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Residential Sewage Services, Owls Hall
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Should I Turn Off My Sewage Treatment Plant?

We are often asked whether you should ever turn off your sewage treatment plant? Under normal circumstances your sewage treatment plant should remain on and operate 24 hours per day, seven days a week. However, if you are planning to go away for a long period then this may be the time to consider turning it off. In this article we aim to provide guidance on when you should turn off your septic tank.

When shouldn’t I turn off my sewage treatment plant?

A sewage treatment plant works by breaking down solid waste to produce a cleaner, more environmentally friendly effluent. It does this by growing bacteria which feeds on the contaminants in the water. To help the growth of the bacteria the water needs to be oxygenated. Therefore, if you are going away for a weekend or even 2 weeks your system will still be digesting the waste and will require oxygen. Hence, you should leave your plant on during these times.

When should I turn off my sewage treatment plant?

If you are planning a longer period of time away which equates to more than three months, it is recommended that your sewage treatment plant is switched off and decommissioned. This is because during longer periods the bacteria in the system is likely to die off which will probably turn the water septic. Then when you return home and water starts to flow into the system again there is a chance you could pollute your environment with the septic water. Consequently, it is advisable to decommission your system. Decommissioning requires the system to be emptied of all the water and refilled with clean water. At the point when you wish to use your system again it can be commissioned and bacteria will start to regrow. This process happens faster than if you had left your system without decommissioning it. Plus, it will also save you money on your electric bills whilst you are away.

Holiday mode

Some sewage treatment plants have a holiday mode. This allows the system to keep running with lower oxygen levels. This works well if you are away for short periods of up to 2 months though, if you are away for longer periods, it is still recommended to decommission the system.

How do I decommission my system?

If you are planning to be away for an extended period and require your system to be decommissioned it is advised that an experienced sewage treatment engineer complete this for you. Owls Hall Environmental engineers are able to complete the decommissioning for you, including emptying the system and switching it off. On your return our engineer will visit your home and commission your sewage treatment plant ready for use.


Owls Hall Environmental Ltd have over 50 years’ experience in wastewater management. Our knowledgeable engineers provide the service you need to maintain your sewage treatment plant. If you require your sewage treatment plant decommissioned, commissioned, emptied or serviced or have any concerns. Please do not hesitate to contact our service team, either via email, call us, or complete our online form.

Owls Hall - Smart Rainwater Systems
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The Difference Between Drainage Fields & Soakaways

The difference between drainage fields and soakaways

We often get asked about options for wastewater disposal via the ground. Many builders, architects, ground workers and consumers understand they need to use a septic tank or treatment plant to clean the wastewater from their house. However, many don’t have a firm grip on the legislation surrounding discharging that cleaned water to the environment, especially when it comes to discharging it to ground.

We have regular conversations with people who were going to install a soakaway after a septic tank rather than a drainage field. We also speak to many people that don’t understand the differences between a soakaway and drainage field, and understandably so, it is not well documented. 

In this article, I will aim to help you understand the differences between a drainage field and a soak away, and why it is important to use them correctly. 

What is a drainage field?

A drainage field is a loop of solid slotted pipes in the ground, surrounded in, and on a bed of gravel. The aim of the drainage field is to allow wastewater to trickle down through the gravel so that bacteria will form on the gravel. This helps to remove contaminants from the water prior to it entering the ground.

What is a soakaway?

A soakaway is used for allowing rainwater to percolate through the ground. It is normally constructed by installing “soakaway crates” in the ground, these crates allow a large volume of water to enter and slowly drain away. A soakaway should only be used for rain and surface water.

What is the difference between a drainage field and a soakaway?

To summarise the difference between the two, a drainage field is designed to add additional treatment to the water. Whereas a soakaway is designed to store a large volume of water allowing time for it to release into the ground (i. e. in a heavy downpour). 

It is common for people to think that a soakaway can be used for wastewater (even if it has been treated by a sewage treatment plant first. However, this is incorrect. British Water have recently produced a new guide for discharging wastewater to the ground. The guide is intended for use by specialists, architects, builders, ground workers and anyone planning on discharging water to the environment. It provides best practice for discharging wastewater

The guide can be downloaded here.

