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Fine Air Bubble Aeration

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  • Fine Air Bubble Aeration

    What experience do any of the septic pros have with fine air bubble aeration in a typical septic system application?

    These systems claim remediation of the tank, field and surrounding soil by changing the atmosphere in the system to support and promote aerobic bacteria growth. In turn, this aggressive bacteria works its way through the entire system and eventually into the soil, supposedly eating away biomat that seems to cause all of the problems to begin with.

    We are seeing a lot of septic systems around here that just seem to be unable to percolate properly. Standing water and odors are abundant and every septic guys answer around here is to add more field but there is nowhere else to go! They are also suggesting complete replacement of the system, but how do you do that when all of the soil is completely saturated and contaminated?

    There has to be a better solution to get these systems to perk. Thought maybe this remediation idea may be a possibility?

  • #2
    Re: Fine Air Bubble Aeration

    Jake, I guess since you've been so helpful via PM I can probably address your question . Would've done so sooner but my internet went down last night .

    The units you are talking about are using pretty sound and proven technology, and they will work as advertised if used with discretion.

    Septics fail for a variety of reasons. One common reason is hydraulic overload. Soil will percolate water at a steady, specified rate, which varies depending on soil type. The drainfield must be sized based on soil type and average daily flow. If more water is used than the system was designed for it will fail and there is basically nothing that can be done. Another type of failure is bacterial failure, where the homeowner has habits that damage (kill) the bacteria in the system, such as dumping heavy cleaning supplies, paint or thinners, or other chemicals down the drain. Bacterial failure can also come as a result of residues of heavy medications, such as radiation, etc. in the body wastes of a resident. Again, until the cause of failure is addressed there is nothing that can be done for the system.

    The devices you are asking about only work in biologically failed drainfields. As waste is treated in the field, a biomat begins to form at the soil/rock interface (or on the soil surface if the system uses chambers). The biomat is normal and is an integral part of the waste treatment. Billions of microbes live in the biomat, and as the water percolates through these microbes feed on the remaining waste particles. A biomat is good as long as it is not excessive.

    However, over time the biomat can get thicker and thicker, eventually sealing the drainfield trench off and resulting in a "bathtub effect," where the waste cannot escape. As this happens, the bacteria in the field, which should be anaerobic (oxygenated) bacteria, die of because of the saturated environment and are replaced by anaerobic bacteria, which work much less efficiently. This creates a snowball effect as the system fails. This is what we here in Idaho call a biological failure (excessive biomat), and it is what the remediation devices were designed to correct.

    Remediation of any type should only be attempted after a very thorough evaluation of the site, soil conditions, previous permits and system design, lifestyle, how long the system has worked properly, etc. Each manufacturer has an extensive checklist that must be completed prior to the purchasing the product, and they will only stand behind their product if the site/system falls within certain parameters of criteria. On average, about 40% or so of failing systems are eligible for remediation, and of that number the success rate for remediation is somewhere in the 85% to 95% range. Every manufacturer I have talked to has given me similar numbers.

    The devices were originally invented a number of years ago by Dr. Dan Wickham and another partner whose name I do not know. They called their device the Piranha and used it with good success. As partnerships sometimes go (think EasyCam/Vu-Rite), the principles had some problems seeing eye to eye and split. Come to think of it, there may have been a third partner too, not sure. Anyway, each partner continues to manufacture and sell the systems today. Wickham's is called SludgeHammer, another partner sold out to AquaWorx (owned by Infiltrator systems), and a third is sold online as the Septic Genie. These three devices are essentially identical. There are some others who have jumped into the game as well. BioMicrobics has their RetroFAST, which is much more complicated but attempts to do the same thing, and there are a few other small companies out there as well. The three Piranha knockoffs use a bacterial additive to kickstart the process. The bacteria bag hangs just above the bubble diffuser, and carries the bacteria with the oxygen. These bacteria are called facultative bacteria, which means that the microbes can survive in either a aerobic (oxygenated) or anaerobic (saturated) environment. This means that they can live in a tank, which is saturated, but as they make their way out to the field and begin to pick up oxygen from the soil, etc. they can really thrive and begin to eat away the biomat.

    I became involved with the devices because I have a customer like you described, no room for replacement on a small lot. I decided to pursue remediation and have ended up leading the charge trying to get the technology approved in our state. We have been trying since August of 2008 (yes, 2 1/2 years) and we have a meeting with the state regulators this Wednesday, in which we are tentatively expecting an approval. I am working with AquaWorx and their Remediator, since in my opinion a company like Infiltrator Systems with a huge reputation in wastewater is not likely to risk their good name on questionable technology.

    Sort of a long rant, I know, but this has been quite a part of my life for a while and I've had to really study up on it in order to pitch it to some stubborn regulators . Hope this helps.
    Last edited by SewerRat; 03-14-2011, 12:39 PM.


    • #3
      Re: Fine Air Bubble Aeration

      It seems to work with the new aeration system we service here. The final effulent is quite clear.