Homeowners who live in rural areas commonly use septic systems to process their home's solid and liquid waste. When correctly installed and maintained, a septic system can rival the performance of a municipal waste line. Yet older septic systems can sometimes present difficulties in terms of effectiveness and safety.
In such cases, homeowners can often get better results from a related type of septic system known as an aerobic treatment system, or ATS for short. Unfortunately, many people fail to understand what makes ATS so special. If you would like to increase your knowledge of today's septic options, keep reading. This article outlines three unique aspects of aerobic treatment systems.
1. Faster Waste Breakdown
Traditional septic systems and aerobic treatment systems both rely on bacteria to break down waste. A traditional system uses a type of bacteria known as anaerobic bacteria. Such bacteria can thrive even in the low oxygen conditions present inside of a septic tank. These bacteria break solid waste down into a layer of sludge that must be periodically pumped out of the tank.
Aerobic treatment systems make use of bacteria that can only live in oxygen-rich conditions. Aerobic bacteria process waste much faster than their anaerobic relatives. This greater processing speed reduces the likelihood of tanks overflowing or backing up as the result of excessive waste.
An ATS uses special mechanisms to inject steady streams of oxygen into the underground septic tank. This oxygen allows the aerobic bacteria to thrive in what would otherwise be an inhospitable environment. Homeowners should realize, however, that ATS equipment has higher operation and maintenance costs.
2. Higher Treatment Level
An aerobic treatment system does not just break waste down faster — this system also breaks waste down more efficiently. This efficiency presents extra benefits when it comes to the treatment of wastewater. Traditional septic systems cannot break down wastewater all the way. Instead, they disperse the wastewater into the system's drain field.
The wastewater percolates through the soil of the drain field. There microbes continue the process of rendering the water harmless. An ATS, by contrast, accelerates the process of wastewater treatment. Unlike anaerobic species, aerobic bacteria have the ability to reduce nitrogen levels. This process goes by the name of nitrate reduction.
Nitrate reduction proves so effective that the wastewater produced by an aerobic treatment system can even fulfill outdoor irrigation purposes. In fact, ATS often connect directly to subsoil irrigation pipes. The money this saves in monthly water bills helps to offset the operating costs of the ATS.
3. Smaller Drain Field
The higher treatment level of an ATS also has a huge benefit when it comes to the physical dimensions of the drain field. In a traditional septic system, the drain field allows for the dispersion of wastewater in a controlled manner. Unfortunately, many homes do not have the space to accommodate a traditional drain field.
Traditional septic systems require larger drain fields because the wastewater must still break down in the soil. This natural process proceeds at a slow rate. As a result, even a properly sized drain field may become clogged as times goes on.
Aerobic treatment systems need smaller drain fields because the wastewater exiting the ATS has already broken down sufficiently. In some cases, a drain field may not be necessary at all. Instead, the wastewater can route directly into a nearby stream or other surface water body.
Be aware, however, that many cities and states have regulations about direct discharge. Before adopting such a system, you may need to install a disinfecting unit in your ATS. A disinfecting unit injects small amounts of chlorine into the water before releasing it into the surface water body. This extra step kills any problematic microbes that may still be living in the water.
Aerobic treatment systems offer many benefits compared to traditional septic systems. For more information about whether an ATS would make a good choice for your home, please contact the septic pros at Acme Environmental Services.