Why Replace? Repair!!

General Repair Overview

Conventional septic systems have a limited lifespan.  Depending upon numerous factors such as; design, improper installation, soils, hydraulic loading, biomat, etc., septic systems, may start to fail as soon as 12 to 36 months after construction.  The question becomes not, “will it fail?”, but rather “when will it fail?”

Once a system has failed or has started to fail, traditional thinking has been to suggest, that the only solution is to replace the septic field or septic mound.  At Sewage Treatment Solutions Inc., we think differently.  With over 30 years of knowledge and experience retrofitting a failed or failing conventional septic system will provide an economical alternative.  More importantly the technology used to correct a failed or failing system will ensure the results which occurred to the original septic field won’t occur again.

Signs of System Failure

Firstly, let’s take a look at the tell tale signs of a system that has failed.  Similar to an iceberg in the ocean, what you see is only a fraction of what is underneath.  This is so true with a failed septic system as well, as the visible signs indicate a much greater systemic problem within the field itself.

Sewer Backup in the Home:  An obvious indication you have a septic problem, this normally occurs when the pump has failed, and no one responds to the high level alarm, or there is no alarm.  There is a variety of reasons why a pump may fail, often however this is initiated with the field or mound, or ground water entering the septic tank, either scenario results in the pump working “overtime”, when working excessively this will shorten the life of the pump.  A high level alarm placed in the septic tank to provide an audible warning that the effluent levels have exceeded an pre-established level is now a requirement.  Although the pump may still require repair or replacement the resulting damage is dramatically reduced.


Surface Liquid at the Field or Mound:  Another common sign of failure is visible effluent on the surface of the ground adjacent to a field or mound.  Commonly referred to as a”break out”, this occurs when the veins in the soil, have completely locked off, and there is no place for the effluent to go.  The pump will still attempt to continue pumping effluent to the field or mound, if the pump doesn’t burn out the septic field or mound  will suffer a “break out” and the effluent is forced to the surface.  In either case, repairs for these types of problems MAY BE REPAIRED at a fraction of the cost of replacing the septic field or septic mound.



Difference in Vegetation:  Another sign, often overlooked with septic fields or mounds, is the difference in the vegetation around the field or mound itself. The difference can either result in; green strips, excessive vegetation growth, or burn off of the vegetation, which again, most people believe is the norm, but it actually is a sign of excessive effluent loading.  Odour:  It is a myth to think that a septic system should smell, this is simply not the case, in particular once the effluent has left the septic tank there should be no odour when operating properly.  If you are however getting a septic smell, your system is not operating properly.  Odour is a sign of an improper treatment process.


                                                How STS Repairs “Septic Problems”

H2S Gas in Concrete Tanks:  H2S gas is created in; wastewater treatment plants, utility facilities, sewer lines and septic systems. This gas is produced as a result of the microbial breakdown of organic materials in the absence of oxygen.  H2S gas is colorless, flammable, poisonous and corrosive, and is noticeable by its rotten egg smell. With toxicity similar to carbon monoxide, which prevents cellular respiration, monitoring or the early detection of H2S can mean the difference between life and death, a reason why one should never enter a septic tank.  Concrete is a porous material and as such is subject to deterioration over time when subjected to the presence of H2S gas.  Exposure to prolonged periods of H2S gas becomes apparent in one or a number of the following incidences; crumbling or deterioration of the concrete in particular above the liquid level, the effluent line exiting the tank becomes plugged with small pieces of concrete as a result of the concrete deteriorating, or there is simply an odour around your septic tank.  Based upon the amount of damage to the concrete tank, would determine whether the existing tank can be saved.  Sewage Treatment Solutions Inc. may be able to repair or retrofit the septic tank in most cases if the tank is not leaking externally.

Sewage Treatment Solutions Inc. has a number of patented methods to extend the life of a concrete tank. The first step is to eliminate the H2S gases. STS does this by using our patented Shadow Retrofit package. This converts the process in a septic tank from an anaerobic to aerobic state or simply put from without oxygen to an oxygenated state.

