a vacuum truck contractor who will clean and safely remove the sludge (solids) and scum (grease, soap, etc. that float to the top of the liquid). Regular septic system maintenance will prevent costly repair or premature system replacement.
How can I tell when I need to have the septic tank cleaned/pumped?
On average, you will need to clean and pump out your tank every two years if you have a typical septic tank. System use and the size of your tank determine how often cleaning is required. If your property has acquired more occupants then there will be more demand on your system due to increased waste, showers, washing etc and more frequent maintenance will be required. It is best to check your tank every year in the spring or early summer to determine the quantity of sludge and scum in the tank. If the first compartment of your tank contains 12 inches (300mm) or more of sludge then you will need to arrange for the tank to be pumped out.
Recommended Septic Cleaning/Pumping Services:
High Country Vac Services at (403) 938-1500 - www.highcountryvac.com.
Advantage Vac at (403) 554-6559 - www.advantagevacandseptic.ca
Should I be using septic tank additives?
No. Septic tank additives are not necessary. The microorganisms in the anaerobic environment of the septic tank break down the solids within the tank very effectively and do not contain any chemicals (found in some additives) that may damage the effluent absorption portion of your septic system or seep into your soil and contaminate groundwater or nearby wells. Be aware that some chemicals may also emulsify grease so the grease might not float to the surface of the sludge (solids) as required thus becoming trapped within the sludge. If this grease moves (along with the sludge) into your septic system the soil can become clogged up and unable to accept water. In other words, a blocked septic system.
Septic tank additives are primarily used to reduce the need for regular septic tank cleaning and pumping and may contain bacteria, enzymes, and yeast (biologically based materials), acids and bases (inorganic chemicals), or organic chemicals, including solvents. In order for the waste to be broken down faster and released into the field faster (which must happen if cleaning isn't as regular) then its important to note that the increased biological activity in the tank could increase the amount of gas created during digestion which could cause suspended materials to "float" and not to move out of the tank as they should. If these improperly digested materials are carried out to the septic field the soil can again become blocked and unable to accept water.
Regular maintenance and cleaning offers the best protection to ensure the performance and long life of your septic system.
Are there any special requirements if I have a disposal field?
es. Disposal fields do have special requirements. As these fields have a limited capacity, minimizing your water use is an important step in the maintenance of your field. This will help to prevent the hydraulic overloading of this type of system.
The following water conservation measures can help to reduce the amount of wastewater requiring treatment in your field:
Immediately repair any leaking taps, showers or toilets
Install water saver taps and showers, dual flush or water saver toilets
Have shorter showers rather than baths Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth
Wash full loads of clothing
Please note that once the soil in a disposal field has become saturated the system may fail and may take a very long time to recover. Water saturation drives oxygen out of the soil which, in turn, drives insects, worms and aerobic soil microorganisms away. As these "bugs" keep the soil aerated, a lack of air in the soil results and digestion of the sewage is impaired.
It is also important to prevent heavy traffic from going on to the disposal field at any time or any continuing form of traffic during winter, even light traffic such as snowmobiles, as this can freeze the system due to frost being forced deeper into the ground. During summer, ensure your lawn is short and keep water runoff away from the disposal field. For more information, see Alberta Private Sewage Codes and Standards
Limit dishwasher use to full loads
How do I know if my existing septic system is treating sewage effectively?
If you are new to a property or if you have had your septic system for a good number of years, it is beneficial to have your system evaluated in order to determine what type of tank and field you have and whether this system is meeting your needs. Environmentally, a properly functioning septic system is very important to ensure because, in addition to sewage disposal, it also treats the wastewater prior to it being released into the environment, groundwater systems and nearby wells. If your property has acquired more occupants then there will be increased demand on the system due to increased waste, showers, washing etc. The original system may not have been designed to accommodate this added use. This may also be the case if you have moved to an older property where your needs exceed those of the previous occupants.