Facts and Folklore
We at Dixie
Septic Tank Inc. hope the following information will answer
some questions regarding the maintenance of your septic
system. We also hope it will put to rest some old and new
myths regarding these systems.
Septic System Folklore
The folklore of septic systems could probably fill a small
Like most folklore, the stories
reflect elements of truth, ignorance, and humor.
The purpose of this pamphlet is to dispel
some of the myths about septic systems and explain how they
information will help you keep your system
working well for many years.
How the system works: The septic system
is a natural sewage treatment and disposal system. By natural,
we mean that it relies on bacteria to digest and clean wastewater.
The bacteria in the septic tank literally eat the solids
in the tank turning them into liquids and gasses. As you
might expect these gasses have a foul odor. To avoid these
bad odors they are vented off through pipes on the house
roof. The liquid wastes flow to the drainfield. The final
purification occurs by organisms living in the soil.
The bacteria in the septic tank eat and digest most of
But there’s always
some waste that doesn’t even appeal to these critters.
As a result, the Health department and Dixie Septic Tank
recommends pumping out the tank every
three (3) to five (5) years.
This will remove excess sludge that has accumulated.
Common myths-dead cats and a pound of yeast: Theories
abound about the best way to startup a new septic system.
Most theories deal with “seeding” the septic
tank to get good bacteria growth started. Advice has ranged
from flushing a pound of yeast into the system (we don’t
recommend this) If you had toast for breakfast or a sandwich
for lunch, or drink a beer, the system will get yeast. To
seeding the septic tank with manure (we don’t recommend
this) all the way to placing a dead cat in the septic tank
(we don’t recommend this) Neither Dixie Septic Tank
Inc. nor the Health department recommends any of these.
See additional comments about additives at the end of this
Starting a new system: Most of the folklore
is believable because it contains elements of truth. The
concept of seeding a septic tank is partially true. Septic
systems are biological systems and must have bacteria to
work. However no special seeding is necessary to get them
started. The simple act of using the system will provide
all the bacteria necessary to make the system function well.
Let your regular body waste do its thing. Yeast, manure,
and especially dead cats will not develop the colony of
bacteria in the tank any faster.
Additives for old systems: Septic system
folklore doesn’t stop with seeding a new system. Many
products are sold that claim to make old systems like new.
Other products claim to eliminate the need to pump out the
septic tank. Some even say they will kill the roots in the
drainage pipe. These products usually contain yeast, bacteria,
enzymes or chemical degreasers. None of these have proven
to be effective.
People often ask if additives can reduce or eliminate
the need to pump a septic tank.
It’s a good question. So far, no additive has proven
effective in a controlled scientific study.
In fact pumping out your tank gives it and the drainfield
a chance to dry out and rest for a few days.
Why additives don’t work: Some of
the solids in the tank are sand, grit, hair, pieces of plastic
and similar materials. No enzyme or bacteria can digest
these. Other organic solids are not very digestible. Hence
they accumulate. Bacteria that is added must compete with
our natural bacteria that are adapted to living in your
septic tank. These adapted (natural) bacteria have a home
advantage. The newly added organisms can’t compete
and become dinner for the resident organisms. Enzymes on
the other hand are not living and cannot reproduce. Bacteria
grows, enzymes don’t. Whatever is added to the tank
is all that will ever be there. Most septic tanks are between
900-1000 gallons or larger and the quantity of enzymes are
too low to be helpful.
In short, adding enzymes or bacteria usually won’t
cause any problem but they won’t help either. The
solution is simple.
Pump your tank every three (3) to five (5) years.
This solution is easy, safe, and often cheaper than buying
Apply the money spent on additives to your next pump-out
Additional comment, taken from an industry magazine:
Reprinted here with their approval.
These reflect other installer’s thoughts about additives.
“ I believe that use of additives to the septic
tank is detrimental, as they tend to agitate the scum and
sludge layers, creating a “soup,” which then
flows into the drainfield, causing irreparable and permanent
damage.” Comments from Australia. Additives with
“surfactants or emulsifier” in them, can cause
much more harm than good.
Many studies have been done regarding septic tank additives.
I have yet to see one showing any positive effects,
other than the seller’s profit.
Yet I have seen some
additives that cause harm.
The only exception is if a household member is
on chemotherapy or long term antibiotics.
These would be killing the naturally
occurring bacteria and that is the only time the bacteria
would need to be replaced or supplemented.
All of the university-related studies I’ve seen show
with, and systems without additives.
Yeast has no bacterial value to a septic system:
Yeast only breaks down starches. That’s why
a baker and brewmaster use yeast. Our body has already broken
down the starches going through it.
Like most of the academic world,
I agree that additives are not necessary.
If these products worked so well, why would
we need a sewage treatment plant?
A tank would never have to be pumped.
We could run all of the sewage into a holding area,
and just add the magic product and forget it.
That doesn’t happen and we know it.
The routine maintenance of pumping your tank: After
a system is working it requires very little maintenance.
About all you have to do is pump the tank every three (3)
to five (5) years. The purpose of pumping out the tank is
to remove-accumulated solids. These solids can and will
stop up the flow of liquids into the drainfield, and plug
up the soil where the wastewater is absorbed. When you have
your tank pumped, it is wise to inspect the condition of
Here in Florida, if you had a new tank installed after
the year 1994 your tank will have a filter on the outlet
end. This should be checked and cleaned every six (6) months.
Unscrew the filter cover (this is not the clean out plug
usually located close to the house). The filter port is
usually located under the sod in the yard on the outlet
end of the tank) and with rubber gloves reach down and pull
the filter out. rinse it off with water getting all residue
out of it and clean it thoroughly, and reinstall it back
in its holder. Some filters have a directional flow arrow
on them, make sure you reinstall them in the correct position.
We at Dixie will be more than happy to guide you through
this call us (386) 738-3030. The most often heard myth though
is the concept that, “I never had to have my septic
tank pumped before.” This reflects an unfortunate
attitude of neglect. Another way of looking at is, “If
it isn’t broke don’t maintain it.” The
health department certainly doesn’t promote this attitude.
We prefer to think of it like changing the oil in your car.
It’s always wiser to do it before the system stops