Septic tank additives (C) Daniel FriedmanGuide to Septic Drainfield Rejuvenation - "Un-Clogging," or "Repair" Products & Procedures

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Guide to septic system drainfield restoration methods:

This article discusses the use of various septic drainfield restoration methods and explores their effectiveness. Are there some septic drainfield restoration systems that work without replacing the drainfield? Perhaps. Why don't we see expert, independent peer-reviewed research confirming their efficacy?

This article series discusses the use of various septic drainfield restoration methods including the use of drainfield restorer treatments, add-on aerobic systems, soil aeration, porox methods, jetting, chemical treatments and also septic tank or drainfield aeration or septic aerobic system add-on systems and special septic bacteria for failed septic system rejuvenation.

We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.

Failed or Clogged Septic Field Rejuvenation or Restoration Products & Methods: Alternative Onsite Waste Disposal (Septic System) Materials & Products

Should you add septic treatment chemicals, nutrients, cleaners, bacteria, yeast, root killers, septic drainfield decloggers to septic systems? Generally, no. Why not? What causes septic system failures? What do experts say about septic chemicals and septic treatments? Why do people use them?

Article Series Contents

These questions are addressed here. Our page top photograph shows a collection of septic system additives, chemicals, cleaners, root killers, etc. for sale at a building supply store. We do not have specific information about these individual products and we make no specific representation about the efficacy of any individual product shown.

OPINION: the following comments describe the results of a search for information about two approaches to "failed septic system rejuvenation" and comment on the level of independent technical study and research supporting the types of product under examination.

Types of Septic Rejuvenator or Septic Drainfield Restoration Systems

3 March 2015, Anonymous said:

Have you tested or heard of the XXX (name deleted) . It is inserted into the clean side of a septic tank and air is pumped into it to aerate the water? Does it work? Thanks for your help. -- Dave Massetti

Answer: Let's look at two septic system rejuvenator approaches - one that you asked about inserts an aerator into the septic tank, and a second approach that is a bit more sophisticated

Add-on Aerobics for Conventional Septic Tanks - an Interesting Septic Rejuvenation System Approach with Some Questions Remaining

We took a preliminary look at the XYZ Drainfield Savior system about which you inquired, but emphasize that we are expert on it nor its efficacy - what follows are some simple research and tentative conclusions based on study, reader comments about septic system repair attempts, and septic failure inspection & testing experience:

This XYZ Drainfield Savior system is comprised of a small do-it-yourself conversion kit to "convert" a conventional septic tank to a sort of aerobic septic system - though the design of a conventional non-areobic-septic-system tank and drainfield almost certainly were not originally made with an aerobic system in mind. Although you referred to the "clean side" of the septic tank, many conventional septic systems use a single chamber tank where this device would have to work if no other (costly) modifications to the system were made.

At AEROBIC SEPTIC SYSTEMS, ATUs you'll see that an aerobic septic system has tank and a number of other design features designed specifically for that approach.

It is certainly true that aerobic type septic systems are able to treat waste to a higher level.. But a confirmation that treating current and future effluent to a higher level rejuvenates a failed drainfield despite any other conditions in the system would seem to deserve independent expert research and documentation beyond testimonials and the enthusiasm of the inventor.

The claims at the website are certainly enthusiastic: System XXX returns drain fields to proper functioning and keeps them from failing in the future [we have paraphrased to respect the identity of specific septic restorer products and systems].

Comments and Questions about XYZ Drainfield Savior system

1. There are surely plenty of septic system failure cases that cannot and should not be "restored" by adding anything to the system whatsoever - such as collapsing septic tanks, broken baffles, crushed D-boxes, improperly located and designed fields, collapsed drainfield trenches or piping. All of these conditions need diagnosis and physical repairs. For that matter, without diagnosis we don't know that the septic "failure" isn't due to a broken pipe rather than a failed drainfield. So rushing to Septic Genie might be in some cases a mistake.

See the septic system inspection and diagnosis advice at SEPTIC SYSTEM INSPECTION & TEST GUIDE


2. The XYZ Drainfield Savior system and marketing includes a special septic bacteria along with a plastic aerator, tubing, and an air pump to be mounted in the septic tank.

A septic tank aerator will almost certainly improve the level of treatment in the septic tank, reducing the workload on the drainfield, though retrofit aerators in non-aerobic-designed septic systems need some research and testing. The air volume, flow rate, distribution, and septic tank shape, as well as maintenance are all designed with care for a true aerobic septic system.

Bacterial additives are something that experts in the field have told us time and again are inappropriate and unnecessary. We didn't find any independent assessment of this bacterial additive.

