EPA Sketch of an aerobic septic tank design using an aspirated mixer in the treatment tankHigh-Treatment Effluent Spray Dispersal Septic Systems

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ATU System Spray Heads:

This document describes high-treatment aerobic septic systems using septic effluent spray heads to disperse effluent over an absorption area. We include links to septic design engineers, advanced septic system products and septic design books and building codes.

Examples of advanced septic designs 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, raised bed septics, pressure dosing septic systems, sand bed filters, peat beds, constructed wetlands, wastewater lagoons, constructed wetlands, and septic disinfection systems.

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AEROBIC Septic Systems using Effluent Sprayers to Disperse Effluent

Septic Effluent Spray & Septic Spray Head effluent dispersal systems, treating effluent to level 3 or better (Jantrania/Gross wastewater system type X). Septic spray systems are high-level-of-treatment aerobic septic systems using spray heads to disperse effluent require maintenance that includes occasional spray head cleaning or replacement.

You'll need to identify the brand and model effluent spray head on your aerobic septic system in order to replace with the same part in-kind.

Maintenance of Septic Effluent Spray Systems - a Quick Diagnostic & Repair Guide


I have a question on aerobic septic system maintenance.

We may be 'missing it' but is there information on your Aerobic Septic System maintenance section about Spray head maintenance? if so, where? we have 2 spray heads working & one that is not & would like to check before calling someone. Is this something we can check ourselves? we have water standing where one spray head is having to do 'extra spray' -- Glenda Marsh


A typical aerobic system treats effluent and then disposes of it by spraying treated effluent over the ground surface. In the treatment tank air is pumped through the effluent to increase the level of tank treatment, and effluent is filtered before leaving the tank. 85-95 percent of solids and organics are removed in the tank (compared with less than 50% in a conventional gravity-draining septic tank and Drainfield, non-aerobic).

AEROBIC Septic system designs vary by the terrain in which they are installed, but in general, include a pre-treatment tank, an aeration chamber, a settling chamber, and a "land application system" that typically involves a pumping chamber, pump, and spray heads that distribute treated effluent onto the ground surface.

I AM GUESSING that you ARE talking about an effluent disposing sprinkler - these are sprinkler tops (aerators) such as the Rain Bird that are less than $50. that spray effluent onto the ground for disposal  (permitted in some states like TX -

1. Before replacing the sprinkler head, take off the access cover to the tank that contains the pump. You should see a float that turns the pump on and off;

Lift the float with a wire hook, to cause the pump to run, watch as the liquid level falls in the tank down to about where the pump would shut off; make sure that there are no leaks in the line going to the bad-performing sprayer - if there are leaks you would see spraying inside the tank from the leak point and that would prevent pressurized effluent from getting to the spray head. As one sprayer works and the other doesn't, this is probably not the problem.

As you see good flow from one spray head and not from the other, we suspect as so you it's the sprayer not a pump problem.

2. Wet spots outside the septic tank: If this is what we're discussing, in addition to looking in the tank for pipe leaks (discussed just below), if you find a wet or soft spot between the tank outlet and the sprayer, there may be a buried pipe leak that is the culprit.

3. Clean the septic effluent spray head: If the spray head is easily and safely removed, it can probably be removed and one might try cleaning it. Sometimes I see sprayers that are clogged with mineral deposits from hard water - soaking overnight in vinegar can often loosen or dissolve if that's the problem; else just replace the part.

See or another vendor if in fact this is the part you're talking about.)

Sketches of typical aerobic systems are also at

including LPD (Low pressure dosing systems and surface drip systems).

I am GUESSING that you are NOT talking about an in-tank aerator rather than an effluent disposer that sprays onto the ground surface in the disposal area.  In the treatment tank, aerobic systems all use a system for aerating the effluent to increase bacterial activity. Some aerobic septic systems use a diffuser stone (below liquid level, typically about $50 to replace). That's a cheap part compared with septic aerator pumps that are $350 - $500.

You would help me tremendously and help me write this up to assist other owners if you could take and send me sharp photos of the part as installed and keep me posted on what you do and how things progress.

See for an owners manual for Pro Flo wastewater treatment systems - they use an air diffuser

See for a sales brochure on the Singulair system

An aerobic or septic spray head pump retailer is at or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Also see The Septic System Information Website. Massachusetts Title 5 Licensed Septic System Inspector, & New York State H.I. License # 16000005303 (inception to 2008).

Aerobic Septic System ATU Sprinkler Problems

Question: Rain-Bird 5000 Sprayer is Leaking

Richard Poore said:

One of our Rain Bird 5000 sprayers seeps water continuously. It is at a foot or two lower elevation. Neither switching nor replacement of the whole rotor stops the flow.

