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Frequently Asked Questions

Home Sewage Treatment

What is a Home Sewage Treatment Plant (HSTP)?

A Home Sewage Treatment Plant (HSTP) is similar to a Municipal Sewage Treatment Works, except that it is designed to fit in your own back yard.  It uses the same proven treatment methods as the larger system to treat all the wastewater that flows from the toilets, baths and sinks. These include coarse filtration, pre-treatment, aeration, settling and disinfection. However, all the water that you use in your house is available to you to recycle and reuse, after it is treated, to irrigate your garden. Most people would not realise that a home has its own HSTP because it is just like living in a home that has mains or Municipal sewer connected and gives you all of the advantages that this service provides.

What is a Septic Tank?

A septic tank (system) is a method of wastewater treatment that utilises only anaerobic bacteria (bacteria not requiring oxygen to live). The tank has no aeration and treats the wastewater to about 20% of the amount needed to render it harmless to the environment. The remaining 80% of the treatment is provided in the soil. Leach drains or drain lines are laid out into the property and the partially treated water enters these lines and percolates down through the soil, where aerobic bacteria (Bacteria requiring oxygen to live) complete the treatment.

Originally designed to treat only black-water (sewage) using small flush toilet cisterns and narrow throat toilet bowls. This enabled toilets to be brought inside the home but it did not provide treatment to all the sullage (grey) water from the shower, bath, sink, washing machine or dishwasher. This is because it used the treatment principal of low hydraulic loads and high organic loads, giving the slow working anaerobic bacteria a longer time to do their work. The need to treat “all waste” i.e. Black water (sewage) from the toilets and grey-water (sullage) from the sinks, bath, shower etc. causes the basic system to be overloaded with a much higher flow of water.

The basic treatment principal of low hydraulic flows and high organic loading is compromised so the all-waste septic became a high hydraulic flow and (by dilution) a low organic load causing the treatment process to fail. Insufficient time is allowed to the anaerobic bacteria and the leach drains become blocked as solids were flushed out blocking the pores of the soil and stopping the vital second part of the treatment. To try to remedy this failure leach drain areas were expanded and large sand filters were built in the ground to try and obtain a high quality effluent that did not affect the environment.

Septic tanks are vulnerable to poor soil conditions (clay, sand etc.) high water table, clogging of the drain lines, damage to the drain lines by vehicles, animals, trees etc. and neglect by failure to regularly (at least every 3 years, but preferably every year) pumping out the sludge and solids from the tank.

Do I need an Advanced Secondary Wastewater Treatment System or a Septic Tank?

For the sake of the environment, “best practice” is always the default setting. This means that if there is a choice of actions that we can take, we should always choose the one that is best for the environment. In almost all situations the best choice for the environment will be a Secondary Wastewater Treatment System, as it guarantees to purify all the waste discharges in the tank, before it is discharged to the environment (see What is a Septic Tank?).

The currently available Secondary Wastewater Treatment System s purify the water to such a high level that will not cause environmental damage, will not be a danger to humans or animals and will actively assist the environment by recycling all of the water we use in the house to be used again in our gardens. You cannot install a septic tank system in a water catchment area or coastal areas where the effluent can get into estuaries, creeks and rivers and destroy or pollute aquatic life. Many coastal areas have aquaculture or shellfish harvesting, and these have in the past, been rendered unsafe for human consumption by septic tank effluent contaminating the waters. Small blocks of land may not have enough area available after the house, garage, pool, tennis court, paths and driveways are constructed, for the leach drain area necessary for a septic tank system. Even on a large farm, installing a Secondary Wastewater Treatment System will ensure the aquifers, which may be used for stock or drinking and cooking water in the farmhouse, are not polluted by untreated septic effluent reaching them.

A holiday “shack” rather than a holiday “home” may be a suitable site to install a septic system, as there will only be occasional occupancy, probably mains water will not be connected and mains power may also not be available. Premises such as remote Country Fire Authority or Rural Fire Brigade depots which will only have a toilet and hand washing facilities and are not used regularly except perhaps on training weekends, are also likely sites for a septic tank system. Any area where the local Municipality demands that “all waste be treated” should only install a Secondary Wastewater Treatment System due to the breaching of the treatment principals of an All-Waste Septic Tank System in such an application.

