If you're an avid chef or baker in a home with a septic system rather than a sewer hookup, you may have frequently been subjected to lectures about the potentially negative impact your food scraps, bacon grease, and even activated yeast can have on your plumbing and septic tank. For those unwilling (or unable) to shell out for a sewer hookup but who can't live without their garbage disposals, what options exist? Read on to learn more about how you can best protect your septic tank (and plumbing) without altering the frequency of your cooking or the types of foods you create.
Take advantage of enzymes
In an ideal world, a septic tank operates as its own small ecosystem — with bacteria and enzymes breaking down larger pieces of solid waste (including food scraps) while allowing liquids to leach through the porous sides of the septic tank and filter themselves through the sand and clay surrounding it. The use of certain chemicals can upset this ecosystem, as can the addition of greasy or acidic foods. As grease sticks to the side of your sewer pipes and septic tank, it can make it more difficult for liquids to leach from the tank, potentially causing it to overfill or even burst a sewer pipe or two beneath the ground's surface.
If you'd like to continue your current plumbing habits without increasing the frequency with which you have your sewer pipes cleaned or septic tank pumped, you may want to investigate the various enzyme additives at your disposal. Adding these enzymes to your toilet tank or other wastewater on a periodic basis can help break down the additional grease and solid components of the food you send through the garbage disposal. Over time, these additives can become self-generating and may be able to achieve ecological balance within your septic tank without requiring much extra maintenance.
If you tend to throw all your food scraps in the garbage disposal for grinding, you may find that a compost bin fulfills the same end goal (food disposal) while not only keeping your septic tank in good condition, but providing you with nutrient-rich soil and compost for use on your flower or vegetable garden.
A composting system can be as simple or complex as you'd like. Many find that a small plastic container in the kitchen can serve as a convenient repository for food scraps; you can then empty this into a larger compost bin outside. In other cases, you may simply opt to dump these scraps on a remote corner of your property (just watch out for interested wildlife!). In either event, the fewer scraps that wind up in your septic tank, the happier your home's plumbing will be.
For more information, contact local professionals like Walters Environmental Services.