3. How does XYZ work? By sending less-loaded higher-treated effluent and special bacteria into the drainfield the clogged biomat around the drainfield trench sides and bottom is repaired.

This may be partly accurate. For example, if we totally stop using a drainfield trench for some period of time to allow it to rest (alternating drainfields) the biomat may recover some function. I'm not sure what happens when effluent load continues on a trench with higher-treated effluent. The inventors state that bacteria produced in the septic tank (their special strain) migrate to and improve the field biomat.

The inventors explain that "we have used the wrong bacteria for more than a century - although really the same bacteria, naturally occurring in wastewater and developing in septic tanks has served in septic and waste disposal facilities for longer than that.

4.Watch out: other than testimonials, and a patent for an earlier device, we could not find actual technical data, nor any independent research on effectiveness of this design, even though it is appealing.

Here is what one inventor explained about an XYZ product:

We decided to stop selling our original invention directly to homeowners because there were installation, maintenance, and performance issues with that design. So we shrunk the size and production cost of the original design but we didn't reduce its effectiveness. Then we re-packaged and began marketing our simplified design only to do-it-yourself owners. No septic contractors, engineers, or design consultants are involved.

None of this describes the theory, nor any independent corroborating testing of XYZ, though the inventors are enthusiastic and are confident in its success.

Certainly increasing the level of treatment in an otherwise un-damaged septic tank is likely to be a good idea in any case; and a system that does not use toxic chemicals is not likely to be harming the environment.

In sum - we often find XYZ drainfield rejuvenation products sold with strong claims from the inventor/vendor, and supported testimonials, but with little or no reliable third-party research.

Drainfield Restorers:
Can an Add-On Aerobic Treatment System or Septic Tank Aerator Rejuvenate a Septic Drainfield?

[Notice: the following comments provided by a reader are provided for study and thought about drainfield rejuvenation using a septic tank add-on aerator system. We have conducted no study nor found other independent studies concerning the questions raised by the writer cited. - ED.]

Question: Can Septic Genie [or other septic tank add-on aeration system] rejuvenate, restore, or fix a failed drainfield?

Do you have a file on dissatisfied customer emails concerning this [Septic Genie] product? Of course, the product website has glowing endorsements for customers in the short creates clear fluid and eliminates odors rapidly; however, after 18 months, my septic tank level rises after one-half inch of measured yard rain.

I had been in contact with Jerry Fife after a soil scientist evaluated my property for septic compatibility ...finding a 1 inch per 10 minute drainage rate (somehow). I provided Jerry with his number so he could speak directly to my source and eliminate any layman's confusion or errors. To my knowledge, he has never contacted the soil scientist. Further, he appears extremely busy and has not taken or returned my calls yesterday and today; excluding his immediate desire to contact the soil scientist over 10 days ago, and promptly report back to me.

After a year, my septic should have been re-mediated or rejuvenated, according to the theory. Modest rainfall causes my septic tank level to rise. After 1.3 inches of rain this Monday (2 days ago), my tank indicated by the bubbling fluid. - S.S.

Additional details: evidence of drainfield failure

Our house was placed into service in 1995 as the initial model home. It is unknown if the sales staff used it solely throughout the two-three year subdivision generation or if the staff moved from new house to new house. In any event, the house has been occupied since 1995...25.5 years of septic system use.

We purchased the house in late September 2000 and have resided here for 10.5 years. Reportedly, the residence had been vacant for nine months when we began our residency. Within six months of laundry use, the septic prohibited the toilet function closest to the septic drain entry...the guest bathroom.

We ceased discharging laundry drains into the septic system, never used the garbage disposal, and observed the water softener drain never appeared to have been connected to house piping (was externally discharged). Several years later, we took additional steps.

Approximately two and one half years ago, we had the leach field pipes water jetted and inspected after pumping the tank itself. Eighteen months ago, we had the septic tank pumped, cleaned, and inspected for leaks and built a new laundry room and removed the (previously electrically disconnected) garbage disposal.

Personnel cleaning leach piping found no deficiencies and reported no tree roots inside our piping. Septic personnel reported no cracks or leaks inside our septic tank. The same septic personnel installed my septic genie for three reasons; soil determination capability, familiarity with aerobic systems, and technical knowledge.

The septic genie's instructions indicate homeowner installers may elect to have septic personnel install the plastic tank adapter and riser pieces to ensure a good fit.

My septic personnel had the regional representative verify my leach field soil was acceptable for aerobic system installation, a descendant and offshoot of the piranha corporation, in competition with genie and piranha parent company. I elected the genie because it was the only homeowner installation and at a reduced cost, vice their competition, after getting verification and installation acknowledgments.

