There are two types of septic systems: a traditional conventional septic system and an alternative (or engineered) septic system. An alternative septic system is very different from the more common conventional septic system. An alternative system is required when the site and soil conditions on a property are limiting or when the wastewater strength is too strong for the receiving environment. Alternative systems clean the wastewater by reducing the organic load, removing excess nutrients, and minimizing pathogens before dispersal to the receiving environment. Alternative systems require less soil, so the drain fields are smaller, and the standoffs to the water table and soil restrictions are reduced.
With conventional systems, the soil is cleaning the wastewater just as much as the septic tank is. With alternative systems, most of the cleaning is taking place in the advanced treatment unit, which is just the fancy name for a tank or container with a blower and/or filtering media.
Alternative systems require more maintenance because they have more moving parts, more equipment, and different processes. They are complex systems in a corrosive environment. Improperly functioning alternative systems affect public health and welfare and the risk of failure is high if they are not properly maintained. Routine maintenance by a licensed service provider optimizes treatment and dispersal, reduces the likelihood of costly repairs, and protects the environment. The Virginia Department of Health has performance requirements for alternative systems and the home or business owner must follow the Systems Operation and Maintenance Manual, and have the system inspected by a licensed service provider at least annually. *inset product photos courtesy of Chris @ natureworksinc.com
A contract for an alternative septic system is an annually signed contract between the septic system owner and licensed system maintenance professional. The licensed professional routinely care for your system based upon manufacturers’ specifications. The reasons stated above are why the health department requires contracts. Alternative systems are more complicated with more chances for failure, which poses a greater risk to public health and the environment. Having your system monitored by a licensed professional reduces the risk for potential system failures. This in turn saves you money by reducing the risk for large costly problems and protects the environment from potential harm.
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