Alternative Septic System Designs
for wet, steep, rocky, small, poor percolation sites
SEPTIC SYSTEM DESIGN ALTERNATIVES - CONTENTS: How to design, building, inspect, test & matinatin alternative septic system designs for problem sites. Description of alternative septic systems, design criteria, product sources. AEROBIC Septic systems, cesspools, dosing systems, drywells, evaporation/transpiration, gravelless, & graywater systems. Media filter systems, septic filters, graywater filters, septic mound systems, raised bed septics, sand bed septic systems. Residential sewage treatment systems, waterless or low-water toilet alternatives, product sources
InspectAPedia tolerates no conflicts of interest. We have no relationship with advertisers, products, or services discussed at this website.
Guide to alternative septic system designs:
This article provides a master list (links at the "More Reading" links at the bottom of this article ) of all alternative septic system designs for difficult building sites such as wet sites, steep sites, rocky sites, limited space, bad soils with no percolation or sandy soils with too fast percolation, sites close to a lake, river or stream, and other difficult site conditions.
We provide detailed articles about each alternative septic system design choice, listing its features, design requirements, inspection details, maintenance needs, product sources. We include links to septic design engineers, advanced septic system products and septic design books and building codes.
This document is a chapter provides in our Septic Systems Online Book.
Examples of advanced septic designs discussed in this article series include aerobic septic systems, chemical, composting, incinerating & waterless toilets, evaporation-transpiration
(ET) septic systems, septic media filters, greywater systems, holding tank septic systems, mound septics, peat filter septics, raised bed septics, pressure dosing septic systems, sand bed filters, peat beds, constructed wetlands,
wastewater lagoons, constructed wetlands, and septic disinfection systems.
Alternative Septic System Designs: Onsite Wastewater Treatment Methods for Difficult Sites
This article describes just about every type of alternative septic system design and provides links to detailed descriptions of these designs for onsite wastewater treatment. "Septic System Alternative Designs" refers to any onsite
wastewater disposal method other than the widely used conventional septic tank and leach field. In the U.S. most states require that an "alternative septic system" be designed by a professional and submitted to the local health department for approval.
Alternative onsite wastewater disposal systems can reduce the soil absorption area or leach field size requirement substantially and can in fact in some cases reduce the needed area to zero. For problem sites where space or soil conditions make
it difficult to install a conventional leach field or where an existing septic system has failed, these designs are very important alternatives.
The alternative septic system designer conducts the site and soil inspection and testing, prepares the system design and installation plan,
supervises the septic system construction, and certifies that the system was installed as designed.
Alternative septic system designs are used for new or replacement septic systems on difficult sites where soil conditions (such as a rocky site, limited soil percolation rate, or high ground water level), or other
terrain conditions (such as limited space for a septic system or steeply sloped sites) do not permit the installation of a conventional septic tank and drainfield system.
Examples of site conditions that lead to consideration of an alternative septic design include:
Bad soils: building sites with soils with very low percolation rates or no soil percolation such as clay soils
Difficult soils: building sites with other soil problems such as too-fast percolation rate, perhaps too sandy
Failed septic systems: sites where an existing septic system has failed and there is limited space or other constraints on septic system repair
Rocky building sites or sites with bedrock and not enough topsoil to treat and dispose of wastewater.
Small building sites which lack adequate space to install a conventional septic drainfield
Steep building sites which do not permit installation of a conventional drainfield or sand bed
Wet building sites with high groundwater or subject to surface runoff (that cannot be fully diverted)
General Categories of Onsite Residential Wastewater Treatment Systems
Because various texts provide so many different views of categorizing wastewater systems, I've
made this simple list which groups wastewater treatment systems into a few major categories: [Readers should see our Master List of Septic System Types or our list of alternative septic system designs and products in the links at the left of these pages.]
Conventional Septic Tank and Drainfields in native soils for effluent
absorption and treatment. Up to 45% of
effluent treatment, often less, occurs in the septic tank, the remainder occurring in the drainfield. Some "advanced" septic system designs may be simple modifications to a conventional septic tank and leachfield, such
as ALTERNATING BED SEPTIC SYSTEMS.
Raised Bed and Septic Mound systems which take a similar approach as conventional systems cited above, but which require extra
steps of soil preparation or the necessity to bring in fill to treat effluent. A common raised bed design is the
sand-lined filter bed septic system.
See MOUND SEPTIC SYSTEMS
see RAISED BED SEPTIC SYSTEMS
Advanced Material Media Filtration systems (sand beds, filter beds, peat filters, synthetic
textile filters, rotating biological contractor systems, trickling filters, foam media filters including above-ground self-contained systems).
