by Jean Harrison, JWH Distributing
Woodall's Campground Management
Today's media bombards us with messages that indicate the need to kill bacteria. You can't spend 30 minutes watching TV, reading a magazine or listening to the radio without being told you need to kill bacteria on every square inch of your body: in your laundry, in toilet bowls, in the refrigerator, in bedding: on every conceivable surface in the kitchen and bathrooms: on doorknobs, telephones, computer keyboards: from the very air you breathe. Bleach is being added to more and more of the commonly sold cleaning products. Most of the cleaning products are chemicals and have as their avowed purpose the total destruction of all bacteria in your environment. And not only do they want to kill all bacteria but they want to kill yeast, fungal spores and viruses. Those nasty things called germs in the general vernacular are actually viruses, bacteria, yeast and fungal spores. These are all naturally occurring simple life forms, some good and some bad.
These ads miss the fact that we need some bacteria, some yeast and some fungal spores. These simple life forms are what allow us to digest our food: enjoy cheese, yogurt, wine, beer, ale, mushrooms, truffles and breads of all types: tenderize meat; benefit from penicillin; not be overrun by dead animals and vegetation; dispose of waste in every type of sewage system; and indeed they are what keeps nature and its cycles working properly. Recent research also shows that in our overzealous campaign to kill bacteria we are actually speeding the formation of new strains of viruses that are resistant to our efforts to kill them. Some of the chemical disinfectants actually seem to cause mutants to evolve in the very bacteria they are supposed to kill.
The bottom line is that there is Good Bacteria and Bad Bacteria and not all bacteria needs to be killed nor avoided. In fact, we can use the good bacteria to counteract the effects of the bad bacteria. Yeast and fungal spores are also used for good purposes.
When and where is good bacteria needed?
For all types of cleaning, including stain removal in laundry, eliminating mold and mildew, grease removal in restaurants, odor and stain removal from rugs, upholstery; oil spills in the oceans, rivers and waterways and for toxic spills of all types. In marine and RV holding tanks, portable toilets and vault toilets.
In ponds to control algae. In sewage treatment systems. In compost piles. For fly and odor control. For soil remediation. For food and beverage preparation. In medicines, including aiding digestion.
How and where to kill the bad bacteria?
Of course Bad bacteria, viruses and some yeast and fungal spores needed to be killed. Bodily wastes need to be cleaned up safely and the surfaces disinfected, food preparation surfaces need to be clean of bad bacteria as do toilet seats and shower floors. The water you drink and the air you breathe need to be free of bad bacteria. (Of course they need to be free of bad chemicals also, but that's another story).
Good bacteria, yeast and fungal spores can be utilized by you to overwhelm or kill the bad ones. Old fashioned vinegar, lemon juice and simple soaps and water are effective. But in some cases you do not need to disinfect. Usually bleach, which is quite cheap, is the simplest choice.
However, as we become increasingly aware of the damage that too much bleach can do to the environment we need to use bleach sparingly and look for other alternatives whenever feasible. In the vast majority of cases you do not need to use chemicals to accomplish this. What about the cost? The good news is that often times you can use those methods that are far better for the environment and your health and not really spend any more money than you are currently spending on chemicals and in fact may spend far less.
Environmental Protection Agency July 1999
Mixing chemicals with waste in sewage holding tanks or septic systems may produce toxic fumes, corrode pipelines and tanks, and pollute soil and ground water when discharged.
If you spend any time in a recreational vehicle (RV) or boat, you probably know of the problem of odors from sewage holding tanks. There are a number of commercial products available to control those orders. Some of those products contain chemicals which may pollute water resources. If you use those chemicals and then empty your holding tank into a septic system (or other onsite wastewater treatment system) or dispose of holding tank waste illegally, you may be creating health and environmental hazards. These chemicals and their by-products may pass through onsite wastewater treatment systems, flowing to soil, ground water, and possibly nearby surface waters. They may also corrode treatment systems parts, creating a safety hazard.
How septic systems work. A typical septic system contains two major components: a septic tank and an absorption field, also known as a drainfield or leachfield. These systems use natural processes to treat wastewater onsite, as opposed to offsite at a municipal wastewater treatment plant. The purpose of the septic tank is to separate solids from the liquid waste, and to promote partial breakdown of contaminants by microorganisms (bacteria) naturally present in wastewater. The leachfield also treats the wastewater through physical, biological and chemical processes in the soil.