Pushing the head down or twisting to I'll left stop only reduces the seepage. Ideas? - 2017/08/14

This question was originally posted at AEROBIC ATU SEPTIC PROBLEMS

Reply: Basic Aerobic Septic Sprinkler Head Rrepair & shutoff control for Rainbird 5000 Plus spray head, contact information for RainBird


First let's see if there is dirt or debris blocking the sprinkler head parts or if there is an obviously broken internal part or clogged filter. These steps are generally correct for the sprinkler head on most ATU sprinkler or rotor systems, but you will want to review the instructions, parts and maintenance details for your specific sprinkler head brand and model - I'll give some of that information below.

  1. Examine the outside of the sprinkler head or rotor for obvious damage, cracks, or blockage by dirt or debris.
  2. Remove the sprinkler head top by un-screwing it to permit removal of the operating cylinder
  3. Examine the filter on the bottom of the sprinkler or rotor for crud or damage and clean it as is usually needed, simply by spraying the filter clean with a garden hose. Then put the filter back in place.
  4. Before replacing the rotor or sprinkler head into its housing, inspect the housing for sand, pebbles, debris - clean it out if necessary, then replace the sprinkler head securely in place.
  5. Check the sprinkler head adjustments such as the Rain Bird adjustments you'll find in the instructions I'll give below.

If your Rain Bird 5000 series spray head is the "Plus" model, there is a center screw opening/slot that is used to turn the flow of water on or off. A screwdriver simply turns the slotted screw 180 degrees clockwise to turn OFF the flow of water.

If you have a standard RainBird 5000 spray head it sounds as if an internal check valve is broken or the valve body is cracked and needs replacement. Before replacing it, though, give the company a call to see if their experts have other advice. And do let us know what you're told as that will help other readers.

Rain Bird rotors or "spray heads" as some readers call them, are provided in a series of models, the Rainbird 3500 Series, 5000Series, Falcon 6504 series, and the Rainbird 8005 series. Each of these products coves a range of effluent distribution rates and operates at various ranges of effluent distribution system pressures. The Rain Bird ROTORS BROCHURE cited above also provides a helpful product model number decoding guide to features and specifications of each rotor model.

You didn't give a location (we have readers world wide) so I'll paste in all of the company's contact information and the instructions for the RainBird 5000 series sprayheads at AEROBIC SEPTIC EFFLUENT SPRAY HEAD SOURCES

Question: the sprinklers on my aerobic system are leaking. I pumped the tank. Didn't help.

My aerobic septic system is not working right. The sprinklers basically just leak all the time instead of spraying. The sprinklers are downhill from the tanks. I had the tanks pumped out (1st time in 6 years) and the sprinklers are still not spraying. Any clues? - Kenneth Skoczlas 5/1/12


Kenneth, if an aerobic sprinkler is leaking, it's not going to be fixed one iota by pumping the septic tank. More likely fittings or gaskets or sprinkler heads need replacement.

Also see our diagnostics starting at AEROBIC SEPTIC EFFLUENT SPRAY HEAD REPAIR for details

Question: sprinklers have stopped working on my Aerobic Septic System

(Aug 10, 2014) Lydia said:

I have an aerobic system with sprinklers. I've noticed that my sprinklers have not been working for a couple of weeks. I realized that electricity was not running through the aerator.

I used an extension cord and it started running again, but not without a strong odor. The sprinklers still didn't work. Should i just leave the pump running, and will the sprinklers eventually start working?


No Lyida,

If you don't see water coming out of the sprinklers I'd turn off the pump - to reduce the risk of burning it up if it has not already been damaged. You need to call a local repair company who is in your area and is familiar with aerobic sprinkler system repairs. Keep us posted. Daniel

Aerobic ATU Septic Spray Heads & Irrigation or Reclaimed-Water Spray Heads & Rotors

Irritrol irrigation spray heads at

Above: Irritrol® Corporation's irrigation spray heads shown with the heads extended up. [Click to enlarge any image].

K-Rain sprinkler heads at

Above: K-Rain® sprinkler head, example of a few of many K-Rain products - see the catalog below. [Click to enlarge any image]

Rain Bird sprinkler head illustration at

Above: example ATU sprinkler heads from Rain Bird, discussed in this article. [Click to enlarge any image]

This document is a chapter provides in our Septic Systems Online Book.


Continue reading at CONVERT to AEROBIC SEPTIC SYSTEM or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Or see SEPTIC TANK SUPPLIERS: a directory list of septic tank suppliers

Or see SEPTIC SYSTEM SUPPLIERS for directory lists of other septic system component suppliers for sources of septic effluent spray system repair parts and sprayers.

Aerobic Septic System Articles



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AEROBIC SEPTIC EFFLUENT SPRAY HEAD REPAIR at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.


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