Pumps:  Its true septic pumps will wear out and need to be replaced; starting with a reliable pump is obviously a key consideration when achieving long lasting results.  STS uses a limited number pumps based upon their experience over the years using a variety of different pumps.  Although cost is of course a consideration, reliability is paramount considering the inconvenience when faced if the pump is to prematurely quite.  It is important to note that although the correct pump has been chosen the life span of a septic pump is often reduced because of improper installation.  Proper installation of the pump is adhered to by STS using our pump union assembly as well as suspending the pump in the middle of the second chamber using a nylon rope.  A float which triggers the pump to initiate pumping is mounted higher up on the pipe which is attached to the pump; this ensures the pump is always submersed in the effluent. This is essential for the life of the pump, as it uses the liquid around the pump to cool itself as it is working.  The pump is suspended from the rope so that anything that does make its way  into the second chamber (pieces of broken off concrete, solids from the first compartment, etc.) will settle to the bottom and won’t be picked up by the pump causing the pump, or the lines to plug damaging the pump.

Alarms:  Always a standard practice for STS, the Alberta Municipal Affairs Standards of Practice regulations now requires septic and holding tanks to include a “mechanism or process capable of visually and audibly warning the user of the system when high level conditions above the normal operating specifications exist”.  This is clearly a safety concern for your home. If the pump in your tank fails, you will be notified immediately that there is a problem. You will then have time to shut your septic system down before problems such as sewage backup occurs in your home.  Although there are a number of alarms on the market, STS uses a TAABSJE high level alarm.  The float is installed on a separate pipe above the pump float level; wiring is trenched in the ground leading from the tank to the house where the alarm is located.

Plumbing:   Sewage Treatment Solutions maintains a philosophy of using premiere components within their septic systems.  Sewage Treatment Solutions is in the septic business and not solely in the septic tank business.  Unlike many tank manufacturers that merely supply a septic tank shell, STS provides an entire system for our customers.  We frequently receive calls from septic system owners that have issues with; septic tanks, piping, pumps, septic fields, etc.  Having seen countless systems and learning why they fail or aren’t working properly we have chosen to manufacture using superior fittings to eliminate failures in the future.  With respect to plumbing components STS standards would include such items as; stainless or brass fittings, threaded bulkhead fittings, PVC piping versus flexible hoses, etc.  By using superior products up front the likelihood of problems occurring in the future are reduces.


Fields or Mounds:  Fields or Mounds are the final aspect of the septic treatment process. It is within the fields or mounds that the majority of issues are found. Through research and development STS, has realized that most of the problems with fields and mounds are normally the result of issues with the front end of the septic system itself.  Poor pre-treatment in the septic tank results in failures in the septic field or mound.  Conventional thinking suggests that when a field or mound is not working properly, it should be completely replaced. STS’s research and experience however, has clearly proven, that this is not the case.  The patented process that Sewage Treatment Solutions Inc. uses to recover failed or failing fields and mounds requires three distinct steps. It is extremely important for the overall working of the septic system that all three steps are used. First we use our Shadow Retrofit package as we described with the concrete tank above. The Shadow Dosing Unit needs to be installed in the home.

How a Fields or Mound Can Be Repaired

The first step is to locate the ends of the runs.  Using the vegetation differences is quite often the easiest way as it can be quite obvious where the ends of the runs are.  Once the ends of the runs are located, expose the front end of the run by either a small excavator or by hand.  Typically, the size of the hole exposed is approximately 3 x 3 x 1 feet.  The soils are removed to the top of the chamber and header in order to install an adapter for applying the biological treatment.  With the adapter installed  we expose the back end of runs so that we can completely open the end of the chamber.  It is quite common that when we do this, the hole will fill with the sewage that is trapped within the field or mound.  Using a submersible pump, we remove the effluent. The end cap is removed so we can inspect the system and apply the treatment.  With the effluent removed, we can see the biomat in the bottom of the chamber (Grey Sludge).  It is a grey color because the system has gone completely anaerobic.  It is difficult to see the biomat is almost to the top of the chamber at the front end.  Using pressure, we go back to the front end of the chambers and use the adapter that we have installed to apply the biological treatment.  The biological treatment washes through the chamber and begins to come out at the back end. (See the “red” streak, that is the biological treatment)  We pump out the effluent and dispose of it in an environmentally friendly way Now the biomat is oozing out of the chamber. Notice it is now a black color as we have turned the chamber to an aerobic environment.  We now pressure apply a treatment from the back end of the system.  With the system completely full of water, we apply a dose of the biological treatment and let the system sit for at least a day.  We return and pump the system dry again.  Looking up the chamber after treatment, you can see the biomat is almost completely gone, and the veins in the soils are opened.  Risers are installed over the chambers at the back end for easy monitoring and to give the system an expansion ability.  Sand is placed around the risers and the landscaping is returned to the original condition.