See MEDIA FILTER SEPTIC SYSTEMS
AEROBIC SEPTIC SYSTEMS which insert additional oxygen into and agitate sewage in the primary treatment tank
See AEROBIC SEPTIC SYSTEMS
Wetlands and Constructed Wetlands for sewage or effluent treatment. This category may also include greenhouse
treatment systems or other methods involving the use of constructed or natural water/land formations. Also see LAGOON SEPTIC SYSTEMS
Disinfection Systems which perform a final treatment of effluent by use of disinfectant chemicals (chlorine)
or perhaps UV light so that effluent can be discharged to the surface or to ground water or even streams and
waterways. Also see AEROBIC SEPTIC SYSTEMS
Waterless and Low-Water and Greywater-Separation systems, which may not really treat effluent, may not
discharge anything into the environment, but which form another set of alternative designs where water supply or
land use restrictions mean that a conventional system is not permitted. Examples include composting toilets,
incinerating toilets, chemical toilets, and graywater systems.
Master List of Septic System and Wastewater Treatment Alternative Designs
below offers a complete list of alternative septic system designs and major septic system component designs along
with a description of each septic system/onsite wastewater treatment approach. For each
system we link to articles providing more in-depth design, installation, repair,
inspection, maintenance and product source information.
Levels of Wastewater Treatment - How Sanitary is the Final Effluent?
In case the above list of wastewater treatment categories is not enough, there are also various
levels of degree of treatment of septic effluent achieved
by different versions of these systems, by natural wetlands septic systems, or by use of septic effluent disinfection systems.
For example, you may read about more than one type of gravity dosing or pressure-dosing sand filter beds
system which look a lot alike but which achieve different degrees of effluent treatment.
Jantrania (see Alternative Septic Designers) describes eleven Onsite Wastewater Treatment Types in a confusing
list (Table 1.3 in his text) since the same type of system may appear more than once (drainfields) depending
on the level of treatment achieved by a specific implementation. In the same text the author proposes
a Pollution Scale numbered from 0 Drinking Water) to 10 (Sewage). (p.36). An overall sewage
treatment level of 50% would be 5.0 on this scale, and a treatment level of 100% would mean that
the output of the system was equivalent to drinking water in purity.
Because over time the concentration of contaminants in incoming sewage and wastewater varies by type of
use, level of building occupancy, changing soil moisture and temperature, and other factors, it is risky to assume that a regulation or
a septic system design level requiring or claiming 90% treatment (pollution scale 1.0) is always producing
effluent treated to exactly that level.
Awareness of the variation in level of contaminants in sewage
arriving at a treatment system, as well as awareness of variations in site conditions (level of
ground water, temperature, frequency of inspection and maintenance) is behind the very conservative
standards adopted by many health departments regulating septic system installations.
The terms percentage of treatment and level of treatment of sewage or wastewater
are used in different and perhaps confusing ways. A writer may say that "45% of
the effluent treatment occurs in the septic tank".
I take this to mean that whatever the overall or final
level of wastewater treatment that the whole system is going to provide, from input to the system to final discharge
of effluent into the environment, 45% of it is occurring inside the septic tank. This does not necessarily
mean that the effluent discharged from the septic tank is 45% of the way along the pollution scale or nearly half way
to being pure drinking water.
The term "level of treatment" should be reserved to mean the overall or final degree
of purity of the effluent which is discharged to the environment.
Sewage contaminants- what's in sewage, and typical sewage contaminant levels are discussed
in more detail at Septic system contaminants.
General Categories of Wastewater Dispersal Methods
Adding to the complexity of what to call various septic systems, there are also categories of methods of
septic effluent dispersal (to the final treatment and soil absorption or other effluent disposal system) such as:
Gravity-Fed Perforated Pipe in Gravel-Filled Trenches: these are conventional gravity-fed drainfields, using gravity to permit wastewater to flow from the
septic tank to the absorption system or drainfield. Wastewater moves out of the septic tank to the drain field by gravity in response to and equal in volume to new waste entering the septic tank.
The absorption system consists of perforated pipes in gravity-filled trenches dug into native soils.
Drip or Spray systems which may disperse effluent above or below ground.
Gravity Dosing systems, which distribute wastewater to the drain field in irregular batches or "doses", permitting the absorption system to rest and recover between doses.
