Everything You Need To Know About Septic Tanks


Australia, the world’s driest continent, boasts vast, untouched natural environments in its sparsely populated and expansive territory. Many Australians choose to live in rural and semi-rural areas, embracing the serenity of the picturesque landscapes and their private outdoor spaces. The region’s wildlife, along with its pristine air and water, form an integral part of this captivating locale. However, it’s important to note that rural areas have their unique considerations, such as the management of household wastewater.

For properties not connected to municipal sewer networks, it is the responsibility of the property owner to install and maintain an on-site wastewater treatment system that adheres to Australian Standards and local council regulations. Australia upholds some of the strictest regulations globally to protect our environment and ensure the well-being of our communities through effective on-site wastewater treatment.

What is a Septic Tank?

The term “Septic Tank” is commonly used to describe various on-site wastewater treatment systems. It’s important to note, however, that there are numerous other types of on-site wastewater treatment systems available.

Septic Tanks are relatively simple systems that consist of two chambers separated by a baffle wall. In some cases, septic tank systems may also include a grease trap and a greywater tank. The main function of septic tanks is to use gravity to separate fats and solids from wastewater. The resulting effluent is then disposed of in underground trenches. The remaining sludge is pumped out annually and transported to municipal treatment plants or facilities for toxic waste disposal.

It’s crucial to highlight that septic tank effluent is not disinfected and contains high levels of damaging nutrients and bio-organic oxygen demand, which can degrade soil and water quality.

Over time, septic tanks can fail and disposal trenches can become exhausted, necessitating removal and replacement.

*Septic tank diagram

Are Septic Tanks still legal?

Thankfully, septic tank systems are no longer allowed to be installed in new homes in most areas.

Are Septic Tanks still used?

While there are numerous septic tanks in homes throughout Australia, a considerable number of these systems are currently failing. Local councils are implementing initiatives to inform property owners about the failing septic tanks and encourage them to upgrade to on-site wastewater treatment systems that meet contemporary standards. If you are unsure, you can verify this information with your local council.

Are Septic Tanks Bad?

Improper management of household wastewater presents significant challenges. Goal 6 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals emphasises the importance of sustainable water and sanitation management. Shockingly, 3.5 billion people still lack access to safe toilets, resulting in the spread of diseases that claim the lives of 1,000 children under the age of five each day.

To safeguard our environment and protect our communities, it is crucial to uphold stringent wastewater treatment standards and continually improve our on-site wastewater management practices. Septic tank effluent, overloaded with damaging nutrients and bio-organic oxygen demand, degrades soil and water quality. Eventually, septic tanks fail and disposal trenches become exhausted, requiring removal and replacement.

How will I know if my Septic Tank is failing?

Failing septic systems can have serious implications for health and the environment. They can expose your family and pets to harmful pathogens and contaminate local water sources, posing risks to both consumption and the wider ecosystem. It’s possible to have a failing septic system without realizing it.

Common signs include:

Foul odours from your system or yard.

Persistent wet or spongy patches in the garden (not caused by rain or other sources).

Gurgling or strange noises after using plumbing appliances, such as toilets.

Slow drainage from sinks, showers, baths, etc.

Even septic tanks that are considered “functioning normally” can experience leakage during rainy weather and other malfunctions.

What is the modern standard for Septic Tanks?

The on-site wastewater treatment industry has come a very long way in technological development since the simple Baffle wall Septic Tank. Regulated by the Australian Standard 1564.3 2017, the Aerated On-site Wastewater Treatment System is not only the most advanced system available but also the most widely used system in Australia today.

What is an Aerated On-site Wastewater Treatment System?

There are various brands of on-site wastewater treatment systems that use aeration, each with differences in structure, product quality, and treatment process. For simplicity’s sake, let’s focus on the leading brand in the market: Taylex. While most aerated systems have at least 4 chambers in their treatment process, the Taylex System stands out with its 5-stage design, where the aeration chamber plays a crucial role. An air pump delivers air to a diffuser inside the chamber, creating an environment that promotes the growth of healthy bacteria. These bacteria break down solids in the water and initiate the denitrification process to reduce nutrient levels to normal. Eventually, the water is disinfected using a small amount of chlorine, similar to tap water.

Which Aerated On-site Wastewater Treatment System Is The Best?

There are lots of brands available, but the longest running and most trusted brand is Taylex. If you are looking for a good system, you should keep the following in mind when researching other brands.

What materials is the system made of? Keep in mind that an on-site wastewater treatment system should ideally have the same lifespan as your home.

Are the internal walls of the tank molded as a single piece with the exterior? Some systems can fail at the point where water pressure builds up against the interior walls during the movement from one chamber to another.

How much Emergency Storage capacity does the system have? In case of a power outage, how long can the system handle your home’s wastewater load?

What is the servicing program like? Can you ensure that you will receive high-quality servicing for your system?

Where was the system designed and manufactured? Consider that our diet, water usage habits, and household cleaning products may differ from those in other countries. Is the system you are considering specifically designed for Australian conditions?

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