When chemicals, such a formaldehyde, are added to septic systems, they can cause bacteria in the system to die. When this happens, the septic system cannot treat waste adequately. Solids that are allowed to pass from the septic tank, due to inadequate or incomplete treatment, may clog the leachfield. Furthermore, clogged systems may send inadequately or incompletely treated sewage to the surface,
threatening the health of people or pets who come into contact with it. Or it may percolate to ground water, where the chemicals and untreated wastewater could contaminate nearby drinking water wells, rivers and streams. Please read labels carefully to identify any hazardous ingredients.
The restoration of contaminated ground water is extremely costly and can take years. To prevent problems, RV and mobile home parks, as well as dump station operators, may take measures to control hazardous chemical disposal into their waste treatment systems. If they do not, and their system causes contamination, they may be forced to close the dump station or the park until the problem can be corrected.
Do not use chemicals which harm septic systems.
Para-dichlorobenzene: Known carcinogen and drinking water contaminant. Common ingredient in mothballs, urinal cakes and bowl fresheners.
Formaldehyde: active ingredient in some deodorizers, also called Formalin. Formaldehyde is an EPA recognized probable carcinogen (i.e. causes cancer)
Also heavy metals (such as Zinc), benzene, toluene, xylene, ethylene glycol (anti-freeze), methylene chloride, 1, 1, 1-trichloroethane (TCA), trichlorethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE). Strong acids
and bases, such as sulfuric acid or caustic soda.
You can help....Here's how:
*Minimize your use of holding tank deodorizers by using rest stop facilities.
*If you must use a holding tank deodorizer, read the label carefully. Biodegradable (enzyme and citrusbased) products are available. Whichever product you choose, follow label directions and add no more than recommended amounts.
*Ask questions of your park manager about drinking water and wastewater management. Sanitation costs can be minimal, but not free.
*Educate other RVers. Don't be shy about health.
Park operators: Chemical treatments do not remove sludge. Tanks should be checked routinely for solids and scum buildup. Sludge Removal (Pumpouts) may be needed more often for RV, Mobile Home and Boatwaste systems than for single-family septic systems, especially if your tanks are undersized and/or your residents are conservative with water.
Report sewage spills and other health hazards to the local health department.
Keep children and pets away!
By Phred Tinseth #394 Escapee's Magazine July/August 2000
Are you Tidy Tilly who's an obsessive cleaner-upper? Do you commonly use extremely caustic cleaners in toilet and sinks? Dump nasty stuff like paint thinner in there? Use formaldehyde toilet chemicals or other perfuming stuff? In short, do you treat your RV tanks like you did your house on a municipal system where any possible thing was just flushed down the drain? Well, you can't do that in anRV.
RV waste systems depend on bacteria to decompose waste, including toilet paper and anything else that's biodegradable. But there's good bacteria-and there's bad bacteria. Aerobic bacteria need oxygen to live. These good bacteria decompose waste efficiently. Ideally, a tank with waste, water and simple biodegradables will decompose into a thin slurry and will not smell. Ample air enters each time the toilet is used. If the vent pipe is properly placed through the top of the tank and isn't submerged so far that it's blocked most of the time, and if the pipe isn't blocked elsewhere or at the roof, the system should work fine.
Anaerobic bacteria live without oxygen. They will also decompose waste, but in doing so produce various gases. Those gases also produce stink. Obviously, the two types of bacteria can't coexist. One will always displace the other. Proper venting helps keep the aerobic bacteria active, but there's more to it. Putting the wrong additives or chemicals in a tank may result in killing both types of bacteria; then you
really have problems.
Your mission, Mr. RVer, should you choose to accept it, is to encourage aerobic bacteria and discourage anaerobic bacteria without turning the tank into a receptacle for destructive chemicals. There are generally three ways to treat waste tanks; chemicals, enzymes and bacteria.
Chemicals are absolutely the worst way to do it: yet that's what most RVers use. Store shelves are jammed with chemical treatments. The first thing they do is kill bacteria, which is exactly what you don't want to do. Then they use a chemical to unnecessarily breakup up the solids into progressively smaller pieces that accumulate on the bottom of the tank in big pile instead of decomposing. The tank will stink,
so then they have chemicals that overpower the natural bad odor with yet another odor.
