What Drugs Can Be Flushed into a Septic Tank - Septic Tank Maintenance and Protection Advice
DRUGS INTO the SEPTIC TANK? - CONTENTS: How to dispose of un-wanted drugs and medical supplies - not into the toilet, not into the septic tank, Don't flush un-used drugs into the septic tank; Excreted medications and their effect on private septic systems
Pouring Drugs into the Toilet, Sink, or Septic System?
Drugs, prescription or prescription medicines, should never be flushed down a toilet unless your pharmacist or the drug
manufacturer tells you specifically that the particular drug is absolutely harmless to the environment.
While this is not a new topic,
as recently as April 2007 the New York Times reported the growing detection of pharmaceuticals such as birth control pills, anti-depressants,
painkillers, shampoos, and other compounds in rivers, lakes, streams, and ground water, including possibly drinking water.
The Times article described "pharmaceutical and personal care products" or "P.P.C.P.'s which are being flushed down drains and
which pass through sewage treatment systems and private residential septic systems into the aquifer.
Beyond a possible hazard of inadvertent consumption of antibiotics (and growing development
of bacteria resistant to our antibiotics), it is possible that very low levels of other compounds will have a drastic affect on some
animals, possibly going un-detected until that population declines beyond its ability to recover.
Reader Question: ok to put chemotherapy drugs into the septic tank?
23 Janyart 2915 David said:
I have a friend who lives on a rural property, serviced by well & septic. He is receiving chemotherapy for prostate cancer. It was his oncologist( who also lives on a property with well & septic) that suggested he rent a Portopottie to use while he was being treated. Doc said my friend's human waste could contain enough residual of the chemo to upset or kill off the bacteria in the septic system. Doc also said the same thing could be true of people on extended course of certain strong antibiotics.
It makes sense, but has anyone else ever heard of it before?Does Doc know septics or should he stick to medicine?
David in addition to the comments above, we discuss flushing drugs, particularly antibiotics, into septic systems at
And in the research below be sure to see Johnson (2008), "Do cytotoxic chemotherapy drugs discharged into rivers pose a risk to the environment and human health? An overview and UK case study."
However I'm not sure that a single individual's drugs are enough to kill off septic tank bacteria and I've not found any authoritative research that supports the argument for individuals. Where such problems were reported they involved multi-occupant nursing homes and hospitals.
Impact of Antibiotics & Other Drugs on Residential Septic Systems
Question: septic pumper company says taking medications can kill off good septic tank bacteria - is that true?
11/6/2015 Larry said:
Our septic has had to be pumped every 6 months recently, We don't put anything down we shouldn't. The company that pumped said that taking medication could kill off the good bacteria in the tank. Is that true? My wife and I are both taking medication. Could this cause a problem?
Having to pump a septic tank every 6 months does not fix an underlying problem of an under-sized or poorly designed system or more likely a failed drainfield; it doesn't make sense to me unless you're using your system with a failed drainfield and treating it as a semi-holding tank; a septic tank at a typical home is re-filled in a few days after pumping; faster if groundwater is leaking into the tank; so it's not right that the septic tank should be kept below its normally-full level.
Taking some meds, particularly antibiotics and some nuclear medicines can send meds into the septic tank; from what I've researched the risk of harm to the septic tank has been confirmed for nursing homes and hospitals using onsite wastewater treatment systems. I'd be a surprise if the level of antibiotics from 2 adults,diluted by other normal wastewater usage, would be a problem.
Below I cite confirming research; you'll see that the titles or abstracts of these articles generally point to large volume operations such as hospitals and nursing homes or community wastewater streams.
Question: effects of chemotherapy chemicals on the septic drainfield
(Aug 28, 2014) Karen said:
Can the urine from a radiation treatment patient flushed into septic tank cause grass in drain field to turn brown?
Urine, even containing drugs or radioactive medications, from an individual, drained into a private septic system would be too small a quantity to produce high concentrations of anything that would be likely to explain grass dying over a drainfield.