Another useful resource for anyone planning to discharge treated water to the ground is Building Regs Part H. It details exactly how to size a drainage field, and can be downloaded here.

 


At Owls Hall Environmental we pride ourselves in offering the most accurate advice possible.  You can view our sewage treatment range here.  If you have any questions around which sewage treatment product to install, our team is always happy to advise you. Call us today.

Caring For Your Septic Tank During Lockdown

If you have a septic tank or sewage treatment plant, you may have noticed some changes during the COVID-19 lockdown. This is likely due to more people being in your home for more hours during the day. To help you during this period, we have developed this easy to follow blog with some issues which may occur and some suggested solutions. 

 

Reduced functionality

An increase in the number of people within your home can cause a rise in organic loading into your sewage treatment plant. This is because a sewage treatment plant works by growing bacteria to feed upon the contaminants in the water, and the number of bacteria in a sewage treatment plant is linked to the amount of waste being put into it. An increase in waste can result in reduced functionality in the short term. This is normal and nothing to worry about.

Solution

What can you do? Unfortunately, there is not much you can do about this as we all need to use the toilet. However, it is only temporary and should return to normal functionality when we all return to our workplaces. 

 

Using more cleaning products

As we are all very conscious of keeping things clean during the pandemic, and more people are at home, it is highly likely that more cleaning materials are being used and draining into your septic tank. An increase in cleaning materials can shock the bacteria, sometimes causing a biological “die off”. This can exacerbate the issue of having more biological loading (as detailed above). 

Solution

What can you do? Try to use eco-friendly cleaning products, lessen the use of bleach, and spread out clothes washing through the week rather than trying to do several loads on one day. 

 

Increased odour and grey coloured water

Some customers have called with concerns around an increased odour from their tank and a grey coloured water being discharged. This could be a short or a long-term problem. Therefore, we would recommend having your system serviced to help it work more efficiently.

 

How does servicing help?

There is no need to service your septic tank. However, if you have a sewage treatment plant, servicing it will ensure that the air blower is working efficiently and therefore maintaining proper oxygen levels in the treatment zone. A poorly performing air blower is just as bad as an overloaded septic tank. By regularly having your septic tank regularly serviced and maintained will help to increase its life cycle.

 

How does emptying help:

Septic tanks

The main job of a septic tank is to hold back solids, which will fall to the bottom of the tank and build up as ‘sludge’ ; this needs to be removed at least once a year to prevent the sludge building up and flowing into the drainage field.

 

Sewage treatment plants

In most sewage treatment plants; solids enter the primary chamber where heavy solids settle to the bottom. The liquid then flows into the treatment zone to be treated. Keeping a regular emptying schedule at least once a year will prevent settled solids building up and entering the biozone (which will result in the plant being overloaded with organic waste).

 

How Owls Hall can help

During the lockdown, Owls Hall are able to provide their septic tank servicing and emptying service as well as their installation service. The emptying of septic tanks both commercial and domestic are an essential public service and we will continue to work as normal during the pandemic. If you require your septic tank emptied or serviced or have any concerns. Please do not hesitate to contact our service team, either via email, by telephoning us, or by completing our online form.

 

 

5 Tips for Buying a Property with a Sewage Treatment Plant

Buying a house that has a septic tank or sewage treatment plant may seem daunting, but fear not, most modern systems are easy to look after and run without much user intervention. These 5 tips will help you to ensure you have the right system and it has been well installed and looked after.

 

5 tips to help you care for your new sewage treatment plant

 

1. Check that the discharge meets the Environment Agency general binding rules.

This is key, because if the discharge isn’t in accordance with the general binding rules, it must be changed. This could be very costly and should be completed by the seller or used to negotiate a different price for the purchase. As a rule of thumb, if there is a ditch or stream which the water is discharging to, then a package treatment plant should be installed. The seller should be able to tell you the make and model. If the property has a septic tank, then water produced by it should be draining through the ground via a drainage field.

 If you are still concerned about the condition of the sewage treatment plant in your new home, you can get a home buyers survey completed for peace of mind.