Pressure Dosing effluent dispersal methods for septic effluent handling such as sprinkler dispersal, and intermittent effluent dosing systems which using pressure dosing by pressure manifold, rigid pipe systems, or pressurized drip irrigation systems
An individual septic system design may use a combination of these methods to treat, disperse, and dispose of septic effluent. For example, a sand filter bed septic system might be fed by gravity, by a gravity-operated dosing system, or by a pump operated pressure dosing system.
Keeping these types of of septic systems(treatment methods) and these types of wastewater dispersal
in mind when reviewing various off-the-shelf packaged septic systems or wastewater treatment systems with interesting but non-descriptive names (like the "magic bullet treatment box")
will help you to understand the general approach which has been taken in any specific case and will help you choose among alternative septic system designs and products.
Further reading will be needed to understand
the installation cost, maintenance cost, and level of management required of each type of septic system. I collect and publish here additional details on alternative septic system design, installation costs, and maintenance costs.
Links at the left of this page and most of our septic information website pages offer descriptions, design suggestions, product sources for each of these septic system types.
Jantrania (see Alternative Septic Designers) sorts alternative or advanced onsite wastewater treatment systems
into five major groups: aerobic septic effluent. treatment systems, media filters, natural systems such as wetlands, waterless toilet systems, and disinfection systems.
Here, however, our list of septic system designs and effluent. treatment
alternatives is organized alphabetically and includes not only alternative methods of primary treatment but also methods of effluent final treatment, dispersal, and disposal. Conventional gravity septic tank and effluent drain field systems (Jantrania/Gross wastewater system type I)
are discussed at the "Septic Systems Home" and "Septic Design Basics" links at the left of these pages.
Consultants in this field can be listed at our alternative septic designers page at no charge by contacting me.
Try the search box below or CONTACT US by email if you cannot find the answer you need at InspectApedia.
I was interested in a piece of property which I understand that cannot accommodate sumping. I am under the impression (because I have not gotten to the end of figuring out why just yet) that this is because it is a waterfront property and/or the water table is too close to the surface thus reducing the availability of sufficient drainfield without causing water contamination. So my question is; is there another approved alternative to the absorption field to effectively control liquid effluent retention? - D.M. 8/29/2013
From your email I think you need an onsite septic design engineer - there sounds like a confusion of terms, codes, and requirements, and in my own case I'm not sure what you mean by "sumping" nor "liquid effluent retention" - those terms are not ones I use for onsite wastewater disposal.
If you are asking about a holding tank (sewage is retained and periodically pumped and removed by a waste hauler) some communities permit that design along a waterway but many do not.
If you are asking about how sewage and (separated) effluent are handled at wet sites, there are some designs that can handle that case, sometimes combining treatment above ground with disinfection; but again, not all communities will approve them.
That's why you need an onsite expert who also knows local codes & officials.
Some options you might want to discuss can be found in the article link I give just below. Also take a look at Anish Jantrania's book listed in the references section of that article. Dr. Jantrania has described wastewater treatment systems that can function effectively entirely above ground, producing sanitary wastewater discharge.
Question: explanation of septic drainfield soakbed layouts
(Mar 23, 2014) Rocky said:
i noticed that after my septic tank i come across a four way of orangeburg piping. it looks to me that the d box is layed out after this fourway. What would be the most logical explanation for this layout?
Indeed in a typical septic tank and drainfield or soakaway bed installation, a single line exits the septic tank and connects to a distribution box or D-box that in turn feeds two or more outlets of piping that are routed into drainage trenches, galleys, or whatever.
But I cannot guess at how your piping is laid out. If that's what you're asking you'd start by guessing by taking a look at the size and shape of the available drainfield area.
Question: find information about the Clivus Multrum composting toilet
(May 29, 2014) Anonymous said:
Went to Hawk Mnt,Allentown,Pa. Used an outdoor facility called, I belive clumus moltrom. Can you tell me about this and the correct spelling
Sure Anon, you're talking about a Clivus Multrum composting toilet discussed here at
Question: soil perc test results
(Oct 1, 2014) perne construction said:
We had a test boring done in the only place we can put a new cesspool and the results were Perched Water: 6'1" comment possible stream. Estimated Actual Ground Water Level 18' O +/-
My question is how and what kind of cesspool can be put in under these conditions
I would not install any kind of cesspool - as that approach to wastewater disposal does not effectively treat the effluent (not enough aerobic bacteria) and as cesspools are not permitted in new construction in most jurisdictions.
If your lot space is very small you may need an advanced wastewater treatment system, even an aboveground one such as Jantrania discusses. It's time to ask for help from a septic design engineer.
