Upgrading septic standards

by Andy Bryenton

If you live in the country, coastal area or a small rural town, your household effluent including toilet, shower, kitchen and laundry wastewater, probably drains into an on-site treatment system, and from there into the ground somewhere in your backyard.

The standard on-site household effluent system has two parts — treatment and disposal. Treatment systems commonly used for household effluent include septic tanks and a group of treatment plants known as Aerated Wastewater Treatment Systems (AWTS).

Treatment plants that use sand and textile filters to provide advanced treatment of effluent are also becoming increasingly popular.

When the effluent leaves a treatment system, it is only partially treated. Final treatment is carried out by the bacteria that are in the soil below the effluent disposal system. The main purpose of the disposal system is to keep the effluent in the soil within the disposal area, so this final treatment happens. A variety of disposal systems are available, with each being designed to suit different site conditions and soil types. The correct operation and continued maintenance of your on-site system are very important. If neglected, it can pollute groundwater and streams, puts you and your neighbours’ health at risk, and these issues can be expensive to fix.

Information is available on your local council website outlining the way the various systems work, what is required to keep them operating effectively, and how to look after your effluent treatment and disposal system.

Guidelines on what is required to keep them operating effectively can also be found. Information is available on topics such as discharges to land and water, on-site domestic wastewater discharges, wastewater network and treatment plant discharges, production land discharges, stormwater discharges, industrial and trade wastewater discharges. Each council has its own rules and guidelines, and it is important to note that you must ensure your septic system meets the requirements specific for the region it is in.

Each district council may have their own bylaws regarding on-site sewage systems and property owners need to be aware of these requirements.