I agree that if stuff flushed down drains makes it into the septic tank and IF the septic tank baffles are intact, the items may remain in the tank. But there's a good chance of clog-ups right at the tank inlet baffle - worth inspecting there.
Research on pharmaceuticals and other drugs on wastewater and on septic systems
Aleem, Asma, Jasmine Isar, and Abdul Malik. "Impact of long-term application of industrial wastewater on the emergence of resistance traits in< i> Azotobacter chroococcum</i> isolated from rhizospheric soil." Bioresource Technology 86, no. 1 (2003): 7-13.
Basheer, Chanbasha, Han Guang Chong, Toh Ming Hii, and Hian Kee Lee. "Application of porous membrane-protected micro-solid-phase extraction combined with HPLC for the analysis of acidic drugs in wastewater." Analytical chemistry 79, no. 17 (2007): 6845-6850.
Berto, Josiani, Gisele Canan Rochenbach, Marco Antonio B. Barreiros, Albertina XR Corrêa, Sandra Peluso-Silva, and Claudemir Marcos Radetski. "Physico-chemical, microbiological and ecotoxicological evaluation of a septic tank/Fenton reaction combination for the treatment of hospital wastewaters." Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 72, no. 4 (2009): 1076-1081.
Buerge, Ignaz J., Hans-Rudolf Buser, Thomas Poiger, and Markus D. Müller. "Occurrence and fate of the cytostatic drugs cyclophosphamide and ifosfamide in wastewater and surface waters." Environmental science & technology 40, no. 23 (2006): 7242-7250.
Carrara, Cherilyn, Carol J. Ptacek, William D. Robertson, David W. Blowes, Michael C. Moncur, Ed Sverko, and Sean Backus. "Fate of pharmaceutical and trace organic compounds in three septic system plumes, Ontario, Canada." Environmental science & technology 42, no. 8 (2008): 2805-2811. - Abstract: Three high volume septic systems in Ontario, Canada, were examined to assess the potential for onsite wastewater treatment systems to release pharmaceutical compounds to the environment and to evaluate the mobility of these compounds in receiving aquifers. Wastewater samples were collected from the septic tanks, and groundwater samples were collected below and down gradient of the infiltration beds and analyzed for a suite of commonly used pharmaceutical and trace organic compounds. The septic tank samples contained elevated concentrations of several pharmaceutical compounds. Ten of the 12 compounds analyzed were detected in groundwater at one or more sites at concentrations in the low ng L−1 to low µg L−1 range. Large differences among the sites were observed in both the number of detections and the concentrations of the pharmaceutical compounds. Of the compounds analyzed, ibuprofen, gemfibrozil, and naproxen were observed to be transported at the highest concentrations and greatest distances from the infiltration source areas, particularly in anoxic zones of the plumes.
Delgado, Luis F., Sylvie Schetrite, Carlos Gonzalez, and Claire Albasi. "Effect of cytostatic drugs on microbial behaviour in membrane bioreactor system." Bioresource technology 101, no. 2 (2010): 527-536.
Farré, Marinel, Imma Ferrer, Antoni Ginebreda, Mercè Figueras, Lourdes Olivella, Lluis Tirapu, Manel Vilanova, and Damià Barceló. "Determination of drugs in surface water and wastewater samples by liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry: methods and preliminary results including toxicity studies with< i> Vibrio fischeri</i>." Journal of Chromatography A 938, no. 1 (2001): 187-197.
Gautam, Ajay Kumar, Sunil Kumar, and P. C. Sabumon. "Preliminary study of physico-chemical treatment options for hospital wastewater." Journal of environmental management 83, no. 3 (2007): 298-306.
García-Galán, M. Jesús, M. Silvia Díaz-Cruz, and Damià Barceló. "Occurrence of sulfonamide residues along the Ebro river basin: removal in wastewater treatment plants and environmental impact assessment." Environment international 37, no. 2 (2011): 462-473.
Kasprzyk-Hordern, Barbara, and David R. Baker. "Enantiomeric profiling of chiral drugs in wastewater and receiving waters." Environmental science & technology 46, no. 3 (2012): 1681-1691.