Question: design for septic systems over soil with high water table
20 January 2015 Susie said:
Im trying to get a septic permit for a property I gave an offer to. In 2002 it was denied due to "too shallow to water table". Is there any solution to this?
Susie you need
1. to find out what septic designs your local health department will approve, perhaps a raised bed septic or a mound septic design or another alternative design - see the designs including the two I cite at More Reading above listed under SEPTIC SYSTEM DESIGN ALTERNATIVES
2. to find a local septic design engineer who understands local soil conditions as well as what the building department finds comfortable among various designs
Keep us posted
Question: Can a homeowner be trained to do the maintenance on the ATT systems
(Feb 8, 2015) Diane said:
Can a homeowner be trained to do the maintenance on the ATT systems so not to be spending thousands every 2 years on a required maintenance agreement to some septic company who gets warnings over the phone line?
Certainly there are septic system maintenance procedures that a homeowner can do such as changing filters and - WITH CAUTION as you could die - if there is an access port to inspect the septic tank level a homeowner can certainly look therein to see if levels are normal. And for systems that use pumps or areators an owner can and should learn to know if the equipment is running.
The hazards that can be fatal are leaning over a septic tank opening (overcome by fumes), working alone, or entering a septic tank (NEVER do that).
If you know the design, equipment brands, etc. of your system together we should be able to undertand what's installed and which tasks an owner can and should perform.
(Feb 12, 2015) Diane said:
Thank you Dan. Understand the cautions you mention and appreciate the list. No plan on entering the tank...ever. Planning for future needs and some requirements I was told in maintenance agreements cost a fortune and seemed easy for a home owner to do and assure a good working system....that is affordable.
Don't hesitate to ask us if specific septic system maintenance or care questions arise. Indeed studies by Small Flows and other expert sources have repeatedly indicated that the number one factor in early failure of septic systems is that owners ignore the system maintenance requirements.
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Mark Cramer Inspection Services Mark Cramer, Tampa Florida, Mr. Cramer is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors and is a Florida home inspector and home inspection educator. Mr. Cramer serves on the ASHI Home Inspection Standards. Contact Mark Cramer at: 727-595-4211 mark@BestTampaInspector.com
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Septic System Types & Onsite Wastewater Treatment Alternative Designs
Each of the links below presents a document with more in-depth information about each of these
alternative septic system designs.
Aerobic Treatment Septic Systems:
in residential use, ATUs are pre-packaged septic treatment systems which are in essence a mini-wastewater
treatment plant for home use. Waste is fed into a "trash tank" (similar to a septic tank); effluent moves
to a clarifier. Air (oxygen) is pumped through the system to provide oxidation and waste treatment using a variety
Aerobic treatment units are used at sites where a conventional drain field system cannot be employed, and
are capable of successful wastewater treatment of septage on difficult or "impossible" residential sites.
AEROBIC Septic System Disinfection - Use of calcium hypochlorite tablets for aerobic septic systems.
CHEMICAL TOILETS: use a
chemically treated reservoir located directly below the toilet seat. The chemicals reduce odors and perform partial (incomplete) disinfection of the waste.
Chemical toilets have limited storage capacity and must be pumped and periodically cleaned by a septic company. Similar to simple chemical toilets but more sophisticated in design are recirculating toilets which
separate the waste from the chemical and then re circulate the fluid through the toilet tank.
COMPOSTING TOILETS: may be used where the water supply is limited or not available at all, or where a building owner for other reasons wishes to conserve water use. Other wastewater treatment will still be required for handling graywater from sinks and showers.
DISINFECTION SEPTIC SYSTEMS: use chlorination
or ultraviolet light (UV) to disinfect wastewater effluent before it is discharged to the environment.
Dosing Systems, Pressure or Gravity: Dosing systems permit the septic system drain field to rest between effluent doses and, depending on design, may alternate use of drainfield sections.
Drip Dispersal septic tank effluent systems - (Jantrania/Gross wastewater system type III or if treated
to level 2 or better effluent, Jantrania/Gross wastewater system type VII)
Evaporation-Transpiration (ET) Septic Systems: and Evapo-Transpiration Absorption Septic Systems (ETA) dispose of septic effluent from the septic tank by providing
a surface area intended to allow the effluent to evaporate. ET systems depend entirely on evaporation while ETA systems make use of both evaporation and (limited) soil absorption of septic effluent.
(Jantrania/Gross wastewater system type IX if effluent is treated to level 2 or better).
ET beds may be used with or without intermediate storage tanks and with or without effluent recycling systems.
