Septic Tank Maintenance: Other Chemicals That Should NOT Be Flushed into a Septic Tank
CHEMICALS, KEEP OUT OF SEPTICS-2 - CONTENTS: List of other chemicals & substances that we have seen dumped into septic systems and in one case, into a well - don't do this!Do not use septic tanks, wells, even abandoned wells and septic tanks to dispose of chemicals
POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about septic system chemicals and about using septic systems to dispose of certain chemicals and substances that may harm the drainfield or contaminate the environment
Chemicals, Oils, Paints: Do not flush these chemicals into the septic system in any quantity:
Oils such as used motor oil or unwanted cooking oil - photo at left, courtesy Canyon Auto, Tucson AZ.
Paints of any kind, latex, oil, alkyd, acrylic, water-based
Thinners (such as paint thinner)
Antibiotics and Septic Systems: Normal use of antibiotics by occupants in a one or two family residence with a septic system will not harm the septic tank or fields.
High levels of discharge of antibiotics in urine and body waste from many building occupants using such drugs,
such as at a nursing home with 50 residents and an onsite septic system, can
kill bacteria in the septic tank and leach field and thus may indeed be a problem for such facilities. See DRUGS INTO the SEPTIC TANK? for details.
Hydrochloric acid HCL poured into a well: a reader explained that his plumber poured several gallons of pure HCL into the well to attempt to free a pump that seemed to be stuck in the well casing. The plumber eventually got the pump free - we're not sure the hydrochloric acid was what did the trick - the pump may have been stuck at the pitless adapter which protrudes into the well casing.
In any case the plumber has contaminated the well and worse, probably s/he has contaminated the local aquifer with a toxic chemical. We were left with no advice but to hope that dilution will eventually reduce the effect of this stupid move, and that the owner should test his well water for HCL.
Since the owner and plumber ran lots of water to "flush out" the well, they've moved at least some of the acid into the owner's septic system and local groundwater where it contaminates the area further. Our opinion was that it was probably better to move the HCL as much as possible out of the well by any means rather than contaminate the aquifer for this well and perhaps for the neighbors.
Illegal Drug Manufacturing and Septic Systems: Anecdotally we report on a septic system in New York near the Taconic State Parkway was connected to house in which was operated an illegal
drug manufacturing operation - perhaps a "meth lab". So much drug-production-related contaminant was flushed down house drains that the workers contaminated their own well and poisoned themselves.
Motor oil poured into a drinking well: at a home inspection we discovered two well casings near a driveway. One was a well that was in-use providing water to the home.
We noticed that the other casing was un-capped and asked the property owner what was up. He explained that he did a lot of work on his own cars and trucks, and that when he changed the oil, he figured that a great way to dispose of unwanted motor oil was to dump it into the old un-used well.
Do not dump motor oil into your well. You'll contaminate the local aquifer. Used motor oils contain a number of highly toxic substances such as heavy metals. Take used motor oil to almost any garage or gas station where they are required to dispose of it legally and safely. (They may charge you a small fee.)
This is a great example of why unused water wells should be abandoned properly, including sealing the well against surface-
Pesticides and Septic Systems: people who need to dispose of un-used pesticides should not put them in building drains or toilets.
In the U.S. contact your state department of environment or local health department to find the nearest local hazardous waste disposal station where
you can usually drop off unwanted chemicals, paint, etc., often at no charge.
Subtle phthalates contamination of groundwater and wells from phthalates: in a compelling article in the New York Times in July 2009 Nicholas D. Kristof reported on the possible hazards of phthalates, chemicals that can leach into their contents and thence into the environment from some plastic food or water containers, or even toys.
While we have not found any research whatsoever that tests for the appearance of pthalates in septic systems and the ground water into which septic effluent ultimately appears, we recommend prudent avoidance of phthalate containing plastics for foods or beverages.
Mr. Kristof pointed out that "These are ubiquitous in modern life ... -- and many scientists have linked them to everything from sexual deformities in babies to obesity and diabetes."
