All About Additives - What the Experts Say

The following opinions were submitted by septic professionals to Pumper Discussion, an e-mail based forum forum for industry professionals sponsored by Cole Publishing. They also appeared in the February 2005 isuue of Pumper magazine.


Question: We're pretty new to the business. Can anybody tell me how to deal with additives? We've recently had request for them. Is there one additive that's better than another?


I believe that use of additives in the septic tank is detrimental, as they can tend to agitate the scum and sludge layers, creating a "soup" which then flows into the drain field, causing irreparable and permanent damage. I am also starting to think that enzyme-type additives may be of some use when placed straight into a sluggish drainfield, never into the septic tank.

I have a slightly different view than most on this subject. I know that the use of some additives, especially any with surficants or emulsifiers in them, can cause much more harm than good. I also know that many people are going to buy an additive of some sort. I would rather have them buy an additive from me that is not going to harm their system then buy from one of the telemarketing companies at astronomical prices, or buy some miracle cure that claims they will never need to pump thier tank again.

Using an additive on a regular basis keeps them aware that their system requires periodic maintenance and proper care. If they are more aware of how their system operates, they are much less likely to flush items that will clog the system or kill off the beneficial bacteria. Many customers call me once per year when they run out of bacteria. It keeps me in touch with the customer without making annoying marketing calls. In my opinion, this is enough of a benefit in itself to warrant using an additive.

Also, there was an article in a recent issue of Small Flows Quarterly describing a study done by students at a university. Their blind study did show that the septic systems of homeowners using an additive had fewer problems than those who didn't use additives. The margin was small, but significant enough to warrant further research. The author concluded that using a quality bacteria additive may increase the performance of septic systems.

Many studies have been done regarding septic tank additives. I have yet to see one showing any positive effects, other than the sellers profits. Yet I have seen some additives that cause harm. I tell folks not to use additives, but (there's always an exception) only in the case where a household member is on chemotherapy or long-term antibiotics. These would be killing the naturally occuring bacteria, and that is the only time the bacteria would need to be replaced or supplemented.

If someone out there has a solid, unbiased scientific study showing positive effects of septic system additives, please post the details here. All the university-related studied I've seen show no difference between systems with and systems without additives.

Any reputable distributer will acknowledge that use of the product does not take the place of regular system maintenance. Those who support this industry also often times will help the septic pumper develope marketing, sales and suggested use plans for the additives they manufacture. I am not aware of any manufacturer who advertises in Pumper or exibits at the Expo that would recomend against regular pumping.

I think the question is: "How much do I need to makea system work?" What I've been doing here on Long Island is that I deliverit and add a liquid bacteria. This does two things. First, I am with the client every three month, so I get to check the system out, make recommendations on it, and keep on top of any problems.. I do pick up a ton of repeat business, and I get to meet the neighbors, and the whole street knows me and my company. And then I can spend a day on a single block doing work or just soft-marketing my services. Bacteria is a door opener.

Many homeowners want to be involved in maintenance and are absolutely convinces that they should add a suppliment to their septic system. By providing a quality product that will do no harm, we as pumpers can make sure homeowners don't use a product that makes the wild claims we have all heard.

If they are involved enough to keep track of the additive usage, they are more likely to be aware of just what they try to flush into their systems in the first place. It also puts them back in touch with you, the pumper, when they need to order more product.

I have seen what can happen if the wrong chemicals are added to septic systems. There is a local farm store that sold a wetting agent intended for improved spray patterns and coverage when using large agricultural spray equipment. You could actually take a gallon of this stuff and walk out to a pond of standing water in a farm field, pour it into the water, and almost watch the water soak away into the soil.

Someone got the bright idea that this stuff could be added to sluggish septic systems to make them perc better. It worked for about six months, and then the system totally clogged because the wetting agent didn't let the the solids settle out in the septic tank.

New layer...


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