Septic tanks can have less of an impact on the environment than sewer systems. Sewer systems require a network of pipes to connect every residence they serve, all the space in between them, as well as the distance to the processing plant. That requires the displacement of a great deal of earth, probably using construction equipment that burns a large amount of emissions-causing gas. Additionally, many septic tanks can run without electricity. Considering that over 60% of energy in the U.S. is still produced by the burning of fossil fuels, saving electricity means saving the atmosphere from harmful pollutants.
How Septic Tanks Can Work Without Energy
A gravity septic system doesn’t require electricity on a daily basis because it uses the force of gravity to move wastewater, and therefore doesn’t need a pump. Waste from toilets, showers, and sinks finds its way to the septic tank. In the septic tank, solid materials sink to the bottom. Due to the activity of bacteria, the solids turn into a layer of sludge. Things that are lighter than water such as oil and grease float to the top of the tank, creating a layer of scum. In between the sludge and the scum there is a pathway for liquid to move. That liquid makes its way through the septic tank to an outlet pipe that leads to the drain field. With a gravity septic tank, the drain field is lower than the septic tank, and so gravity can do the work of taking the wastewater there. In the drain field, the wastewater is filtered through gravel and then soil. By the time it gets down to join the ground water, it has been made clean by the soil and chemical processes it underwent there.
What Can Make Septic Even Greener?
In the septic tank, the bacteria that help break down the solid material can do that better if they are in an environment that is healthy for them. Homeowners can accomplish this goal by reducing the amount of material that is harmful to those bacteria which goes down the drains of the household. Some of these non-green materials include paint, bleach, antibacterial soaps, and disinfectants. Another category of things to avoid getting in the drain pipes are things that won’t dissolve in the septic tank such as cooking grease, coffee grinds, and cigarette butts. These materials will cause many septic tank systems to fill up too soon and thus require pumping, which comes with an environmental cost. In order to avoid flushing and draining cleaning products that will negatively impact the bacteria in the septic tank, there are more eco-friendly cleaning alternatives to adopt. Vinegar can be used to clean glass, getting rid of build-up and soap. Baking soda can get rid of bad smells. Hydrogen peroxide has an application to remove mildew.
Environmental Problems with Sewers
When pesticides, chemicals from cars, and other contaminants find their way into sewers, they can cause sewage backups which enter the environment and cause harm. The amount of gallons of sewage to contaminate the environment every year in this way numbers in the billions. This risk, in addition to the massive amount of pipes and electricity use required by sewers, makes the septic tank the greener choice, which can increase the value of a home.