The big question – “Are Septic Systems bad or good for mother nature?” In a time where companies have exploded based on “Go Green” campaigns, it is not surprising that questioning your wastewater treatment system for its environmental impact is necessary. So the question deserves to be answered:
Are Septic Systems Bad For The Environment?
Over the years, bad and undeserved press has plagued the septic tank industry.
After quick periods of growth and sewage treatment plants not keeping up with rural developments, septic systems came onto the scene in the 1990s to fill the demand. With engineering being at a different time and as households with existing tanks grew, headlines of leaks and expenses became prominent. But, these were cases of bad septic design and faulty structures.
Money Talks – Septic Tanks Vs Sewer
The truth is, today’s septic systems are far more cost-effective and environmentally friendly than sewage treatment systems.
Let’s look at the numbers to start.
For installation, a septic tank can cost between $4,000 – $6,000. If it is in a less than ideal area, like near a water source, it may cost between $10,000 – $15,000. With the correct maintenance and regular inspections, these septic tanks can last indefinitely.
With a treatment facility, you can pay $10,000 for the pipe to your house alone not to mention the fees, plant costs, permitting and other charges which can leave some households paying $30,000 to connect to sewer. Most home connected to sewer also have monthly charges ranging from $25-$75 based on usage.
It should be no surprise that sewage treatment facilities are regularly called out for being run by greed, instead of need.
Decompose, Not Reduce
Let’s look at how they work.
Sewage treatment plants work to reduce, not eliminate, waste. For this reason, shorelines and coastlines near plants have seen upwards of a 600% spike in waste in their waters the last 15 years.
That isn’t great news when we are looking at water shortages across the board in the United States.
Water used in treatment plants cannot be retreated or reused and is sent straight to the ocean via our waterways.
How much water? About two trillion gallons per week. On the other end of the spectrum, septic tanks and their naturally occurring bacteria work to decompose the waste in your septic tank, not just reduce it.
It should be no surprise septic systems first took off in rural areas—they give you freedom.
Sewage treatment plants need infrastructure, lots of infrastructure making them the original choice for cities that could have multiple households on one pipe to the plant.
Now? The sewage plants cannot keep up with the demand making more plants a necessity. Or is it? With each septic system working independently and fitting in the space you have in your yard, there is no need for the significant infrastructure of sewage treatment plants.
Septic Maintenance and Upkeep
With that being said, the Scientific American is correct when they stated:
“When homeowners’ don’t take care of their septic systems properly, they can become a nuisance for the surrounding ecosystem.”
With bacteria putting in much of the hard work, you want to make sure your system is functioning correctly and smoothly. It is suggested that an inspection occurs every 3-5 years based on use and that the tank is pumped when waste levels are over 25%. Consider it your 50,000-mile check-up. You keep your car in top shape to run efficiently and safely; your septic system needs that too.
The bottom line? Septic tanks are more environmentally friendly and more cost-effective than sewage treatment plants—if they are maintained. Have any questions? We invite you to contact us here.