My septic personnel completely installed my genie.

Within three days, leach field odors from installation inspection test holes ceased and clear effluent existed in my septic tank.

Within one week, the plastic lid had popped off my tank due to back-pressure; dismissing the ideal where using trained septic personnel ensures a snug fit when adapting to plastic tanks pieces. Septic technicians had forgotten to remove the eighty pound concrete lid and pushed the plastic riser back onto the concrete lip of the tank and then placed the concrete lid atop the plastic closure lid.

Within another week, back-pressure had cocked the lid and bubbling clear effluent was visible and audible.

Septic personnel returned and seated the lid for a third time, without applying new sealant excepting the original installation.

The riser remains cocked and the concrete lid remains in-place, and the air pump continues to produce a bubbling brook effect after one-half inch of residential rainfall, via a plastic rain collecting gauge.

A month ago we hired a soil scientist to perform sampling along our leach field and identify potential future mound installation sites.

The soil under the bottom of the trench inspected was relatively dry. Having been in a drought for three years, excepting medium rains around genie installation time period, twenty inches of dry soil exists under our leach field before finding clay at fifty inches depth. Thus, our leach field bottom was correctly installed at thirty inches below the surface.

The soil examiner reported our soil composition as having between 80 and 85 percent sand; I did not inquire where he obtained this information. He assigned a 1 inch per 10 minute drain rate. He directed me to redirect existing backyard gutter drains and install a gutter on the wall adjacent to the leach field.

He considered the leach field does not get dried out. I countered with the fact we had received virtually no rains for three months and soil near the leach field was completely dry with 50 inches of good soil to soak.

I disagreed with the notion area rain was inhibiting leach field function, after 18 months of genie use and one-half inch of rainfall causing my septic tank level to evidenced by the audible bubbling inside the septic tank. In essence, my tank level should remain near the bottom of the exit piping inside the septic tank.

In short, if the genie eliminated dysfunctional bio-mat then soil under my leach fields must be wet as the system gets daily use.

I must believe the indications and accept the bio-mat continues to seal the sides and bottom of the leach field, explaining how minimal rainfall causes septic tank level rises.

Assuming no cracks into the tank exist.

Due to financial hardships in my area gutter installation requires going long distance to obtain installers. I have obtained landscaping plastic with a one-inch tubular lip to redirect rain away from the leach field. I am designing a 4-inch underground piping system to redirect gutter drains into a swell we had created alongside one leach line two years ago.

The manufacturer of the genie recommended I install a leach field monitoring well and remove the plastic lid on the septic and record how fluid levels react during rainfall, but also to determine resting tank level. I am replacing the bacteria bag in the genie and adding the five shot treatment (flush one bag every two days) for exponentiation of aerobic bacteria ability ...perhaps pushing through the bio-mat barrier.

Simultaneously, my septic personnel will reseal the plastic adapter, might pump and inspect my tank for cracks, and will install an additional safety pan below my riser lid. I want the new safety pan to have a 22-inch diameter (one-inch thick) Plexiglas viewing window sealed with marine goop sealant.

Six screws are required to remove the plastic cover lid for viewing tank level.

My plumber is the regional Terra-lift (or their competitors brand) franchisee. He recommends I take the money he would charge, drive down the road, and toss it out the car window. As such, many could benefit from my largess. In lieu of a full treatment, Genie personnel want me to see if he would do a partial shock of the system.

Since this plumber has repeatedly made it clear (including last weeks above remarks) anything beyond installing a mound system is a waste of effort and money, I do not believe he will do a partial treatment. In his mind, I may get two weeks of effect and then the system will return to normal.

He believes the type of limestone gravel installed in the 1980's was not the correct type for longevity. Since the house has met the federal timetable (20-25 years) for a system, he and others believe I should bite the bullet. However, if the Genie re-mediates bio-mat as advertised, the soil scientist believes we have good soil under the leach field, then I prefer to give it another six months at least.

Please realize, excluding the bio-mat issue, no one has given me a scientific reason for soil failure. If the plumber is correct, improper gravel was used, then I suspect the system should have failed within five years, not fifteen. I have not done soil compaction testing yet.

Visually, little compaction was reported by the soil examiner. The plumber believes the limestone has formed a congealed impenetrable mass, as there good varieties of limestone and less desirable types. Rules in my State and County have changed over the life of my system, any repair is replacement with a mound system.

For sheer aesthetics, I believe my septic tank and Genie are the perfect pre-stage for the Elgen chamber above-ground system.

My premise - injecting clear fluid into an above ground system enhances the operation of that system. Elgen also builds piranha, genie, and other royalty driven aerobic systems, in addition to mound system manufacture.