What is an aerobic system?

An aerobic system is one in which air is used in the operation of the system. It is therefore another name used for a Secondary Wastewater Treatment System.

What is an activated sludge system?

An activated sludge system is a form of secondary treatment that is used almost exclusively in Municipal or Commercial Sewage treatment systems because of its complex management problems, necessitating full time operation and management of various processes by positive human and mechanical intervention. It is a process for treating sewage and industrial wastewaters using air and a biological floc composed of bacteria and protozoans.

Complex mathematical models are used to design the volume of inputs, the formation of the sludge, removal (wasting) of sludge, the maintenance of a healthy bacteria population and eradication of harmful bacteria such as filamentous bacterium. It is not a system that can be easily scaled down and successfully operated in a domestic situation.

What is a worm farm?

A worm farm, when used in this form (distinct from “worm farms” sold by hardware stores) is a method of sewage treatment that is carried out by the action of worms that live in the sewage treatment plant. The plant is seeded with worms on commissioning and by their action in eating the food sources provided to them, burrowing through the organic matter, produce castings of partially treated matter. Like all aerobic systems, they rely on living organisms to produce the treatment process so they are equally susceptible to mistreatment by overuse of aggressive cleaning compounds etc.

The homeowner is required to clean any sediment from inside the distribution pit, wearing protective gloves and bury 200mm below ground. Because the treatment method only partly removes the pollutants, the water pumped from the system must be discharged at least 200mm below ground in a trench system (Victorian EPA Requirement), identical to the requirements throughout Australia for Septic Tank Systems. Usually they will service only one toilet and may be used where mains water or electricity are not available.

What is a sand filter?

A sand filter is an additional treatment process fitted to a Septic Tank outlet to process the partially treated effluent from the Septic Tank. Because the All-Waste Septic Tank (see What is a Septic Tank?) is incapable of reducing the pollution level in the sewage and sullage (influent) that discharges into it from the home, to a level that is safe to humans and the environment, a sand filter is constructed behind the septic tank to receive all the still heavily polluted water (effluent). It usually consists of up to 20 cubic metres of the correct type and grade of sand, which is placed in an excavation, usually sealed by an impervious plastic liner, that may be 2 metres wide, 10 metres long and 1 metre deep.

The effluent is fed into slotted plastic pipes laid flat in the top sand of the filter, where it percolates down through the sand media and is collected by a slotted pipe set in the base sand. It then either flows into a pump-out chamber or gravitates into absorption lines. Aerobic bacteria proliferate in the open, air filled lattice of the sand media and extract from the water as it passes, their nutrient food, which is the polluting matter. The correct grading and placement of the sand, placement of the distribution and under-drains etc. can greatly affect the successful operation and operating life of the Septic Tank Sand Filter System. Because the sand acts as a mechanical filter for non-treatable matter, the septic tank must be pumped regularly to ensure the sand media does not become blocked by solids flushed out of the septic tank.

The sand media cannot be backwashed or cleaned and must be removed and replaced by fresh sand at the end of the life of the sand media. In poorly designed or constructed systems, failure can occur in as little as 3 years or less. Effluent from the system can be used in the same way as effluent from HSTP. Annual maintenance costs are usually considerably less than a HSTP. However, sand replacement costs when they inevitably occur, usually cost approximately as much as the installation cost of the complete system some 9 or 10 years before.

The need to dig out the sand with a machine, load it into trucks, remove it to a noxious disposal site and bring back in several truckloads of fresh sand usually causes mild to severe damage to the now established property. Minimal homeowner intervention in the operation of the system is an advantage to uncaring homeowners.

Which is the best system?

The best system will mean different things to different people. Whenever we interact with suppliers, our opinion of the product we have purchased is very often coloured by the tone of the dealings we have had with them.