 

2. Check to see that the house seller has had their septic tank or treatment plant desludged regularly.

Some people claim their septic tank has never been emptied, this is a bit of a red flag. Solids will build up and can eventually block a drainage field. Someone not emptying their septic tank could have a poor drainage field.

 

3. Check to see if the seller has had their sewage treatment plant maintained regularly.

If not, then the air blower could require a filter change and change of diaphragms. The air blower is what supplies the system with vital oxygen and therefore should be well maintained.

 

4. Check to see the system can be easily accessed.

Make sure the previous owners have not covered over the system. It is surprising to see how many people try to bury their sewage treatment plant or septic tank, however, it’s better to have good access. This will ensure that when your tank needs servicing or emptying, the team can easily access your system.

 

5. Check to make sure no rainwater is going into the foul water system.

Find an inspection manhole near the treatment plant or the septic tank, open it and then see if you can run a hose onto the roof. If you spot any water coming from the roof into the septic tank or sewage treatment plant, then this will need to be diverted. Building control specifies that rainwater/surface water and sewage must not be combined.

 

You may also like to read our guide explaining what should not be put into a treatment plant. This will become important in the early stages after you’ve moved in.

 

How Owls Hall Can Help

Our friendly team can help you to service your new sewage treatment plant or septic tank. You can book an off mains water system desludge, empty, service or clean either by completing our online form or by sending an email to 

Sewage Treatment System Emptying & Desludging
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Septic tanks and sewage treatment plants – what is the difference?

The purpose of septic tanks and sewage treatment plants is to collect water from houses or businesses that are not on mains water supply. The main difference is that a sewage treatment plant actually treats the water, whereas a septic tank just separates the liquid. This means the water that leaves a sewage treatment plant is cleaner. Though you would probably not want to wash in it, it is certainly more environmentally friendly. 

 New septic tank regulations

One important point to consider is that in January 2020, new regulations came into effect for septic tanks. These state that if your septic tank discharges directly into surface water, you will be required to update to a sewage treatment plant. This is particularly relevant when selling or buying a property with off mains water supply.

What is the difference between a sewage treatment plant and a septic tank?

A sewage treatment plant has mechanical components that require electricity, whereas a septic tank does not. Septic tanks tend to have two compartments and sewage treatment plants have three. This enables sewage plants to facilitate the treating of the waste it collects, so the water can legally be released to the local watercourse.

How do I maintain my off mains water system?

All off mains water systems require desludging or emptying so they remain functional and maintain the legal quality of water when discharged.  Most sewage treatment plants and septic tanks are recommended to be emptied once per year, though some systems may be more frequent. If you have a small house with single occupancy you may be able to increase to biannual emptying. If you do not empty and service your sewage system regularly, this can cause a build-up of sludge around the components. This can result in the system not working efficiently and the wastewater polluting the location it releases to. It may also cause sewage back up, pools of wastewater in your garden and bad odour which could be a potential health hazard. Regular maintenance will save you money in the long run.

 How do I get my septic tank or sewage treatment plant emptied?

It is recommended to use a professional company that specialises in sewage treatment and drainage to empty your off mains water system. At Owls Hall Environmental, we provide a quick, efficient sewage emptying service at very competitive prices. All emptying and servicing requests are usually carried out within a few working days of customers contacting us. We have over 50 years’ experience within the industry. All our engineers are fully trained and knowledgeable on all types of sewage plants and septic tanks. We are registered wastewater carriers and all waste removed is disposed of in accordance with current legislation.

 You can book an off mains water system desludge, empty, service or clean either by completing our online form, emailing or call us 01371 850 537

 

 

Guide Dogs for the Blind Sponsorship by Owls Hall
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Fundraising for our furry friends!

Guide Dogs for the BlindOwls Hall are delighted to announce that they have collected over £100 for Guide Dogs for the Blind. The Charity supports people that are blind or partially sighted enjoy the same freedom of movement as everyone else.

As a team of animal lovers the staff wanted to raise money for this important cause. The money was raised during Owls Hall’s attendance at a number of County Shows these past few months.

MD, Craig Finbow, says:

“We were proud to have raised this sum for Guide Dogs for the Blind. Many of the team here are dog owners and we couldn’t think of a more deserving organisation dedicated to serving blind and partially sighted people to help support.”

