Septic Tank Additives: Yea or Nay?


Septic Tank Additives: Yea or Nay?

Some septic tank professionals market the benefits of septic tank additives for treating waste. On its own and without intervention, a septic tank is supposed to definitively and safely treat waste. However, it’s possible for problems to occur during the natural process septic tanks go through. Manufacturers design additives to manipulate the process and address some of the problems—in theory. But are these septic tank additives helpful?

Do Additives Help?

Before answering the question, it’s helpful to know that there are about 1,200 different additives available for use, according to Small Flows Quarterly; however, there isn’t a standardized testing method used to reach a conclusion about their effectiveness. As a result, it’s difficult for experts to agree on the use of additives.

In general, there are two primary benefits to using additives:

  • Some additives are showing promise for controlling grease or oil that gets into a tank.
  • Some additives can effectively control the amount of liquid waste from the solids in the tank.

When Additives Do More Harm Than Good

The potential downsides of using additives appear to outweigh the benefits.

  • Some chemical additives actually destroy the delicate balance of bacteria at work in the tank, which will result in poorly treated waste. They can also lead to groundwater contamination.
  • It’s not true that additives help reduce the amount of maintenance or pumping that a tank requires. No studies have been done to prove this claim, according to K-State Research and Extension.
  • Additives that manufacturers claim control odors also have negative side effects, like using formaldehyde, which can get into groundwater.
  • While studies have shown that some additives—like those that use hydrogen peroxide—help to prevent soil clogging, they can also decrease permeability in certain soils like loamy or clay soil.

Putting the Question to Bed

Most experts agree that the best course of action for treating septic tanks is simple. Instead of using potentially harmful additives, homeowners should schedule regular maintenance. When the system is properly installed and maintained, it will perform its duties as necessary. And homeowners can do one more task to contribute to its health: treat it well. Don’t overload the tank with too much nonwaste material—use garbage cans whenever possible—don’t flush foreign objects down the toilets or in the sinks, and don’t put harsh chemicals down drains.

The decision to use additives can lead to dire consequences. Before risking your safety, talk to a septic tank expert about using them.

For answers to your questions, contact the Pink Plumber today.

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