There's not enough room here for the entire list of typically used chemicals, but here's a sampling: Formaldehyde (aka Formalin) is a preservative. I see no reason to preserve poop for posterity. As people have become aware of the dangers of formaldehyde ( also a carcinogen), you now see many chemicals boldly labeled Formaldehyde Free. That's good, except some treatments now use glutaraldehyde instead, which is used in embalming fluid. Enough said?
Some other things you definitely don't want to put in your tank individually or a part of chemical treatments: bleach, methanol or alcohol, nitrites or nitrates, phosphorous or phosphates, bronopol (a pesticide), any petroleum-based product, acid or cleaning fluid.
More no-nos listed separately because so many RVers use them in homemade concoctions; pine oil (which deteriorates gaskets), automatic dishwasher detergent (extremely caustic), mineral, coconut, or
cooking oils (which really won't lubricate valves and seals, but will just float on the surface and keep air from getting to the good bacteria), yeast (which will promote bacteria, but you will have to use so much that you'll have a tank full of goo).
Enzymes and bacteria
Enzymes won't do any harm, but won't do all that needs to be done either. They will do pretty well with an odor, but just for a short time. Enzymes can help sometimes.
Active bacteria will do the job. A properly set up and maintained system won't need much either. As opposed to chemicals
(where more and more must be used with less and less effect), when adding bacteria, less is better. It's important that you follow the instructions. You must start with a clean tank, or residual chemicals will defeat the action. You need to start the tank with a few gallons of water. You shouldn't add the bacteria until there's a deposit of human waste in there. If you do it right, it will takeabout three, in normal use, dumps before you have a good, renewable system. You can then keep it going with only small additions of bacteria every other dump or even fewer.
I lived on a boat once. Prominently displayed over the john was a poster saying, Don't put it in here if it ain't been et yet. Well, it's not that critical, but a good colony of bacteria will eat lots of stuff and not smellbad if you don't kill the bacteria.
Which bacterial agents are best?
There are several good products. Homeowner septic tank chemicals work. They're readily available in most supermarkets and are inexpensive. They are not fast working, which is why RVers are sometimes dissatisfied with them, but they are designed for thousands of gallons and a lot of time, not the short time demanded by the 40-100 gallons in most RVs. Rid-X is the best of these.
Roebic and K.O. (boat stores) are excellent holding tank bacterials. I'm also impressed by Mean Green.
The best holding tank product I've ever found is Eco-Save from JWH Distributors (sic), PO Box 195, Santa Rosa, CA 95402. 800-950-9666 or 707-579-0643. By the time you read this, their web site should be up at www.eco-save.com.
Detailed instructions are provided with all these. Follow them! All of these products are totally safe, withno carcinogens or toxic poisons. Any sewage plant would welcome them.
Be leery of recipes from RVers for homemade concoctions. The ingredients will kill bacteria. The pine oil (Pine Sol or Equal) usually used will also deteriorate valve seals, and you will create your own leaks.
Almost everything is, eventually, biodegradable. Unfortunately, you and your grandchildren may not be able to wait up to a 100 years for the toxic crap (pun intended) that you threw in the tank to go away.
Finally, the inclinations of most RVers is to use toxic chemicals and not worry about it. The attitude is, The dump station or RV park will handle it Not so. The EPA is becoming strict. At present, their rules state that if a system causes contamination, the park or station may be forced to close. I'm reliably informed that the new EPA rules will state that if contamination is detected, they will be forced to close. Think about it.
Purging a sewage system of contaminants is complicated and expensive. That cost is going to be passed on to the RVer. It's a necessity and it doesn't mean the RV park operator is greedy. Operators of courtesy-type dump station at rest areas and similar places have solved the problem the easy way-they're closing many of them.
Most of the problems RVers face can be blamed on the manufacturers. This one can't. The enemy is us.
Woodall's Campground Management April 1996
Several campers have asked about using homemade holding tank solutions that they've mixed together from household chemicals. They say their products are cheaper and just as good as commercially produced holding tank chemicals. One camper even asked me to print his recipe in the campground newsletter so that our other guests could benefit from it. Is giving them permission to use these concoctions advisable? What about printing the recipe?