For more information about the work of Guide Dogs, please visit www.guidedogs.org.uk

Are septic tanks being banned?

With the new environment agency rules (the general binding rules) coming into full effect as of 2020, it’s worth knowing what you are and aren’t allowed to do. Time and time again we hear from customers that are worried they will have to replace their septic tank for a sewage treatment plant. This article will help to answer that question and clear up any doubt.

No, septic tanks aren’t going to be banned. I thought I would answer the question quickly. But can you breathe a sigh of relief? Maybe.

The idea that septic tanks will be banned is a little scare mongering. Septic tanks do a good job of holding back solids and separating solids from liquid, they also offer a small degree of biological cleaning, however the waste that is discharged from them is still very high in ammonia and requires treatment before entering the environment. This addition treatment comes in the form of a drainage field.

What is a drainage field?

A drainage field is a network of pipes surrounded in pea shingle or gravel. Bacteria grow on the gravel and help to clean the wastewater produced from a septic tank prior to it entering the ground. This is a perfectly adequate form of wastewater treatment and accepted by the environment agency. If you are currently doing this, then there is no need to change.

Why might I have to upgrade to a sewage treatment plant?

You will have to upgrade to a treatment plant if you are discharging water directly from your septic tank to a river, ditch or stream. This is because the water coming from the septic tank hasn’t had any further treatment and will be therefore high in ammonia (which is harmful to the environment). Normally it is advisable to just replace the septic tank with a treatment plant. However, it is also an option to add a tertiary filter like a reed bed of EcoFlo. This will provide the necessary treatment to enable you to continue to discharge to the ditch.

Take home message

It is important to understand that if you have a septic tank that is discharging to a ditch or stream. Yes, you will have to upgrade. IF the water is going to a drainage field and percolating through the ground, then no, you wont have to upgrade. Septic tanks are not going to be banned.

Waste_water_treatment
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The wastewater treatment process explained

If you are reading this then the chances are you are looking to install or upgrade your sewage treatment system and would like to understand the process involved in treating wastewater. Firstly, let’s start with answering the question “what is wastewater?”

Wastewater is water produced from the following:

  • Toilets
  • Sinks
  • Showers/baths
  • Washing machines
  • Dishwashers

It contains contaminants that are extremely harmful to the environment and therefore requires treatment before being released (into a ditch or stream).

The treatment process:

Different sewage treatment systems adopt different treatment processes, but broadly speaking the process can be defined in 3 stages as follows:

  1. Pre-treatment settlement – wastewater will usually enter a pre-treatment chamber in the treatment plant. In this chamber, solids will settle to the bottom and separate from the liquid. At this early first stage, the main focus is to separate the solids from the liquid, however, there will also be some growth of bacteria which will feed upon the contaminates in the water, although without the presence of oxygen, this is limited. The settled “sludge” will need removing normally once a year by a sewage disposal company with a tanker.
  2. Main Treatment – Once solids have settled, water then flows into the main treatment chamber. This is where the majority of the treatment happens. This chamber aims to encourage the growth of bacteria to further feed upon the contaminants in the water. Bacteria need 3 things: food, oxygen, and somewhere to live. Food comes in the form of contaminants in the water. Oxygen is supplied by an air blower, normally the bacteria live on some filter material inside the chamber (although it must be noted, in some systems the bacteria is freely living in the water and not housed on filter material, these systems are called “active sludge systems).
  3. Final settlement – the cleansed water then flows into a final settlement chamber where any suspended solids (fine particles) are allowed to settle. The settled solids (often dead bacteria) are then moved back to the primary chamber to join the settled sludge ready for removal.

If the plant is adequately sized and functioning well, the water will then be clean enough to discharge to a ditch or stream.

 

Additional Tertiary treatment.

Occasionally, in sensitive areas like a site of scientific special interest. The Environment agency requires very clean water to protect the environment. In this instance, it may be required to add tertiary treatment to further cleanse the water. Reed beds are often considered for this, bacteria from in the gravel that the reeds are planted in, and the reeds themselves feed upon the nutrients in the water. Other types of tertiary treatment are trickle filter beds like the Ecoflo. Very occasionally, it is required to kill off the bacteria that can be found in the cleaned water, in this instance an Ultraviolet lamp can be used, however, this isn’t common for domestic sewage.