The Genie is smaller in composition and diameter than the piranha and piranha offshoots, but the manufacturer considers size to have minimal impact. The same bacteria and air pump is used for both piranha and genie.

Hopefully, my Plexiglas view window will arrive before this weekend so I can seal it into the safety pan and if the rains cease I can begin to reseal plastic riser pieces and replace the bacteria colony in my Genie, and inspect the tank for leaks next week.

The above information may be used as good faith information. - S.S.

Reply: Septic Tank Flooding After Rainfall Indicates One or More System Failures

The rise in liquid level in a septic tank following rainfall is strongly suggestive of surface or subsurface runoff invading the septic tank or drainfield and in either case is an indication of failure in that a flooded drainfield will not adequately treat septic effluent. You'll want to investigate and cure the source of extra water in the system.

A separate question: the ability of an aerobic or any other septic tank action "improver" to rejuvenate a septic drainfield should be supported by independent expert studies. Advertisements and testimonials do not adequately substitute for impartial expert evaluation.

Also see the preceding discussion about drainfield rejuvenation or restoration beginning


Aero-Stream: Another & Different Septic Rejuvenation System with Promise & Some Questions

This discussion has moved to AERO-STREAM SEPTIC REJUVENATION

Our search for XYZ Septic Drainfield Rejuvenators also turned up the system marketed by Aero-Stream® This is not the same aerobic septic tank system product described by the XYZ system we discussed above, though this approach uses similar principles to improve the level of wastewater treatment in the septic tank and intended to restore effluent flow through the drainfield.

Other Drainfield Repair or Restoration Approaches: Arcan, BioCycle, Hydrogen Peroxide, Hydrojetting, Porox, TerraLift

This topic has moved to OTHER DRAINFIELD RESTORE APPROACHES - separate article: Septic field restoration projects and products: Porox™, BioCycle® , hydrogen peroxide, acids, enzymes, pressurized aeration, TerraLift®, resting the drainfield, as attempts to rejuvenate a drainfield: do they work? are they legal?

Other Septic Rejuvenation Systems are discussed


Trenchless Pipe Technology Proposed for Septic Drainfield Soakaway Bed Leachfield Pipe Repair or Replacement


Reliability of White Papers & Technical Journal Articles

Tips for Evaluating Any Technical Journal Article

Are there conflicts of interest between the article authors and the study or product reviewed?

For example do any of the authors have a financial interest in the product. Readers may recall the brouhaha that ensued a decade ago when a study proving that cotton balls treated with an insecticide would be carried by mice into their burrows where the chemical would kill off deer ticks?

The authors, it developed, held a patent on the approach recommended in their journal article.

  1. Consumer complaints about other septic restoration products [we have not received consumer comments about the system discussed here]: over the past 30 years of field investigation work and more than 10 years of publishing, we have had a recurrent reports from homeowners who tried a septic rejuvenation system or product. The most common complaint has been that while the process appeared to work at first, the solution was not lasting - often relief was less than a year.
  2. Peer review would be helpful: The publishing journal is an established one, with experts on staff, but the article is not a peer-reviewed work - meaning we don't have the benefit of criticism by other experts in the field. Peer review can make a significant difference in the acceptance of any research, as other neutral party experts in the field will know better how to interpret and question the methodology and conclusions of any study than a lay reader. For this study, George W. Loomis who commented (apparently privately) to the authors on the manuscript is a respected expert in the field of onsite waste disposal. We don't know what he said.
  3. What does a journal article really say? Does the article actually test the restoration of a failed drainfield or does it handle the less confounded task of comparing conventional septic tank wastewater processing with a retrofit aerobic and effluent filter system?
  4. We watch out for conflicts of interest in all technical studies. The inventor of the Aero-Stream® Aerobic System is Karl Holt - he is not listed among the article's authors.

The study above does not mention [and the authors may not have considered it pertinent] that the first author, David A. Potts, from Killingworth CT, holds a patent on several wastewater treatment methods see and these three patents:

The second author, Gorres is at U. Rhode Island - see - and is also an active professional in the field. Cf: "Acid Phosphatase Activity As An Indicator Of Phosphorus Status In Riparian Forest Soils:, José A. Amador and Josef H. Gorres.

The patents indicate someone with great interest in the topic of effluent disposal, experience, and some inventions. As with our deer tick example above, it is always important for readers of journal articles that endorse products or systems for sale to remain alert for undisclosed, serious conflicts of interest in the study.


Continue reading at AERO-STREAM SEPTIC REJUVENATION or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.


Also see these closely related articles





To understand why a drainfield or soakaway bed ultimately clogs up and stops working also see SEPTIC BIOMATS

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