A number of campground operators recently inquired about the advisability of allowing campers to use homemade holding tank mixtures that will eventually find their way into a park's septic system.
We contacted Jim Harrison, JWH Distributing, Santa Rosa, CA., the distributor of Eco-Save bacteriabased holding and septic tank chemicals, and asked him to answer these inquiries. His reply follows.
Many RV and campground magazines and newsletters periodically receive home brew recipes for RV holding tank mixtures that will supposedly save campers money and work just as well as commercial products. These mixtures supposedly control odors and keep holding tanks working properly. Many of them contain bleach or other bactericides.
Most of these recipes are created by well meaning campers who very often have little background in chemistry. A better understanding of this science could warn them that some of the ingredients in these recipes, when mixed together, create poisonous or corrosive solutions or produce fumes that might prove fatal to people using the mixture.
Some of the mixtures, I've heard about would be very hard on fittings and holding tank materials and could lead to premature failure of the holding tank. For example, bleach, a very popular ingredient in many of these recipes, can cause plastic to become brittle and break within a year or two.
Because they kill bacteria, such homemade mixtures can interfere with the proper functioning of a park's sewage treatment system which depends upon bacterial action to breakdown solids and waste materials.
Homemade solutions containing ammonia or other chemicals with nitrogen can release nitrates into the soil after they break down and pass through the septic system. Nitrates in the soil eventually could reach the park's aquifer and contaminate it.
Finally, I doubt that there would be much, if any, cost savings to an individual camper. In addition to the mess that could result from mixing the chemicals, a camper is faced with the problem of storing the home brew once it's compounded.
I'm also concerned that a park operator could become a defendant in a lawsuit if he or she prints a recipe which harms the people who use it or damages their RV holding tank. I was going to write costly lawsuit but realized that would have been redundant.
Woodall's Campground Management August 1999
Want to wean campers away from using chemicals that kill bacteria in their holding tanks but meeting resistance? What about an end run? Convince them to use the products for their laundry and general cleaning first; then, let convenience and lack of storage space win the day for the holding tank. We asked industry supplier, Jean Harrison, to explain the process.
Use a holding tank product to clean with you say? Yes. Our liquid holding tank products are bacteriabased, and those hungry bacteria don't care where they do their job. The billions of bacteria present in Eco-Save are natural, non-toxic, non-staining and totally safe to use. In fact, it is authorized by the USDA for use in federally inspected meat and poultry plants.
Our holding tank product is a wonderful, non-chemical substitute for many products used for common household and campground cleaning chores. It is an excellent mold and mildew remover, it cleans toilets, shower stalls, and bathroom counters beautifully; and it also does a superb job of removing organic stains from laundry, carpets and upholstery.
Blood stains, urine, red wine, tomato sauce and grass stains are no match for the bacteria. Just spray diluted Eco-Save on the spot, let it sit for a few hours or even longer and you'll see those stains disappear. The bacteria need time to work, so don't be impatient. Then just launder or dry clean as you normally would. When using the product on rugs or such, rinse with clear water after the stain is gone.
Eco-Save, however, is not a disinfectant. For that task the most inexpensive product is common bleach and water. Two ounces of liquid bleach in a quart of water does the job. It should be sprayed on the surface you desire to disinfect and left to air dry. All disinfecting products must have a minimum of two minutes contact time on the surface to do their job. Spraying and wiping off, especially with a less than clean rag, does not disinfect anything; in fact, that procedure can spread germs even more.
Many campground owners and campers are using Eco-Save to clean. Casey Moll, Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Camp-Resort, Knightstown, Indiana, reports: We have been really pleased with using Eco-Save
Concentrate for cleaning. Mold and mildew just rolled off. The cleaning people really like the cherry product and so do the campers.
Tom Kinnaird, Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Camp-Resort, Knoxville, Tennessee, reports that he uses it in the restrooms and showers. It has prevented mold and mildew, he says. In our rentals, there is never
any septic smell.
A camper from Springfield, Ill., recently wrote to us to say that she and her husband were preparing for a trip west in their new Winnebago when someone broke a window, tore up the instrument panel and stole the stereo radio and tape deck. The person was cut on the window glass and dripped blood on the carpet and upholstery. A mess! Thanks to Eco-Save, it did not take me long to clean it all up and there are no stains left. She also noted that she uses it in the RV's holding tanks and as a laundry spray.
