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Septic systems

Looking for advise/suggestions:

I am moving my home/studio to the country and a new septic system.
I’ll be installing a sediment trap to catch the particles as they
leave the sink, but what about soluable waste? In particular, I’m
thinking of exhausted sparex, liver of sulfer, etc. Would appreciate
anyone’s comments. Thanks.

L.J. Smole
White Fox Workshop
Ozark Mountains, USA

The person who knows the most about this is Jeffrey Herman of the
Society of American Silversmiths (SAS). Jeffrey Herman Charles

Charles Lewton-Brain/Brain Press
Box 1624, Ste M, Calgary, Alberta, T2P 2L7, Canada
Tel: 403-263-3955 Fax: 403-283-9053 Email: @Charles_Lewton-Brain
Metals info download web site:
Book and Video descriptions:
Gallery page at:

We have lived with a septic system for over 20 years. We’ve had to
have it pumped once in that time, with 5 people. Some simple
precautions and a little preventative maintenance will go a long ways
towards a healthy system.

You are no longer on a public sewer system. Everything you put down
it remains there and will leach into the surrounding soil. Uhm, when
they do pump the tank, it’s then spread on your fields, btw. Any
solids put down must be able to break down into organic components
which will not be toxic. Solids which don’t break down easily in
water, such as sanitary supplies and cigarette butts, shouldn’t be put
into the system. Compost most solid organic solids, such as food
scraps, rather than using the food disposal. If you use a food
disposal, set it up on a gray water system with a French drain. That’s
the basics.

Use bleach sparingly, and when you do use it frequently, make sure
you use a bacteria and/or enzyme replacement, such as Rid-X, vinegar
and yeast. Bleach destroys the bacteria and enzymes which are
necessary to break down the solids. Ammonia is fine. Sparex is fine,
just neutralize it and dilute it with plenty of water so it won’t eat
your pipes on the way down. Liver of sulfur is no problem, but follow
it with plenty of water so it’s not trapped in the pipes to give you
the wonderful outhouse perfume. Other chemicals such as acids and
salts should not be disposed in the septic system, but take the same
precautionary methods as you would in town. Contact your local waste
facility for proper disposal methods.

You mentioned using a sediment trap. Make sure it’s the kind which is
easily removed, because you could be doing it once a week. LOS likes
to stick to solids.

You might want to check out a publishing company called Rodale Press.
They publish lots of practical back-to-nature pamphlets and books.
Lots of useful info for those who never had to live in the back waters
and don’t know how to do lots of things our ancestors did before we
became civilized.

Hope this is helpful. Welcome to country living. Ha-ha-ha-ha! P.S.
You’ll understand the laughter better after you’ve lived there for a


To my small mind there are two important issues here. The first is
that you wouldn’t want to put a large amount of any chemical into
your system which would disrupt the chemical process of
decomposition. The most obvious issue here would be altering the pH
drastically. I doubt you are going to put that much stuff into the
system at one time that you are going to do this. However, it
wouldn’t be a bad idea to neutralize acids with baking soda and bases
with vinegar before throwing them down the drain.

The second issue is that anything you put in the tank is going to end
up in your soil and water table. Here again dilution is your friend,
but you level of dilution is relatively small, so that toxic
chemicals could still be toxic. If you learn a little elementary
chemistry, you can probably make some good educated guesses as
what would be something to pack up and take to the toxic waste
Heavy metals such as lead and cadmium are obvious choices.
Insecticides and similar organic compounds (although I can’t think of
many of these used in jewelrymaking right off) don’t decompose easily
and are toxic in small amounts, so I wouldn’t want to be adding them
to the water table even if I wasn’t growing a garden over the septic
tank. Organic solvents like benzene, toluene, acetone, etc., are in
this class. Liver of sulfur is potassium sulfide, and, if I remember
my organic gardening, both potassium and sulfur are components of the
soil, so a little of them might not really be of any harm. If you do
a lot of etching or plating, you might want to check with the
manufacturer or find an MSDS before disposing of a lot of these
liquids in your septic tank. A little common sense chemistry, an
inquiry to the local water authorities, an environmental handbook or
two and you should be set to go. Organic solvents and heavy metals
are likely to be your main villains. Acids and bases are mostly of
common chemicals in the soil anyway and will be neutralized either
before or after they reach the tank.


Hello all, I’ve already replied directly to the original request,
but do need to add a couple qualifiers to Katherine’s discussion of
living on a septic system. Her points about keeping garbage and
cellulose out of the system are oh so true! I would add, be
conservative with water use so that the system is not over-loaded.
After over 20 years in environmental health (about 10 specializing in
wastewater treatment) I do have field experience as well as researched
science upon which I will say the following:; Regarding pumping -
Plan to check your septic tank for accumulations of solids. The main
purpose of the tank is to allow solids to settle and then be retained
so that soil absorption area doesn’t get plugged up by these little
bits. If the tank gets more than about half full of solids, they will
be carried on out of the tank and settle out in the soil absorption
area. Most people pump when the plumbing begins to drain slowly, but
that’s really too late. If you don’t want to go through the process
of “sticking” the tank to find out how deep the solids are, just plan
to pump the tank every 4-5 years. I’ve not gone into the concepts
involved with tank size and number of people - there are numerous
Extension bulletins available to do that. Regarding additives - Don’t
bother with the commercial “enzyme enhancers” or bacteria additives.
Not only are they unnecessary, they can actually create problems by
increasing the bouyancy of the solids so that they float out of the
septic tank rather than settle and be retained. Every time you flush
human waste, you’re adding bacteria - the kind Mother Nature designed
for decomposing sewage. Although yeast doesn’t help, neither does it
hurt. The yeast simply dies without the nutrients and warmth it
requires. Bleach can certainly upset the microbiology of the septic
tank, and should be used sparingly. In my experience, one cup in the
laundry, once a week will be no problem, IF the septic tank volume is
at least 1000 gal. I mentioned Extension bulletins. Here is a
website that has links to all the state extension web pages. Find
your state, and see what is on the web. Many publications can be
printed off. Hey it’s FREE.

Judy M. Willingham, R.S.
Extension Associate
221 Call Hall Kansas State Univerisity
Manhattan KS 66506
(785) 532-1213 FAX (785) 532-5681

No need to buy enzymes to add to a septic system, To increase
bacteria and effectiveness of a septic system, take a gallon of milk,
set it out in the HOT sun for a couple of weeks (past any expiration
date) then just pour in down the drain. That’s it.

	Bleach can certainly upset the microbiology of the septic tank, and
should be used sparingly.  In my experience, one cup in the laundry,
once a week will be no problem, IF the septic tank volume is at
least 1000 gal. 

I agree. I’m a maintainance tech, and many of the plumbers I work
with have told me that the current craze for “anti-bacterial” cleaning
agents has created more than a few problems with septic systems.

Ron Charlotte – Gainesville, FL OR @Ron_Charlotte1

Do yourself a favor and flush it thru a toilet. Sour milk in a
sink trap will give you a constant nasty smell from that sink unless
you either remove and clean the trap or pour bleach down the drain to
kill the bacteria.

Ron Charlotte -- Gainesville, FL OR @Ron_Charlotte1