To remain effective, aerobic treatment unit components need regular maintenance. Poorly maintained systems may not produce water as clean as desired.
For the best care for an aerobic treatment unit, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. Use these general guidelines as a basis for maintaining your system:
- Monitor the trash tank to determine the amount of solids accumulating in the tank. Have the tank pumped on a schedule similar to a septic tank pumping interval of every 2 to 3 years.
- Periodically remove some of the solids in the aeration chamber. Solids form a blanket on the bottom of the clarifier and float in the aeration chamber. Use the “30 minute settle-ability” test to determine when the aerobic treatment unit needs to be pumped.
- Check the air pump to make sure the air flow rate entering the aeration chamber is constant. Clean the air filter on the compressor inlet to remove dust and fibers. Look for air leaks in the other components of the aeration system. Check the diffusers in the aeration chamber to make sure the air is being distributed properly. The dissolved oxygen concentration in the aeration tank must be more than 1 milligram per liter. A dissolvedoxygen meter can determine the oxygen concentration in the water. When the air flow is reduced, less oxygen is available for the microbes.
- Keep electricity going to the aerobic treatment unit. It needs a continuous supply of power for the aeration system. The aerobic microbes need the air from the aeration system to survive.
- Maintain the spray heads in the system. If they are broken, replace them with the same type and model as the original. Do not change the spray head locations. Also, do not place a vegetable garden in the spray area.
- If an alarm sounds, call your maintenance provider. Also, reduce nonessential water use in the home until the system is fixed. Alarms may indicate a high-water or low-air pressure condition. A high-water condition may be caused by a plugged distribution head or filters, broken pump, excessive water use, or broken fixtures. Low air pressure may be caused by a broken air pump, broken air lines, or a low water level in the aeration chamber.
- Maintain a landscape cover in the spray field. The grass and plants there will use the water and nutrients being dispersed by the system.
- Most disinfection systems use chlorine tablets to disinfect the treated water. You must add chlorine tablets to the chlorinator. Be careful when handling chlorine, because chlorine gas can burn your lungs. Disinfection is important; without it, untreated wastewater will be sprayed onto the ground.
- If the wastewater smells bad when it is being distributed, ask the maintenance provider to evaluate all system components. If they are working properly, evaluate your habits in the home. You may be overloading the system with too much organic matter. For example, you may be pouring too much fat and grease down the drain, grinding too much food in the garbage disposal, or sending too many paper products into the wastewater system.
Another problem could be that products toxic to the aerobic microbes are being sent into the system. For example, sending too many cleaning products down the drain can kill the microbes. Also, overloading water to the system, such as when fixtures leak or too much laundry is washed on a single day, dilutes the microbes’ food source.
Sending too little waste into the system also can affect it. Microbes need a steady source of organic matter. Homes with periodic usage, such as lake houses with weekend visits, will have problems maintaining a good population of microbes to treat the wastewater. Also, if you leave home for a couple of weeks, their population in the system could drop for lack of food. Doing all this makes for a proper and functioning system.