Using bacteria-based holding tank products for cleaning in campgrounds can lead to increased sales of the products in the campground store because campers often ask what the campground is using for cleaning. Encouraging campers to use Eco-Save for general cleaning as well as in their holding tanks means they'll use more of the product.
You can help promote additional sales by handing out a copy of the cleaning instructions with each purchase of Eco-Save, by posting the instructions near the display and by mentioning this use of the product in newsletters and in other communications to campers. Campers frequently have little room in their units, so buying one product that can do many jobs is a real plus.
To clean bathrooms without chemical products, use Eco-Save either in the dilute solution sold for RV and Marine Holding tanks or the concentrate. The latter is four times stronger than the former. Dilute the concentrate 8 to 1 with water and dilute the holding tank mixture 2 to 1 with water. Use either a quart bottle with a spray head or a garden sprayer solely for bathroom cleaning. Spray urinals and toilet bowls and the area around them and let the liquid sit. The longer it has to work the better it will be.
Spray shower stalls, sinks and any surface you want to clean except mirrors with the same solution. Wipe everything down except toilets and urinals. You want to save those till last.
If a sink needs additional cleaning, use a mild abrasive such as Bon Ami or baking soda. Harsher cleaning products should be used only if absolutely necessary. Lemon juice and vinegar also will remove some stains. After cleaning all but the toilets and urinals, mop the floors. Wash floors with the concentrate in a 100:1 solution. The holding tank liquid should be diluted 25:1. When you're finished cleaning all floors and walls, use a toilet brush to clean inside toilets and urinals. The liquid you sprayed into them will have loosened us any deposits and they will flush clean.
When you are completely finished cleaning the bathroom, sterilize toilet seats and shower floors. This can be accomplished using a solution of two ounces of bleach in a quart of water. Apply a fine mist of dilute bleach to toilet seats and shower floors to kill all the residual bacteria. Do not wipe off the bleach solution because it needs two minutes of contact with the surface to do its job.
Then spray urinals and floors around them and toilets and toilet bowls with Eco-Save. Leave it there. The bacteria will continue to eat waste products as the toilets and urinals are used.
Sharing information on other alternatives to chemical cleaning products that are harmful to the environment can well be a part of the camping experience. Many people are becoming increasingly aware of environmental damage from harsh chemicals. In Santa Rosa, Calif., household toxins can't be disposed of in garbage cans for regular weekly pickups. They must be saved and taken on special, twice-a-year toxic collection days, to designated collection areas. The following list delineates the products that fall under the household toxins designation.
For the garage, antifreeze; oil & filters; gasoline; waxes & polishes; auto batteries; engine cleaners and brake fluid.
For the workshop, paint; paint thinner, wood preservatives; wood finishes; glues and adhesives; solvents and photo chemicals.
For the house, ammonia-based cleaners; bleach-based cleaners; oven cleaners; aerosol sprays; polishes, household batteries; nail polish and remover and medications and syringes.
For the yard, pesticides; fungicides; weed killers and pool chemicals.
A note on product labeling. These products are labeled or should be labeled with warning labels that say: poison, danger, warning, or caution. Remember, purchase products marked caution or warning because they are less toxic than those marked poison or danger.
The Environmental protection Agency strongly suggests that consumers find alternative cleaning products that don't contain toxins. Some ideas include using baking soda for cleaning counter tops and other items
and using lemon juice as a deodorizer, glass cleaner and stain remover. Vinegar is another excellent cleaner. The use of pump sprays instead of aerosol sprays is better for the environment. For the garden, compost, wood ashes, peat moss and manure are natural alternatives to chemical fertilizers.
Always read product labels carefully to identify any hazardous materials, pay close attention to storage information and dispose of any unused product and the container in an appropriate manner. If you must use a hazardous product, buy only the amount needed for the job, follow directions for its use and use only the quantity recommended.
By substituting safe products wherever and whenever possible and by using hazardous products sparingly and safely, you can minimize the impact on the environment.
The San Francisco Examiner
January 12, 1992
Versatile Baking Soda: It's Not Just for Cooking.
Baking soda is one of the most versatile cleaning agents we know of. It is highly absorbent-making it an excellent deodorizer. Best of all, it's nontoxic.
