Researching an alternative septic system can be very confusing due to the large number of different names and types of systems. In addition, often the same type of system is referred to by different names, further complicating matters. We have made every attempt to simplify and explain alternate septic system in plain English.
Why do you need an alternative septic system? Some of the most common reasons include:
- High water table
- Not enough space to install a conventional leach field (or a desire to use less space for aesthetic reasons).
- Slope of land does not allow for a conventional septic system
- Soil percolation rates are too fast or too slow
- Proximity to wells
- Shallow bedrock with under 2′ of soil above the bedrock
- Your system has failed in the past
Aerobic septic systems (also called aeration systems)
Aerobic septic systems introduce oxygen into the wastewater. This oxygen allows aerobic, or oxygen-consuming, bacteria to flourish. Aerobic bacteria process waste faster and more effectively than anaerobic bacteria. For more information on aerobic septic systems, click here.
A cesspool is simply a pit in the ground, with the walls lined by stone or metal with holes in it and covered with a lid. They used to be much more common and can still be found in some older homes. There are many problems associated with failing cesspools. For more information on cesspools, click here.
Lagoon systems (also called ponds or constructed wetlands). Lagoon systems consist of one or more lagoons/ponds designed to receive, hold and treat wastewater. They can be a very cost effective option in rural areas, where land is inexpensive. For more information on lagoon septic systems, click here.
Gravelless chamber technologies
Chamber technologies are one of the biggest technological advances to come along. They offer two main advantages over traditional gravel systems:
- you don’t have to worry about poor quality gravel, which can reduce the effectiveness of your system
- the open area in the chamber offers a much larger storage capacity. For more information on gravelless chamber septic system technologies, click here.
Mound septic systems are a very common type of alternative septic system used when the soil conditions do not allow for a conventional septic system. They allow many people to use a septic system, when they otherwise could not have. On the other hand, they are more expensive than regular system, can be an eyesore, and are more prone to failure than regular systems. For more information on mound septic systems, click here.
Recirculating sand filters
In a recirculating sand filter system, the effluent comes out of the tank and is sprayed over the buried sandbox. The effluent filters through the sand, then is pumped to a tank, where it is pumped back through the sand filter 4-6 times (for better nitrogen removal), then discharged to a regular drainfield or mound. They are not cheap to install or maintain. They use pumps which burn electricity and burn out. The sand can get plugged and needs removal/replacement. Good for removing pathogens and even better at removing nitrogen, which is an issue near bodies of water.
- intermittent sand filters
- LPP septic systems (also called low pressure pipe systems)
- Fine bubble aeration
- Composting toilet system