Commonly located underground, septic tanks are made to collect all household waste. Any grease, fat, and food particles that are washed down the kitchen drain will get into the septic tank. Chemical cleaners, toilet water, and human waste are also collected. At this point, the collected waste is treated to allow for easy disposal. Treatment occurs with a combination of bacteria and enzymes.
What Happens When Waste Reaches a Household Septic Tank?
Once waste reaches your household septic tank, it’s treated in two distinct phases. During the first phase, the bacteria in the tank will degrade organic waste. After this process occurs, dirt, pieces of plastic, and undigested organic matter will settle at the bottom and form a sludge. The liquid waste is then passed into a nearby drain field.
A drain field is a large system of sloped pipes that spread outward from the septic tank. If a property doesn’t have a drain field, septic tanks would overflow and cause runoff to get into your yard. The same issue occurs when there’s a blockage in the drain field that results in the wastewater no longer flowing properly.
What Are Enzymes?
Enzymes are proteins that bacteria secrete. These proteins are capable of breaking down very specific types of organic matter and are essential in the septic tank treatment process. Unlike bacteria, an enzyme isn’t a living thing. These proteins don’t reproduce or grow.
Think of enzymes as knives that are capable of cutting molecules into much smaller pieces that bacteria can handle. When there are a considerable amount of enzymes in a septic tank, the degradation of all organic waste is sped up, which is necessary to keep this waste from overflowing.
Enzymes Typically Present in Septic Systems
There are many different types of enzymes that are commonly found in septic systems. For instance, protease is an enzyme that breaks down blood, fecal matter, and any other protein-based waste. Amylase is capable of breaking down pasta, bread, and rice. An enzyme called lipase can manage oil, fats, and greases. Cellulose that’s created from paper-based items is broken down with the cellulase enzyme. If there are any plant materials in the waste, they degrade with the help of the xylanase enzyme.
The majority of these enzymes are naturally produced by bacteria. However, it’s also possible to place biological additives in your septic tank to bolster the bacteria count and improve the decomposition process.
How Enzymes Work in Septic Systems
Solid waste degradation in a septic tank system is possible because of the existence of millions of natural bacteria. Once enzymes have been produced by bacteria, they will be used as catalysts during anaerobic digestion, which is a process that involves breaking down organic matter. During this process, molecules are converted into nutrients.
How Enzymes in Septic Tanks are Affected
Septic tanks function properly when naturally occurring bacteria secretes enough enzymes to promote the decomposition of waste. However, there are several factors that can affect the efficiency of this process. For instance, using a large number of chemicals in a home can result in too many chemicals reaching the septic tank system. In this scenario, the helpful microbes can be eliminated by such chemicals as oil, bleach, chemical soaps, and acid.
Over time, the pressure on the septic tank system will increase since solid waste isn’t treated after it arrives. It’s possible for the sludge to build up to the point that backup issues occur in the home. When a septic tank overflows, unprocessed waste could flood the drain field. Enzymes and bacteria are particularly sensitive to the pH levels in your septic tank system. Along with toxic substances, the temperature can also impact enzyme activity and alter the pH levels until they’re outside the optimal range.
Chemicals are routinely used to degrease different parts that are found in a septic tank system. Drain cleaners that consist of inorganic compounds can clear clogged drains. Despite the advantages of using these chemicals, they can eliminate beneficial bacteria and may eventually cause corrosion in the septic tank.
Signs of a Malfunctioning Septic Tank Caused by Low Enzyme Concentration
When a septic tank malfunctions, the leaks that occur can result in foul odors being emitted inside and outside of the home. There are many different signs to be on the lookout for, which include standing water around the septic tank, gurgling sounds within your plumbing system, water and sewage being sent out from sinks and toilets, bright green grass surrounding the drain field, and algal blooms in any nearby water features.
Septic systems require regular maintenance to avoid these issues. While there should be enough enzymes in the septic tank to effectively degrade organic matter, the only way to be certain is by having the tank inspected. Responding quickly to potential issues in a septic system can reduce the number of repairs that are required and prevent potential illnesses.
How to Add Enzymes and Bacteria to Septic Tanks
Healthy septic tanks should have more than enough bacteria to treat wastewater and human waste. Along with obtaining maintenance, it’s possible to add more bacteria to the tank. In a healthy tank, too many bacteria can result in competition among bacterial populations, which eventually leads to some of the beneficial bacteria being eliminated. On the other hand, unhealthy septic systems may require more bacteria to restore healthy conditions.
Adding Septic Tank Enzymes
Enzyme additives are designed to stimulate bacteria that are present in septic tanks. If bacteria aren’t producing enzymes fast enough to aid in the decomposition process, it’s possible for enzymes to be added to your septic tank.
When added, enzymes can reduce the buildup of a damaging scum layer in the system. Once the scum layer develops, the fats, greases, and oils that collect on this layer will flow downstream into the remaining septic system components.
The issue with this process is that these substances aren’t meant to get downstream. When they do, the components in your septic system could become overloaded, which would worsen their performance and potentially reduce their lifespan.
Problems Caused by Adding Enzymes
While enzymes are capable of being added to a septic system to more effectively process waste, adding too many enzymes can keep the entire system from operating smoothly. Even if they help on a short-term basis, they might eventually cause components in septic tanks to run less efficiently. If a septic system failure occurs, the entire system might need to be replaced, and your property could require a professional cleanup.
If you find that the sinks in your home drain slowly or that water is backing up in your toilet, our team at Anchor Plumbing Services can deliver timely plumbing services. We’ll identify the source of the problem, give you an estimate, and complete the necessary repairs. Our plumbing services also cover drain cleaning, pipe repair, and toilet repair.
At Anchor Plumbing Services, we offer a selection of water heating services, which include maintenance, repair, and installation of tankless water heaters. If your home is receiving hard water, we can install water softeners and water filtration systems that will deliver clean and fresh water supplies to your San Antonio, TX home. Call us today to schedule our service or request a free quote.