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What are Aeration Septic Systems?

By T. L. Childree
Updated May 16, 2024
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Aeration septic systems utilize aerobic bacteria which break down human waste faster and more efficiently than traditional methods. The bacteria are injected into the system by means of an electrically powered air pump; a reliable source of power along with frequent maintenance is required for correct operation. Most aeration septic systems consist of a large holding tank containing three integrated treatment compartments. The first compartment allows solid waste to settle while liquid waste is filtered into an aeration treatment chamber, the second compartment, and released into the soil through the third section. Aeration septic systems are typically utilized to replace older systems and may be installed above or below ground.

Traditional septic systems utilize the anaerobic bacteria contained in human waste to bread down solid material over a period of time. In addition to anaerobic bacteria, aeration septic systems also make use of aerobic bacteria which are naturally present in air. The addition of aerobic bacteria makes the treatment process more efficient and allows cleaner water to be dispersed into the soil. Adding aerobic bacteria to the system also shortens the time required to break down the waste material.

Aeration septic systems require an electrically-powered air pump to inject the aerobic bacteria into the waste treatment chamber. A continuous source of electricity is needed to operate this mechanism. These systems are generally more expensive to install and operate than ordinary treatment methods. Because of the additional air-injection equipment and electrical supply lines, the installation cost is typically twice that of a traditional septic system. Aeration septic systems also require periodic maintenance and sludge pumping for efficient operation.

A typical aeration system consists of a single holding tank with three integrated treatment compartments. Each of these treatment chambers is equipped with an opening at the top to allow liquid wastewater to flow into the adjoining compartment. A filter is installed in this opening to prevent any solid waste from entering. The middle chamber is fitted with an air injector to aerate the contents. A covered central opening is installed at the top of the holding tank to permit access for periodic filter cleaning or sludge pumping.

Each individual compartment of the holding tank is designed for a specific purpose. The first chamber receives the raw sewage coming from the home or building and allows any solid material to settle to the bottom. Naturally occurring, anaerobic bacteria contained in the solid waste begin to break it down into a liquid form. This liquid material then flows through the top opening into the second or middle compartment where it is exposed to aerobic bacteria provided by the air injection pump. The aerobic bacteria further breaks down the liquid waste which is then deposited into the third chamber for dispersal into the soil.

These systems are typically installed as a replacement for older, traditional septic tanks. They may also be required for new home or building construction in some locations. Local regulations sometimes prohibit the use of less efficient, anaerobic systems because of environmental concerns. Aeration septic systems may be installed above or below ground and typically require less space than traditional waste treatment methods. Their compact size often makes them a better choice for small or wooded lots.

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