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The Role of Bacteria in Your Septic System

The Role of Bacteria in Your Septic System
Bacteria are often thought of as a bad thing – and rightfully so. Bacteria cause food to spoil and are the source of many diseases and infections. But not all bacteria are bad. They are vital in our bodies to help digest food and extract nutrients. They’re important to make some of our favorite foods like cheese and yogurt. And bacteria are essential to treat wastewater in your septic system. 

What Does Bacteria Do in Your Septic System?

A typical septic system treats wastewater in a two-phase process, and bacteria are essential to both phases. In the first phase, raw wastewater from your house flows into the septic tank. Two things happen in the septic tank: gravity causes solids to separate from the water and bacteria break down the solids in a process called anaerobic digestion. Anaerobic means the absence of oxygen. The septic tank is an oxygen-free environment, so anaerobic bacteria thrive inside the septic tank. These bacteria are responsible for digesting solids inside the septic tank. 
During this digestion process, gases such as methane, hydrogen sulfide, and sulfur dioxide are produced, as well as a sludge of heavy hydrocarbons. No matter how many bacteria are in your septic tank, this sludge and some other solids will not be broken down completely, and that’s why your septic tank needs pumped out every 2 – 3 years. But without these anaerobic bacteria, you would need to get your tank pumped out much more frequently.
In the second phase, the effluent from the septic tank flows into the absorption area where it is treated further by physical and biological processes. Bacteria from the septic tank and other microbes found in the soil form a biomat around the absorption area. Anaerobic bacteria in the biomat further digest organic material in the effluent. This process effectively filters out pollutants and viruses before your wastewater enters the soil and eventually flows back into the water table. Therefore, the bacteria in your septic system are vital to protect our water supply.  

How to Maintain Bacteria in Your Septic System?

Avoid introducing toxins into your septic system. The beneficial bacteria in your septic system are fairly sensitive to many modern cleaning products. Bleach, toilet bowel cleaner, drain cleaner, and even antibacterial soap, for example, can kill essential bacteria in your septic system. It is better to use cleaning products that are labeled as septic-safe or natural cleansers such as baking soda, vinegar, and borax. You should never drain harsh chemicals such as paint, motor oil, or antifreeze into your septic system. Lastly, if you are taking strong antibiotic medication, the bacteria level in your septic system may be compromised. 
Add a bacterial enzyme treatment to your septic tank. It’s hard to avoid washing some harmful products down the drain. Because of this, many septic systems do not have sufficient levels of bacteria. Septic tank additives are effective at counteracting the harmful effects of modern cleaning products and medications to allow bacteria to thrive in your septic system. While there is no substitute for pumping out the septic tank, Hapchuk, Inc recommends the use of CCLS Bacterial Enzyme as part of your regular maintenance program. Simply flushing one cup of CCLS down the toilet once a month can help maintain healthy levels of bacteria in your septic tank, control odors, and keep your septic system functioning at peak performance. 

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