As a matter of fact, if the thought of your next cleaning project gives you indigestion, half a teaspoon of baking soda stirred into a glass of water -if you can stand the salty taste-works as well as some of over-the-counter drugs sold strictly for that purpose. Check with your doctor before using this remedy.
With all of the cleaners that are available on the market today it's hard to tell which one is best for what cleaning project. Some general-purpose cleaners contain detergents and /or bleach. Others use sodium carbonate and bleach, while others have an oxalic acid or muriatic acid base. The wide range of chemicals used in general-purpose cleaners makes reading the label a must, not only to prevent damage to what's being cleaned, but for safety as well. (Some are poisonous and/or not biodegradable.)
We suggest common household food products for cleaning because they are inexpensive, readily available, safe and work as well or better than many off-the-shelf cleaners. In addition to baking soda, vinegar, salt, food-grade citric acid, juice from a fresh lemon, ice cubes and mayonnaise all are food products that you can use for cleaning.
Find Cleaning Supplies in Kitchen
Vinegar and water is great for cleaning glazed tile and dark tile grout as well. Food-grade citric acid is super for dissolving mineral salt that builds up in water heater tanks. Lemon juice works well in cleaning oil and grease from plastic laminated counters: a 50-50 solution of salt and vinegar makes a terrific copper cleaner; ice cubes are the best first step in getting the wax crayon stains off kids clothing; mayonnaise and a nylon scrubbing pad works wonders on white-rings on wood furniture; and baking soda, which this week's column concentrates on, should be renamed baking, deodorizing, fire-extinguishing and washing soda.
Baking soda will put out a grease fire, clean scorched food from cookware, absorb odors from the refrigerator, clean and deodorized drains, soften and deodorize laundry and also remove stains from porcelain, enamelware, glass, plastic, carpets and rugs.
Keep an open box of baking soda in a cabinet near your cooking area. You can't buy a less expensive grease-fire extinguisher.
For burned-on food, mix up a paste of baking soda and water. Actually, dry baking soda can be used in lieu of scouring cleanser - and best of all, it's nonabrasive.
Baking soda and water paste. Coffee pot stained? Tomato sauce remnants left in a plastic storage container? A paste of baking soda and water will do the trick.
Keep a box of baking soda in the refrigerator to reduce odors. Once a week pour a handful down the drain and rinse with hot water. Your drain will stay clean and smell fresh.
Price of fabric softeners got you down? Use half a cup of baking soda in the rinse cycle.
California Department of Toxic Substances Control Education and Information Unit
Years ago, Americans used elbow grease to clean house, chased flies with flyswatters, and freshened the air by opening the windows. Today, we live differently. Products with chemicals have been introduced to
perform household tasks faster and better. But, using these products requires care.
Some common household products can be hazardous. But if used and stored according to the manufacturer's directions, most should cause little concern. If they're used or disposed of incorrectly, however, these wastes can pose a threat to our health and our environment.
Apart from properly using and storing hazardous materials, you can take other steps to make your home safe. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests finding alternatives to households products
that contain toxic ingredients.
For example, clean counter tops with baking soda, use lemon juice instead of deodorizers, glass cleaners, and stain removers; and use pump sprays instead of aerosol sprays. In the garden, compost, wood ashes, peat moss, or manure are natural alternatives to chemical fertilizers.
Follow Direction. Read product labels to identify any hazardous materials, and pay close attention to storage and disposal information. Whenever possible, the EPA suggests avoiding products labeled Danger, Warning: or Caution.
If you use a hazardous product, buy only the amount needed for the job, follow directions exactly, and use only the recommended quantity. By substituting safe products and using hazardous products safely, you can help minimize the impact on your health and your environment.
Jim Harrison, JWH Distributing Woodall's Campground Management, 1993
When a septic tank is used as a sewage system one must be more careful of what one does than when a city sewer system is used. Septic systems rely on bacteria to digest and liquefy the residues in the tank. Therefore it is important not to use or do anything that will kill the natural bacteria. One needs to be prudent in putting things down the sinks, toilets, and drains. Many products that are normally and safely used by people on city sewers can be extremely harmful for septic tanks. The use of non-chemical, organic products for cleaning becomes very important. And if products that will kill the bacteria must be used for cleaning the residue should not be washed down the drains but rather disposed of in other ways.