Kasprzyk-Hordern, Barbara, Richard M. Dinsdale, and Alan J. Guwy. "The removal of pharmaceuticals, personal care products, endocrine disruptors and illicit drugs during wastewater treatment and its impact on the quality of receiving waters." Water research 43, no. 2 (2009): 363-380.
Kümmerer, Klaus. "Drugs in the environment: emission of drugs, diagnostic aids and disinfectants into wastewater by hospitals in relation to other sources–a review." Chemosphere 45, no. 6 (2001): 957-969.
Kümmerer, Klaus. "Significance of antibiotics in the environment." Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy 52, no. 1 (2003): 5-7.
Johnson, Andrew C., Monika D. Jürgens, Richard J. Williams, Klaus Kümmerer, Andreas Kortenkamp, and John P. Sumpter. "Do cytotoxic chemotherapy drugs discharged into rivers pose a risk to the environment and human health? An overview and UK case study." Journal of Hydrology 348, no. 1 (2008): 167-175.
Kümmerer, Klaus. "Antibiotics in the aquatic environment–a review–part II." Chemosphere 75, no. 4 (2009): 435-441.
Ort, Christoph, Michael G. Lawrence, Jörg Rieckermann, and Adriano Joss. "Sampling for pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) and illicit drugs in wastewater systems: are your conclusions valid? A critical review." Environmental science & technology 44, no. 16 (2010): 6024-6035.
Petrie, Bruce, Ewan J. McAdam, Mark D. Scrimshaw, John N. Lester, and Elise Cartmell. "Fate of drugs during wastewater treatment." TrAC Trends in Analytical Chemistry 49 (2013): 145-159.
Prasse, Carsten, Michael P. Schlüsener, Ralf Schulz, and Thomas A. Ternes. "Antiviral drugs in wastewater and surface waters: a new pharmaceutical class of environmental relevance?." Environmental science & technology 44, no. 5 (2010): 1728-1735.
Robinson, Isabelle, Guillaume Junqua, Raymond Van Coillie, and Olivier Thomas. "Trends in the detection of pharmaceutical products, and their impact and mitigation in water and wastewater in North America." Analytical and bioanalytical chemistry 387, no. 4 (2007): 1143-1151.
Samaras, Vasilios G., Nikolaos S. Thomaidis, Athanasios S. Stasinakis, Georgia Gatidou, and Themistokles D. Lekkas. "Determination of selected non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in wastewater by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry." International Journal of Environmental and Analytical Chemistry 90, no. 3-6 (2010): 219-229.
Terzic, Senka, Ivan Senta, and Marijan Ahel. "Illicit drugs in wastewater of the city of Zagreb (Croatia)–Estimation of drug abuse in a transition country." Environmental pollution 158, no. 8 (2010): 2686-2693.
Wick, Arne, Guido Fink, Adriano Joss, Hansruedi Siegrist, and Thomas A. Ternes. "Fate of beta blockers and psycho-active drugs in conventional wastewater treatment." Water research 43, no. 4 (2009): 1060-1074.
Zhou, J. L., Z. L. Zhang, E. Banks, D. Grover, and J. Q. Jiang. "Pharmaceutical residues in wastewater treatment works effluents and their impact on receiving river water." Journal of Hazardous Materials 166, no. 2 (2009): 655-661.
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New York Times Science
Section, F1 and F8, 3 April 2007
Our Stolen Future, Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers, published by Penguin Publishing, 1997.
Percolation Testing Manual, CNMI Division of Environmental Quality, Gualo Rai, Saipan provides an excellent English Language manual guide for soil percolation testing. Original source: www.deq.gov.mp/artdoc/Sec6art108ID255.pdf
Soil Test Pit Preparation, fact sheet, Oregon DEQ Department of Environmental Quality, original source www.deq.state.or.us/wq/pubs/factsheets/onsite/testpitprep.pdf The Oregon DEQ onsite water quality program can be contacted at 811 South Ave, Portland OR 97204, 800-452-4011 or see http://www.oregon.gov/DEQ/
Thanks to reader Michael Roth for technical link editing 6/29/09.
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.)
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