At the extreme end, most of us would not buy a product from someone we couldn’t deal with or relate to, or who treated us poorly, unless there was no alternate supplier or equivalent product available (think Telstra, the Banks etc). Some will always think that the cheapest is the best, others the dearest is always the best. Often we buy a product and feel good about the transaction, but when we use it, we are disappointed. We were either oversold on what the product was going to do or how good it was or worse, it actually does not do what the salesman claimed. The same is equally true in selecting a system to treat your sewage and sullage.

You are entering into a long term commitment with the supplier and manufacturer and if you were not happy in the beginning, you are unlikely to become happier as time passes. Small problems will be magnified out of proportion, nothing will be right and you will wish you had purchased another product. So think carefully as you decide: are you dealing with an ethical supplier, do they listen to you, do they make you feel confident in their knowledge and abilities, have they given you a fair price for what they are doing for you, will you be happy to see them or their employees over the many years that the Secondary Wastewater Treatment System will service your Home?

If you can answer YES to all these points, then the plant you have chosen is the best – for you.

We think that Taylex will “tick all the boxes” for you but if you disagree, please tell us why.

Is an Advanced Secondary Wastewater Treatment System better than a Septic?

In almost all circumstances the truthful answer is “YES”. A Secondary Wastewater Treatment System will consistently treat all the water we have polluted and downgraded from  A1 Potable water to sewage by our use in the home, bringing it back to a higher grade water, still not potable, but to a standard that will not pollute the environment, be a hazard to ourselves, our family, companion pets, neighbours or the environment. A septic tank cannot guarantee to do this because we can’t control the environment into which the partially treated effluent from the septic tank is discharged.

We cannot be sure that the septic tank effluent does not pollute the aquifer below the leach drain or absorption area. We cannot control heavy rain percolating into the leach drains and overflowing out into our backyard, the creek or the neighbour’s property. We can’t guarantee that a visitor will not drive over the leach drains, crushing and blocking them. We don’t see the final effluent, so we don’t know what it is really like. For holiday “shacks” as distinct from a holiday home where we have everything just the same as at our home, a septic tank may be the system of choice because we may not be there very often, there may be no power available with very little water usage.

The environmental benefit of a Secondary Wastewater Treatment System includes the major advantage of being able to use twice the water we have paid for or the precious water we have harvested ourselves from our roof, once in our home, then in our garden.

Concrete or Poly? What is the difference?

Both the Taylex concrete and polymer wastewater treatment systems are six- stage aerated wastewater treatment systems that exceed the national standards and are certified in all Australian states and territories. So why have both options available if they essentially do the same thing?
Our concrete ABS Systems are suited to 90% of all domestic installations. Taylex Polymer Tanks are designed to accommodate site conditions where it is not possible to crane in a concrete treatment system e.g. steep terrain. Our unique polymer mould cleverly uses ‘Sandwich closed-cell foam polymer’ to mould the compartment walls in one piece. There are no joins or glued-in compartments and all partitions extend to the lid of the tank, so you can enjoy the same peace of mind as if you had a Taylex concrete system.

Service

Do systems need to be serviced?

Yes!

All Home Sewage Treatment Plants in Australia, as a condition of their State Accreditation Approval, are required to be serviced. The State you are in and the type of treatment system you purchase will determine how much and how often the system will be required to be serviced. Visit Taylex Servicing to find out more.

How much does it cost to service a system?

For those people who are concerned about the cost of servicing a Home Sewage Treatment Plant please remember that if you were in a city environment with mains sewer, part of your rates would cover your sewage, and the difference between these rates and the servicing costs usually means that you don’t pay as much, or in some cases anything at all, yet you retain all the water for your own use in your garden. So, you pay for it once, but use it twice!

Servicing costs vary from area to area and from system to system. If you are in a remote area, where perhaps there or none or only a couple of systems installed nearby, you will understand that the cost for a service technician to travel to your home will be slightly higher than less remote areas. Also, when a service technician can attend a number of systems in close proximity on the same trip, his travelling costs will be spread over more homeowners’ contracts. Quarterly service calls in total may be no more expensive than a once or twice a year charge, particularly if the yearly service takes the technician 2 hours on site to perform but the quarterly only takes him 30 minutes.