In this discussion we include the advanced
Tafgard soil based wastewater treatment systems - developed in Japan by Taisei Kogyo Co., Ltd., this system uses a combination of a five-chamber waste treating septic tank designed by Taisei, effluent disposed-of by an evaporation-transpiration system through aerated soil (effluent spread horizontally and upwards from distribution piping).
Filter bed effluent treatment systems (if treated to level 2 effluent or better, Jantrania/Gross wastewater system type VIII) - see various filter media types listed here such as sand beds, fabric filters, etc.
Filter beds may be
MOUND SEPTIC SYSTEMS or Raised Bed septic systems,
Media Filter septic systems, septic systems or Sand-Bed filter septic systems.
Readers should distinguish between types of septic filter beds (listed above) and other septic filter products such as
in-tank septic filters.
Gravelless Septic Systems or "no rock" or "chamber" systems are not a complete alternative onsite wastewater design. Rather these are special products using geotextiles,
plastic chambers, or polystyrene-wrapped perforated piping for effluent disposal into the soil, providing alternatives to conventional gravel-trench drainfields.
In some cases these systems might permit design of an acceptable
effluent disposal system where a site too little space for a conventional drainfield, or where gravel is unavailable or is very expensive.
Some gravelless systems are accepted for use in areas with difficult or low-perc soils.
GREYWATER SYSTEMS: refer to systems which reduce the liquid effluent load on a septic system by separating greywater (or graywater) from sinks and showers from
blackwater (black water) from toilets. When we inspect a home which uses a separate drywell to handle greywater we presume that the owners discovered that their septic system, or at least its leach field, was of limited capacity
Gravity or Siphon Dosing Septic Systems:
move septic effluent from the septic tank to a final effluent treatment/dispersal/disposal system such as a drainfield by accumulating septic effluent in a dosing tank or chamber and
periodically sending the "dose" of effluent to the drainfield.
To move effluent from the dosing tank to the drainfield a "gravity" dosing system uses a mechanical device such as a bell siphon system,
tipping tank, or float valve to determine when the dosing tank is full and ready to send effluent to the drainfield at intermittent frequencies or in "doses".
Effluent flows from the dosing tank to the drainfield by gravity.
Gravity/siphon dosing systems usually require a larger effluent holding tank or chamber than pressure dosing systems.
While some gravity dosing systems do not require electricity to operate, other "gravity" dosing system designs which place the dosing tank uphill and distant
from the septic tank, can require an effluent pump to move wastewater from the septic tank to the remote dosing chamber/tank.
Dosing systems permit the drain field to rest between doses and, depending on design, may alternate use of drainfield sections.
"Gravity trench systems" is a generic term to describe distribution of septic effluent into a treatment and dispersal/disposal
system using perforated pipes buried in gravel-filled trenches dug into the soil. An example is the conventional septic drainfield but
gravity trenches can be used in other designs such as with gravity or pressure dosing systems. Gravity trench effluent systems may also be designed for "level 2 or better" effluent treatment (Jantrania/Gross wastewater system type V).
Greenhouse treatment of septic effluent to level 3 or better (Jantrania/Gross wastewater system type XI). Greenhouses, like ET beds, may be used with or without storage tanks and effluent recycling systems. The system uses an
enclosed "greenhouse" constructed around plants and a mini "constructed wetlands" to treat effluent. Greenhouse wastewater treatment systems permit maintaining the treatment system at a higher temperature than otherwise might be possible, such
as in a cold or cool climate area.
Also see Constructed and Natural
Wetland Septic Systems and also Lagoon Systems.
HOLDING TANK SEPTIC SYSTEMS: use a sealed tank to hold household waste and wastewater until the tank can be pumped out by a septic pumping company. Most
jurisdictions do not permit septic holding tanks as a permanent wastewater handling method for full-time occupied residences, but holding tanks may be permitted during new home construction and in other special cases. In New York
State we've seen holding tank systems in use on small-lot properties located along the Hudson River. Generally such systems will not be acceptable for full time occupied residences as even a large tank of several thousand gallons will require
frequent and costly pumping and disposal.
INCINERATOR TOILET SYSTEMS: incinerating toilets use electricity or gas to burn the waste placed into these systems. Like chemical toilets and holding tanks they have
limited capacity, are used where water is not available or must be conserved, and they do not address the handling of remaining graywater from sinks and showers. My favorite of this type was the "Destroylet" incinerator toilet which
was electric/propane fueled and which is no longer on the market. Each flush resulted in a more than 10-minute burn cycle which produced a pretty smelly exhaust.