Summary.

To sum up, the treatment process is a natural biological process. We encourage it by providing oxygen and as a result, we prevent pollution to our environment. You can help your sewage treatment plant to produce good quality water by cutting back a little on using bleach and detergents and swapping your normal detergents to eco-friendly versions. This will aid the bacteria to treat your water and in doing so, being kind to the environment.

noise_sewage
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How quiet is a sewage treatment plant?

How quiet is a sewage treatment plant? It’s important to consider the impact that a wastewater system will have on all aspects of your quality of life. We get many questions from homeowners about how their sewage treatment plant will look in their garden, and rightfully so, aesthetics are an important consideration when choosing the right treatment plant. However, the noise that a treatment plant makes is often overlooked.

The first question to ask yourself is: ‘does it matter?’ If you plan to install the treatment plant a long way away from the house, and perhaps behind a garage then the sound that a treatment plant makes doesn’t matter so much. If on the other hand you enjoy your garden and the treatment plant will be close (within 15 metres from the house), then the noise will be important.

So, what creates noise? A sewage treatment plant requires oxygen to be added to the water. This is done using an Air blower (or air compressor). these air blowers use a piston or diaphragm, rapidly moving back and forth to push air into the water. It is this rapid movement that creates a hum or buzzing sound. The quality of the air blower, will have an impact on the sound it creates but also its housing, which we will discuss later in this article.

Air blower Quality:

Top end treatment plants will use air blowers from manufacturers like Hiblow or Nitto. Charles Austin also do good quality air blowers which are cheaper than Hiblow or Nitto. Some treatment plants will however use unbranded air blowers and it is important to find out which is supplied with the system. Unbranded air blowers, often Chinese in origin will work, but it is often hard to get replacement diaphragms for them and we find them to be noisier, especially as time goes on.

Air blower Housing:

This is a very important point. Many sewage treatment plants house their blowers in a small GRP box. Either attached to the top of the treatment plant or to the side. These will often resonate the noise from the blower and act like a speaker. Which is fine if the system is to be installed away from the property, but no so much if it is to be installed within 15-20m away. Some manufactures have opted to install the blower under the lid of the tank. So far, only the SOLIDO and SOLIDO smart from premier tech do this well. The Solido and Soldio smart house the blower in a sealed container to prevent moisture getting to it. Our experience over the last 5 years with this method has proved that it is very successful. Noise is illuminated and the blowers are kept bone dry, prolonging their lifespan greatly.

This video shows you how silent a solido system is:

Take Home Message:

In our experience, noise is just as much of a concern to home owners as aesthetic appearance it. Choosing the right treatment plant for the environment isn’t always as easy as it seems. always ask the suppler about noise levels and what type of blower is used as well as how it’s housed. This will give you a good feeling as to how experienced and confident the supplier is about the product they are supplying.

We found a very interesting discussion on a build forum where homeowners discuss the noise levels of their treatment plants. I would highly recommend having a read through, it gives some real insight from homeowners about what the noise of their treatment plants is like and what they have done to try and help. You can read the discussion by clicking this link.

Feel free to speak to us on: 01844 877030 to discuss noise levels in a treatment plant

Environmental Services, Owls Hall, Sewage Treatment
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New law coming soon- will it affect you?

If you haven’t already heard, under the new Environment Agency general binding rules, if you have a septic tank that directly discharges to surface water, you will be required to replace or upgrade your septic tank treatment system to a full sewage treatment plant by 1st January 2020, or whenever you sell your property (if it is before this date).

To delve in to the information slightly deeper, it will be a legal offence after the above date to discharge waste from a septic tank in to ditches, streams, canals, rivers, surface water drains or any other type of water-course. Although it is over two years away, we would certainly suggest that you at least think about your course of action now (if these rules affect you), so as to reduce your chances of a stressful last quarter of 2019.

There are quite a variation of rules and requirements attached to this new law so we have included a link to the Environment Agency’s explanation here: https://lnkd.in/eR7gFUP. If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our team on 01371 850537 who will be happy to talk in greater detail about the 2020 E.A. general binding law change.