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Septic Systems (PA Perspective)

Source: Miller Precast

The Pennsylvania Perspective to On-lot and Land-based Wastewater Disposal Systems is being provided by B. F. Environmental Consultants Inc..  This on-line guide to on-lot wastewater disposal in Pennsylvania provides basic information on  approved, alternative and experimental land-based wastewater disposal and recharge systems.  This online resource provide general information on the selection, siting, sizing, and maintenance of on-site wastewater disposal systems for residential, commercial, and community applications. 

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Disclaimer: This online resource is based on available information and regulations as of December 2001. Where possible we have updated this information, but since this was prepared as an unfunded online education resource the website is updated when possible. In some cases, we have provided links to more current information.

1.0 Septic System Use

On-site land based wastewater disposal systems are the most common type of system in rural areas of Pennsylvania. These systems can include systems with septic tank and absorption areas (conventional and elevated sand mounds), aerobic tank and absorption area, aerobic treatment, sand filtration, disinfection, and stream discharge; spray irrigation systems; drip irrigation; graywater systems; evapotranspiration systems; composting toilets, and in some areas even wetland treatment systems. In Pennsylvania, it has been estimated that over 33% of the residents rely on land-based wastewater disposal systems to treat domestic wastewater. Throughout the United States and Pennsylvania, the most typical type of system is the septic tank and soil absorption system.

In Pennsylvania, the on-lot septic system is sited and designed to treat household or domestic wastewater , which includes: blackwater (toilet wastes), graywater (sink, dishwashing, laundry, and bathing waste), and water treatment device backwashings. Table 1 presents the typical characteristics for domestic wastewater and Table 2 presents the wastewater characteristics as a function of the pollutant source. From Table 2, it is apparent that garbage grinders significantly increase the pollutant loading and graywater is just as significant as a pollutant source as blackwater.

Please Note: It is the current practice and requirement by law that water treatment backwashings be discharged to the on-lot septic system. In some cases this has been associated with septic system malfunction, because the treatment units were being backwashed to frequently and at peak water use periods.

For Pennsylvania, the design flows used to size a system include the use of the garbage grinders, but these devices are NOT Recommended, see Table 2. It is also recommended that water conservation devices be used to decrease the hydraulic loading and peak hydraulic loading to a system. It is important to keep in mind that use of water conservation devices will reproduce water usage, but it will result in a higher concentration of pollutants in the wastewater. Since the new homeowner or future homeowner might remove the devices and because of the high concentration of pollutants in the raw domestic wastewater, it would NOT be advisable to reduce the size of the system just because water conservation devices have been installed or proposed.

Since the septic system relies on bacteria to assist in the decomposition and transformation of the pollutants in the wastewater, it is critical that hazardous chemical, non-organic material, or very complex organic materials not be introduced to the system. The following items are a partial listing of substance that should not be flushed down the toilet or otherwise added to the septic tank:

Regarding household cleaners for the toilet bowl and drain, it is better to use mild detergents, baking soda, or 1/2 cup of borax per gallon of water then bleach or any very strong caustic cleaners.

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To obtain more information about the company and its services, 
please E-mail: B.F. Environmental.
It would be appreciated if you would put your name, company name, mailing address, and phone number in the message.

B.F. Environmental Consultants
15 Hillcrest Drive
Dallas, PA 18612

Mr. Brian Oram, Professional Geologist, 
PA Sewage Enforcement Officer

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