No Excuses Allowed: Cutting Edge Products Improve Septic Safety, Maintenance

People love their septic systems—or at least don’t mind them. When properly maintained, the lowly septic system is an efficient, if not especially glamorous, underground workhorse. The big selling point? No city sewer bills to pick away at the family budget. Do a load of laundry, flush a toilet, and empty a bathtub; everything just drains away to…somewhere else.
When people do not maintain their septic systems—and you know who you are—that’s another matter. A broken pump, blocked line or a poorly draining leach field is more than just a stinky inconvenience. The matter becomes a health issue, an odor issue and possibly a huge bank account issue if a leach field has to be rebuilt.
Fortunately, septic system owners have an ever-expanding array of monitors, safety screens and filters to help them keep track of how well and efficiently their systems are operating. With these high-tech devices, homeowners—from within the comfort of their own living rooms—can know instantly if there is a problem with their septic systems. Those on the go can get the messages sent to their cell phones, too. The excuses are gone.  There are several companies that are providing new and innovative solutions.
Dave Couture is pump division sales manager for PolyLok, a Wallingford, Connecticut, company that distributes an impressive array of accessories and equipment for those in the septic industry.  PolyLok, like others in the industry, offers alarms that are triggered when a filter or system is not working properly. Some alarms are wireless, using a device that is installed in the system and operated by a battery. Others require a bit more installation work such as running electrical conduit that connects the alarm to a buzzer in the owner’s home.
Couture said Minnesota is one of several states that have begun requiring new and retrofitted septic systems to have alarms and similar monitors installed before gaining approval. He sees the trend continuing. In many areas, regulations include requirements for alarms on filters, too.
In the past, Couture and others who make components for onsite systems have said that too many septic systems have endured years of little or no maintenance. Filters are especially important because they remove solids and protect the customers’ leach fields.
While PolyLok recommends that homeowners have a professional install the monitors to ensure they meet any local codes, he said it is a simple job that some people choose to do themselves. The cost of the alarms, filters and monitors is relatively inexpensive, especially when compared to the alternative of rebuilding a leach field.
“It makes sense to use one when you have a very expensive leach field out in your yard. You would not want to redo that leach field if a couple-of–hundred-dollar alarm with a filter would keep that from happening. It is a protection of your investment.”
Unfortunately, unless localities require such monitoring systems, many people will continue to leave them out of their septic systems.
“A lot of people want to cut costs on everything, and if it is not mandatory, they will not do it. An initial little investment up front is definitely worth it in the long run,” he said.
Other accessories that have become popular in the industry have to do with safety—keeping people and animals out of septic tanks.
To that end, PolyLok and other companies make safety screens, screw-on lid covers and padlocked tops for tanks. Again, mandates for such obviously necessary safety devices are hit or miss, depending on the area.
One of these companies, the BrenLin Co. of Herman, Minnesota, is promoting its Seal-R Ring and Seal-R Lid, two devices aimed at making maintenance easier and cutting installation costs.
The Seal-R Ring is a lightweight, polyurethane sealing ring for septic tanks, according to the company’s website. The ring, which creates a watertight seal between the tank top and riser pipe, allows each to be installed easily and quickly with polyurethane foam sealant. The seal is a barrier to groundwater and prevents leaks into the tank.
The Seal-R Lid is a cover for plastic dual-wall riser pipes. The sturdy cover installs quickly with screws and has a gasket to prevent groundwater from seeping in. The lid is lightweight, so service can be accomplished without heavy lifting.
To work efficiently, septic systems need to be properly maintained and monitored. But looks count, too.  To that end, Couture said his company has several styles of artificial rocks—fiberglass and plastic decorative landscape stones—that help hide septic vents and well covers. He said the rocks have been well received. At a recent trade show, in fact, few people could resist touching the rocks that were on display; they look so realistic.
Gary Koteskey of Sim/Tech Filters in Michigan oversees another company that is an industry leader for septic components. The company is promoting a pump vault that can be used as a filter tower. The device also has applications as a step system for a septic-effluent pump.
“The big advantage we have is we can filter wastewater before it comes into the vault. We use standard filter tubes. The two-inch vertical standing pipes become our guide rail, and they extend above the water level in the tank. These are all exposed, and you can service the filter more easily,” Koteskey explained.
“Nobody else has done this in the industry. You can just slide these tubes off. We also make a maintenance tool, or stopper, that can slide into the two-inch pipe. The tool closes off the intake holes into the vault. It assures that no debris enters the vault when someone is servicing the filter tube or pump vault,” he added.
Sim/Tech also has brought to the marketplace a device for accurately determining the amount of sludge in septic tanks. Koteskey said those who maintain onsite septic systems have been hampered because they do not have tools that consistently and precisely measure or sample wastewater and other fluids. Sim/Tech’s TruCore changes that. The design permits a contractor to take a sample without creating excessive turbulence in the vault.
“Because there are no restrictions caused by valves, stoppers (or) flaps…fluid is allowed to flow freely and virtually undisturbed into the sampling tube, creating a true core sample of the contents of the tank,” according to Sim/Tech officials.
“TruCore also has a relatively large sampling capacity compared to other sludge core samplers on the market,” Koteskey continued.
Filters, alarms, monitors and similar controls—all of which are relatively inexpensive—are vital to the proper operation of septic systems. The best way to keep an eye on how well a system functions is to have someone else—or something else—do it for you.

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