Currently, you will expect to pay from$290.00 per annum on average depending on the service region and required number of service calls on your Taylex ABS system.

(This service is exempt from GST. Excluding the chlorine replacement tablets).

Who can Service a Treatment Plant? Why do they need to be serviced?

All Treatment systems can only be serviced by registered, licensed wastewater service personnel.

Unlicensed personnel are not allowed to service any treatment system anywhere in Australia by State Law.

Secondary Wastewater Treatment Systems should be serviced for more important reasons than legislative compliance. Secondary Wastewater Treatment Systems contain trillions of living organisms that make up a complete ecology system. They need monitoring and periodic attention for the wellbeing of the colony. Replacing a dead colony is not as simple as going to a pet store and buying a new gold fish.

Your service person will tend and monitor your Taylex Secondary Wastewater Treatment System to ensure that it is always operating at peak performance, producing water that is returning to the environment as the cleanest and best quality water (effluent) that it can produce.

Customer Service

How much power does a system use? Are Taylex Systems solar ready?

The cost of power is becoming a huge issue in our society.

At Taylex we realise that we must find cheaper ways to run our systems without compromising the performance of the system. So we have developed the Taylex™ ABS (Advanced Blower System) which can turn some parts of the system off to conserve power if the usage of the system will permit.

It is impossible for Taylex or any other treatment plant company to give our customers an exact cost of how much the operating costs of a treatment system will be each year. The reason we can’t is because the submersible pump that pumps to the irrigation fields is the biggest consumer of power. Depending on how many people live in the house and how much water each person uses will materially alter how often and how long the pump will run for. See attached document.

Taylex uses Nitto brand air blowers that can be programmed to turn off when it is safe to do so, to adjust to the hydraulic loading of the treatment plant.

All Taylex Wastewater Treatment Systems can be powered by your home’s solar system. Click here to download the relevant datasheets.

Can I upgrade my existing Taylex Compact or Taylex Clearwater 90 Deluxe to a new energy efficient blower?

Yes!

As with all electrical items, Taylex are continually looking for new ways to improve the energy efficiency of our Home Sewage Treatment Plants.

We now install an 80 litre “Nitto” Blower on all of our Home Sewage Treatment Plants. This air generating system uses approximately one third of the power that the superseded Taylex Compact model used.

Please contact your local Taylex distributor or service agent for a quote to upgrade your system to a power saving blower.

What are the different wastewater grades or quality?

There are 4 recognised grades of wastewater in Australia:

  1. Primary Effluent

Septic Tanks – No real treatment of effluent

  1. Secondary Effluent
  2. Advanced Secondary Effluent
  3. Advanced Secondary with Nutrient Removal Effluent

Numbers 2, 3 & 4 require treatment plants to achieve these higher grades of effluent.

Below are the Australian and New Zealand (AS/NZS) Standards levels that are applied to the final effluent for classification of the Effluent Standard into the various categories. The lower the number, the better the quality, the less hazardous the water is and the lower the pollution risk it will be to the environment, your family, your pets and your neighbours.

What cleaning products can I safely use?

A Secondary Wastewater Treatment System utilizes naturally occurring bacteria to treat the waste water you put into it.  The last thing you want to do is to kill all of these hard working and beneficial bacteria by using harmful cleaning products within your household. Anyone claiming that their Aerobic system (which relies on bacteria) can cope with anti-bacterial cleaners and bleaches is lying to you. Taylex recommends that you choose products that:

  • are biodegradable;
  • are septic tank or Secondary Wastewater Treatment System safe;
  • do not contain bleach, chlorine or antibacterial agents; and
  • contain low quantities of sodium and phosphorous.

You can still use strong bleach products and antibacterial agents (for nappy soaking, whites etc); just use them in a bucket and tip the remaining product out into an unused part of your garden.  The same applies to harsh cleaning products that you may like to use to clean kitchen appliances and bench tops etc.  Use paper towel to clean up with and dispose of in the garbage.

