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Septic 101:  Aerobic vs. Anaerobic

Aerobic-ExercisesJust like with aerobic and anaerobic exercise, these terms when applied to septic also relate to oxygen but refer to bacteria. Aerobic bacteria need oxygen to live, and anaerobic do not. Both, however, are essential for breaking down waste in septic treatment systems. It may seem strange to think about microorganisms as cleaning agents, but we actually need these little guys to do a dirty but important job. Of course, if you’d rather not think about exercise and instead want to remain plopped down firmly on your couch, feel free to call Wind River Environmental to break down your septic waste for you.

When water goes down your drain or is flushed away in the toilet, it enters your airtight septic tank. This is where anaerobic bacteria do their thing since oxygen is not present here. The bacteria will break down the solid waste preparing the wastewater for its next destination which is the leach field.

Anaerobic digestion is a process where bacteria transforms solid waste into renewable energy. Usually used for high-strength industrial wastewater with high concentrations of biodegradable organic matter, this method is energy efficient, requires fewer chemicals and costs less.

In traditional septic systems, once wastewater leaves the septic tank, it flows to the leach field where oxygen-loving bacteria go to work. As the effluent is pulled downward by gravity, aerobic bacteria in the soil kill harmful components in the effluent before it joins clean groundwater. It’s for this reason, your soil needs to be in good condition with the correct pH.

Aerobic treatment systems (ATS) include fixed film systems, continuous flow systems, retrofit systems and composting toilets. The main difference between an ATS and a traditional septic system is that it produces a higher quality effluent and requires a smaller leach field.

Take Care of Your Bacteria
Since aerobic and anaerobic bacteria do so much, it’s important you do all you can to ensure these microorganisms thrive. We recommend avoiding the use of anti-bacterial soaps, bleach, ammonia and other harsh chemicals because they kill the good bacteria in your septic tank. Instead stick with green, biodegradable brands, and try natural cleaners like baking soda, lemon and vinegar. To learn more about this topic or other wastewater issues, Contact Wind River Environmental.