Latrine or simple trench systems, useful in remote and impoverished areas to improve sanitation and thus the quality of drinking water and other special, extremely low-cost waste handling, wastewater treatment systems are ignored
by most modern texts on onsite wastewater treatment, excepting perhaps military manuals which address field toilets and sanitation for military operations. This topic needs considerably more attention as a step in assisting rural, poor
areas in developing nations.
Articles, illustrations, and text contributions are wanted; additions to this special topic will be provided as they are developed
at this website. Inadequate disposal and treatment of human and animal waste in poor areas is a major cause of dysentery and often high infant and child mortality. Meanwhile see the helpful but
inadequate resource sketches at http://www.africanwater.org/ecosan_main.htm"the African Water Page and Ecological Sanitation" and http://peacecorps.mtu.edu/erda/links.htm a peace corps site on composting latrines
Lagoon systems: also known as "pond systems" for onsite wastewater treatment are less often found in use for
single family residential wastewater treatment. A residential lagoon system may use a conventional septic tank, but effluent from the tank flows to a storage pond or lagoon for further treatment.
Lagoon systems require comparatively large land areas and are more likely
to be found therefore in rural areas or where a common wastewater treatment system has been designed to serve multiple dwellings. Also see Constructed Wetland Septic Systems
Media Filter Septic Systems: use a conventional septic
tank followed by any of several methods to further filter and treat septic effluent before it is discharged to the soil, soil surface, or waterway. Treatment is by both actual filtration and ultimately by a biochemical process as the
filter "matures" and includes its own biomass. Both natural media filter septic systems (such as sand, gravel, or peat) and synthetic media filter septic systems (foam cubes, glass, slag) are used.
Mound Septic Systems:
a wastewater absorption trench system which has been constructed using "suitable soil-fill material" which has been placed on top of the natural soil on a building lot. Mound systems are often confused with "raised systems" (see below)
but have different design requirements, are generally smaller in total size, and depend on the fill material for successful wastewater treatment. Also see "Raised Systems" below.
Peat-Filtered Septic systems:
Septic effluent treatment systems using peat as the filter media include an effluent dosing system,
peat filter media, and a drainage system. Unlike sand bed filters, peat filtration systems are sold as
prepackaged systems which provide modular peat units enclosed in containers or "pods" ready to install. Also see MEDIA FILTER SEPTIC SYSTEMS
Pressure-dosed Drainfield Septic Systems:
pressure dosing systems use a separate dosing chamber and pump, located downstream from the septic tank, to move effluent into a drainfield which
in turn distributes effluent through a pressure-fed network of distribution pipes. (Jantrania/Gross wastewater system type II or if treated to level 2 or better effluent, system type VI)
Pressure dosing is used in a variety of disposal field designs including mounds and sand beds, and have the advantage of being able to distribute effluent
uniformly throughout the absorption system, and the disadvantage of added system cost and complexity, along with the requirement for electricity for system operation.
An alternative but possibly less long-term reliable version of a drainfield dosing system that may not require electricity is the siphon system.
Also see Dosing Systems, Gravity/Siphon.
Raised Septic System: a wastewater absorption trench system which has been constructed in soil-fill material which has been placed
on top of the natural soil on a building lot. Raised systems are often confused with "mound systems" (see below) but have different design requirements, and make at least partial use of existing soils for wastewater treatment.
Also see "Mound Systems" above.
Sand: Intermittent Sand Filter Septic System: wastewater effluent from the septic tank is intermittently distributed over the surface of a specially prepared
bed of sand placed atop the existing soil surface. Effluent which has passed through the sand is collected by additional pipes at the bottom of the sand bed. The sand is not visible as it's covered by topsoil.
Spray effluent dispersal systems, treating effluent to level 3 or better (Jantrania/Gross wastewater system type X).
Spray systems are normally above ground effluent dispersal systems.
Septic tank and graywater filters are products used at a septic tank outlet or at a graywater tank inlet or outlet to prevent suspended solids from reaching and
clogging the soil absorption system. Readers should distinguish between in-tank septic or graywater filters
and types of septic media filter and bed systems such as: MOUND SEPTIC SYSTEMS or
raised bed septic systems,
media filter septic systems,
septic systems or sand-bed systems.
Steep Slope Septic Designs - how to install sewer lines from building to septic tank; how to install septic drainfields, leach field systems at steep or sloped sites.
Trenches for effluent dispersal, gravity fed or pressure dosed, with gravel or gravelless systems are discussed
under conventional septic and drainfield pages, pressure dosing, or gravelless systems. Also see "Gravity Trenches" above.