For more information please refer to the results of an independent laboratory: Lanfax Laboratories. The link to their website is here:

http://www.lanfaxlabs.com.au/

The front page has a link titled “This is a link to 2009 laundry product research – click here”

You can trust their results as they are an independent laboratory accredited to perform impartial assessments on all these products.

Can I reuse the water from a domestic Home Sewage Treatment Plant back inside my home?

No!

The current legislation in each State or Territory in Australia prevents the internal reuse from a Secondary Wastewater Treatment System that contains black water (sewage).

There is some push from certain sectors to reuse water from treatment plants but it is our belief at Taylex that due to high risk factors in the event of equipment failure, lack of servicing or pandemics, the cost does not justify the very limited benefits.

A treatment plant could be designed to safely do this but the cost to purchase and maintain such a system properly would be horrendous.

Can I use a garbage disposal unit?

No! (as a general rule)

Garbage disposal units grind up food matter and then discharges it into the system. This is a high source of organic loading (BOD5) that overloads the treatment capacity of the system, causing them to smell and effluent quality to fall. There is a simple solution; wrap any meat products up and dispose of them in your garbage collection. Vegetable matter can be used as compost material or wrapped and disposed of in your garbage.

How noisy is the Air Blower?

Taylex uses a Nitto Blower for all of its treatment systems, the blowers are very reliable and extremely quiet.

Listed below are their operating noise levels in decibel ratings.

The most popular blower model Taylex uses is the LA80B Blower which produces a noise level of just 45 decibels. A Public library has on average a rating of 50 decibels.

Air Blower Noise Ratings in Decibels (dB)

NITTO Blower LA28B – 38 dB

NITTO Blower LA45B – 38 dB

NITTO Blower LA80B – 45 dB – As used in our ABS Systems

NITTO Blower LA120T – 48 dB – As used in our DMS Systems

NITTO Blower LAM200 – 48 dB – As used in our CABS Systems

Can I turn the system off when I go on holidays?

No!

Just as you don’t turn off the aerator in the gold fish bowl or turn the power off to the refrigerator or freezer, you do not turn the power off to the Secondary Wastewater Treatment System. The bacteria are naturally regulating in numbers, so, when no more food matter is introduced from the home, they will slowly die off so their numbers will be controlled by the remaining available food.

They will still have oxygen and a small number will remain viable and quickly multiply back up to previous levels as soon as a fresh food source is introduced on your return. If you turn the power off, they will all begin dying within 8 hours as they will use up all the available dissolved oxygen and the plant will turn anaerobic killing all aerobic bacteria. It will be very difficult to re-establish a healthy biomass when you turn the plant back on and it will smell badly for a long time. You may even have to pump the system out and start it up all over again.

Can I have a Spa Bath?

Yes!

Spa baths generally hold a relatively large volume of water that is only lightly polluted, usually by body oil, soaps and surfactants (bubbles). This is due to the fact that there is high hydraulic (water) loading but minute organic loading so there is virtually nothing to treat. Because it is so highly diluted, it is usual practice to bypass the treatment process and connect the spa bath drain directly into the pump-out chamber. The water then pumps directly out into the garden, being recycled as irrigation water.

Can I cover the top of the System?

No!

Free, unrestricted access must be provided to all access points on the top of the system at all times. This is because we need to comply with Occupational Work Health and Safety Requirements in providing a Safe Workplace for our service technicians.

Can the pool filter backwash discharge into the System?

No!

Pool filter backwash pumps generate a large volume of water very quickly. The water contains chlorine, which is used to kill any bacteria in the pool so it will kill the bacteria in your plant just as successfully. There is very little, if anything in the water that requires treatment or can be treated in a Secondary Wastewater Treatment System. It will also hydraulically overload the system and flush the biomass out into the pump chamber causing the effluent quality to fail.

The pool filter backwash may be connected into the pump out chamber where it will then be pumped directly out into the garden providing your Local Council approves and you have planted salt tolerant plants in your irrigation/disposal field areas.