Readers interested in the subtle but powerful effects of hormone mimicking chemicals and endocrine disruptors that appear in the environment, their sources, effects, and risks, should also see Our Stolen Future, Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers.
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"Chemicals and Our Health", Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, 16 July 2009, p. 27. This outstanding editorial calls for improvements in public health policy to address phthalates and other environmental contaminants from common chemicals and products in everyday use. - DJ Friedman
Our Stolen Future, Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers, Plume-Penguin Publishing, 1997, ISBN 0-452-27414-1. This book is a seminal work on endocrine disruptors (chemical contaminants having impact at extremely low levels in the environment).
Amazon.com Review: By O T (Ontario, BC) -
'Our Stolen Future' is a great introduction to one of the most important scientific discoveries in our time. Having recently completed a thesis project at university on Endocrine Disruptors, I have reviewed hundreds of papers on the subject. This book is a good clear overview of the scientific literature on EDs. The authors are experts - Theo Colborn is largely responsible for creating the field by bringing together diverse researchers so they could see the big picture of their work. Many of the principle investigators are interviewed and quoted at length on the way chemicals participate in and interfere with delicate hormonal systems in animals (including humans). The major accomplishment of the book is to make an easy-to-follow story out of complex research. Many resources are available to help you assess the reliability of this story, and the best thing to do if you have any doubts is read review articles in scientific journals (which are easier to understand than technical papers). The Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) have a guidebook for health-care professionals on Endocrine Disruptors, and the US EPA has many reports on the matter. Beware of people or websites who try to 'debunk' this book (or the science behind it) by simply declaring it false, flawed or disproven. There is far too much supporting research for so simple a refutation.
Silent Spring, Rachael Carson, Mariner Books; Anv edition (October 22, 2002), ISBN-13: 978-061824906.
Silent Spring, released in 1962, offered the first shattering look at widespread ecological degradation and touched off an environmental awareness that still exists. Rachel Carson's book focused on the poisons from insecticides, weed killers, and other common products as well as the use of sprays in agriculture, a practice that led to dangerous chemicals to the food source. Carson argued that those chemicals were more dangerous than radiation and that for the first time in history, humans were exposed to chemicals that stayed in their systems from birth to death. Presented with thorough document
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.)
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Or choose the The Home Reference eBook for PCs, Macs, Kindle, iPad, iPhone, or Android Smart Phones. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference eBook purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAEHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
Advanced Onsite Wastewater Systems Technologies, Anish R. Jantrania, Mark A. Gross. Anish Jantrania, Ph.D., P.E., M.B.A., is a Consulting Engineer, in Mechanicsville VA, 804-550-0389 (2006). Outstanding technical reference especially on alternative septic system design alternatives. Written for designers and engineers, this book is not at all easy going for homeowners but is a text I recommend for professionals--DF.
Builder's Guide to Wells and Septic Systems, Woodson, R. Dodge: $ 24.95; MCGRAW HILL B; TP;
Quoting from Amazon's description: For the homebuilder, one mistake in estimating or installing wells and septic systems can cost thousands of dollars. This comprehensive guide filled with case studies can prevent that. Master plumber R. Dodge Woodson packs this reader-friendly guide with guidance and information, including details on new techniques and materials that can economize and expedite jobs and advice on how to avoid mistakes in both estimating and construction. Chapters cover virtually every aspect of wells and septic systems, including on-site evaluations; site limitations; bidding; soil studies, septic designs, and code-related issues; drilled and dug wells, gravel and pipe, chamber-type, and gravity septic systems; pump stations; common problems with well installation; and remedies for poor septic situations. Woodson also discusses ways to increase profits by avoiding cost overruns.
Country Plumbing: Living with a Septic System, Hartigan, Gerry: $ 9.95; ALAN C HOOD & TP;
Quoting an Amazon reviewer's comment, with which we agree--DF:This book is informative as far as it goes and might be most useful for someone with an older system. But it was written in the early 1980s. A lot has changed since then. In particular, the book doesn't cover any of the newer systems that are used more and more nowadays in some parts of the country -- sand mounds, aeration systems, lagoons, etc.