Wetland Septic Systems or "natural" septic
systems use a constructed wetlands area (or a greenhouse) to treat septic effluent. These systems are more common in Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, South Dakota, and Florida where both municipal wetland septic designs and private homeowner wetland septic system designs are in use. "Wetlands" may include both visible water such as open ponds, and underground water located in constructed beds which are covered with soil. Also see Lagoon Systems.
Septic Tank/Soil-Absorption Systems: How to Operate & Maintain [ copy on file as /septic/Septic_Operation_USDA.pdf ] - , Equipment Tips, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 8271 1302, 7100 Engineering, 2300 Recreation, September 1982, web search 08/28/2010, original source: http://www.fs.fed.us/t-d/pubs/pdfimage/82711302.pdf.
Pennsylvania State Fact Sheets relating to domestic wastewater treatment systems include
Pennsylvania State Wastewater Treatment Fact Sheet SW-161, Septic System Failure: Diagnosis and Treatment
Pennsylvania State Wastewater Treatment Fact Sheet SW-162, The Soil Media and the Percolation Test
Pennsylvania State Wastewater Treatment Fact Sheet SW-l64, Mound Systems for Wastewater Treatment
Pennsylvania State Wastewater Treatment Fact Sheet SW-165, Septic Tank-Soil Absorption Systems
Document Sources used for this web page include but are not limited to: Agricultural Fact Sheet #SW-161 "Septic Tank Pumping," by Paul D. Robillard and
Kelli S. Martin. Penn State College of Agriculture - Cooperative Extension, edited and annotated by
Dan Friedman (Thanks: to Bob Mackey for proofreading the original source material.)
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
Advanced Onsite Wastewater Systems Technologies, Anish R. Jantrania, Mark A. Gross. Anish Jantrania, Ph.D., P.E., M.B.A., is a Consulting Engineer, in Mechanicsville VA, 804-550-0389 (2006). Outstanding technical reference especially on alternative septic system design alternatives. Written for designers and engineers, this book is not at all easy going for homeowners but is a text I recommend for professionals--DF.
Builder's Guide to Wells and Septic Systems, Woodson, R. Dodge: $ 24.95; MCGRAW HILL B; TP;
Quoting from Amazon's description: For the homebuilder, one mistake in estimating or installing wells and septic systems can cost thousands of dollars. This comprehensive guide filled with case studies can prevent that. Master plumber R. Dodge Woodson packs this reader-friendly guide with guidance and information, including details on new techniques and materials that can economize and expedite jobs and advice on how to avoid mistakes in both estimating and construction. Chapters cover virtually every aspect of wells and septic systems, including on-site evaluations; site limitations; bidding; soil studies, septic designs, and code-related issues; drilled and dug wells, gravel and pipe, chamber-type, and gravity septic systems; pump stations; common problems with well installation; and remedies for poor septic situations. Woodson also discusses ways to increase profits by avoiding cost overruns.
Country Plumbing: Living with a Septic System, Hartigan, Gerry: $ 9.95; ALAN C HOOD & TP;
Quoting an Amazon reviewer's comment, with which we agree--DF:This book is informative as far as it goes and might be most useful for someone with an older system. But it was written in the early 1980s. A lot has changed since then. In particular, the book doesn't cover any of the newer systems that are used more and more nowadays in some parts of the country -- sand mounds, aeration systems, lagoons, etc.
Design Manuals for Septic Systems
US EPA Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems Manual [online copy, free] Top Reference: US EPA's Design Manual for Onsite Wastewater Treatment and Disposal, 1980, available from the US EPA, the US GPO Superintendent of Documents (Pueblo CO), and from the National Small Flows Clearinghouse. Original source http://www.epa.gov/ORD/NRMRL/Pubs/625R00008/625R00008.htm Onsite wastewater treatment and disposal systems,
Richard J Otis, published by the US EPA. Although it's more than 20 years old, this book remains a useful reference for septic system designers.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water Program Operations; Office of Research and Development, Municipal Environmental Research Laboratory; (1980)
"International Private Sewage Disposal Code," 1995, BOCA-708-799-2300, ICBO-310-699-0541, SBCCI 205-591-1853, available from those code associations.
"Manual of Policy, Procedures, and Guidelines for Onsite Sewage Systems," Ontario Reg. 374/81, Part VII of the Environmental
Protection Act (Canada), ISBN 0-7743-7303-2, Ministry of the Environment,135 St. Clair Ave. West, Toronto Ontario M4V 1P5 Canada $24. CDN.
Manual of Septic Tank Practice, US Public Health Service's 1959.
Onsite Wastewater Disposal Books
Onsite Wastewater Disposal, R. J. Perkins;
Quoting from Amazon: This practical book, co-published with the National Environmental Health Association,
describes the step-by-step procedures needed to avoid common pitfalls in septic system technology.
Valuable in matching the septic system to the site-specific conditions, this useful book will help you install a reliable system in
both suitable and difficult environments. Septic tank installers, planners, state and local regulators, civil and sanitary engineers,
consulting engineers, architects, homeowners, academics, and land developers will find this publication valuable.
Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems, Bennette D. Burks, Mary Margaret Minnis, Hogarth House 1994 - one of the best septic system books around, suffering a bit from small fonts and a weak index. While it contains some material more technical than needed by homeowners, Burks/Minnis book on onsite wastewater treatment systems a very useful reference for both property owners and septic system designers.
Septic Tank/Soil-Absorption Systems: How to Operate & Maintain [ copy on file as /septic/Septic_Operation_USDA.pdf ] - , Equipment Tips, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 8271 1302, 7100 Engineering, 2300 Recreation, September 1982, web search 08/28/2010, original source: http://www.fs.fed.us/t-d/pubs/pdfimage/82711302.pdf
Septic System Owner's Manual, Lloyd Kahn, Blair Allen, Julie Jones, Shelter Publications, 2000 $14.95 U.S. - easy to understand, well illustrated, one of the best practical references around on septic design basics including some advanced systems; a little short on safety and maintenance. Both new and used (low priced copies are available, and we think the authors are working on an updated edition--DF.
Quoting from one of several Amazon reviews: The basics of septic systems, from underground systems and failures to what the owner can do to promote and maintain a healthy system, is revealed in an excellent guide essential for any who reside on a septic system. Rural residents receive a primer on not only the basics; but how to conduct period inspections and what to do when things go wrong. History also figures into the fine coverage.
Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank, Bombeck, Erma: $ 5.99; FAWCETT; MM;
This septic system classic whose title helps avoid intimidating readers new to septic systems, is available new or used at very low prices.
It's more entertainment than a serious "how to" book on septic systems design, maintenance, or repair. Not recommended -- DF.
US EPA Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems Manual Top Reference: US EPA's Design Manual for Onsite Wastewater Treatment and Disposal, 1980, available from the US EPA, the US GPO Superintendent of Documents (Pueblo CO), and from the National Small Flows Clearinghouse. Original source http://www.epa.gov/ORD/NRMRL/Pubs/625R00008/625R00008.htm
Water Wells and Septic Systems Handbook, R. Dodge Woodson. This book is in the upper price range, but is worth the cost for serious septic installers and designers.
Quoting Amazon: Each year, thousands upon thousands of Americans install water wells and septic systems on their properties. But with a maze of codes governing their use along with a host of design requirements that ensure their functionality where can someone turn for comprehensive, one-stop guidance? Enter the Water Wells and Septic Systems Handbook from McGraw-Hill. Written in language any property owner can understand yet detailed enough for professionals and technical students this easy-to-use volume delivers the latest techniques and code requirements for designing, building, rehabilitating, and maintaining private water wells and septic systems. Bolstered by a wealth of informative charts, tables, and illustrations, this book delivers: * Current construction, maintenance, and repair methods
* New International Private Sewage Disposal Code
* Up-to-date standards from the American Water Works Association
Wells and Septic Systems, Alth, Max and Charlet, Rev. by S. Blackwell Duncan, $ 18.95; Tab Books 1992. We have found this text very useful for conventional well and septic systems design and maintenance --DF.
Quoting an Amazon description:Here's all the information you need to build a well or septic system yourself - and save a lot of time, money, and frustration. S. Blackwell Duncan has thoroughly revised and updated this second edition of Wells and Septic Systems to conform to current codes and requirements. He also has expanded this national bestseller to include new material on well and septic installation, water storage and distribution, water treatment, ecological considerations, and septic systems for problem building sites.
Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., 120 Carlton Street Suite 407, Toronto ON M5A 4K2. Tel: (416) 964-9415 1-800-268-7070 Email: email@example.com. The firm provides professional home inspection services & home inspection education & publications. Alan Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material.
The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Illustrated Home purchased as a single order Enter INSPECTAILL in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
TECHNICAL REFERENCE GUIDE to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment, useful for determining the age of heating boilers, furnaces, water heaters is provided by Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto - Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Technical Reference Guide purchased as a single order. Just enter INSPECTATRG in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
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Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on these courses: Enter INSPECTAHITP in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
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