The following are some of the areas for concern.
CIGARETTE BUTTS, KOTEX, TAMPONS, CONDOMS, DISPOSABLE DIAPERS, KLEENEX, PAPER
Nothing other than solid waste, toilet paper, urine and water should be put down any toilet. This is true of toilets on city sewers but becomes even more critical when the toilet is on a septic system. The above products are basically indigestible and create real problems in pumping out the septic tanks. Filters from cigarette butts are especially bothersome because they float through the system and into leach lines where they are just the perfect size to plug the holes in the lines.
In general one must be careful when using any of the following types of items for cleaning:
1. Laundry detergents
3. Toilet bowl cleaners
6. Cleansing powders
8. Sink & Tub Cleaners
9. Caustic Drain Openers
10. Oven cleaners
11. Antibacterial soaps and other such products
Reading the label for ingredients is necessary. Look for laundry soaps that do not contain bleach, chlorine, phosphates and lots of additives. Cleaning products with citric, baking soda, vinegar and borax are fine to use. Be wary of labels that proclaim the product to be poisonous, hazardous. etc. Bleach, acids and caustic drain openers should never be used. This includes using bleach in the washing machine.
Garbage disposals put raw foods into the septic system. Material which has not gone through the human digestive system has little bacteria. Consequently, material from the garbage disposal is very hard for the septic system to digest. Therefore garbage disposals should be not used.
GREASE, BACON FAT, AND OTHER COOKING GREASE:
These are extremely hard on septic systems and indeed on any kind of sewer system. The grease cakes up in the pipes, plugging them eventually. Grease which gets into the septic tank is extremely difficult for the system to digest and will combine with toilet paper and soap curd to form a hard crust in the tank. It may also adversely affect the leach lines. Do not pour them down the sink or toilet.
COLORED TOILET PAPER:
The dyes in colored toilet paper inhibit bacteria. Only white toilet paper should be used.
In addition it is helpful to reduce the flow of water through the septic system, so practicing water conservation methods is very important when one is on a septic system
Jim Harrison, JWH Distributing Woodall's Campground Management, July 1998
Many states are requiring new RV parks and old RV parks in need of upgrading sewage treatment systems to install aerobic treatment plants instead of septic systems.
In my opinion, this is faulty thinking on the part of the state agencies and many private sector engineers because aerobic treatment plants are more easily shut down or inhibited by chemicals used by RVer's in their holding tanks than are septic tank systems. Maybe I better phrase that another way: septic systems do not visibly show how badly they have been inhibited or killed.
Since most aerobic systems route treated effluent directly into a storage pond or into a local stream, completely treating effluent before discharge is critical.
Workings of a sewage treatment facility
In all sewage treatment facilities, including city sewage treatment facilities, naturally occurring bacteria break down and digest solids and paper products that are put into the system.
In the process of breaking down and digesting solids, bacteria strip off the soluble solids from the wastes coming into the system. They turn them into soluble protein, soluble carbohydrates and fatty acids. As treatment progresses, these compounds are turned into carbon dioxide, methane, and other gases and indigestible solids.
Treatment systems receiving heavy loadings of sanitizing agents, holding tank chemicals, greases, fats, oil, paper and chemical cleaning compounds will experience diminished bacterial activity or complete bacterial kill.
A study done by the University of California at Berkeley indicated that the addition of 280 milligrams (mg)/liter of formaldehyde reduced digestion in septic tanks by 60%. Necessary septic tank retention time for wastewater containing 280 mg/liter of formaldehyde was found to be three times longer than for wastewater without the chemical. Thus much larger tanks are needed to treat preservative laden wastewater from RVs.
To make the quantities I'm talking about more vivid, I'll switch to ounces and quarts. An ounce is equivalent to about 30 to 32 grams, and a gram is equal to 1,000 milligrams. So, I'm talking about roughly one-quarter of 1/32 of an ounce - that is 1/128 of an ounce-per quart of wastewater inhibiting a treatment system. Most RVer's put far more formaldehyde than that into their holding tanks.
It was found that 90% of the formaldehyde in effluent was removed in a leach field if concentrations of formaldehyde were kept below 300 mg/liter. If concentrations of formaldehyde reached 1,000mg/liter,
only 30% of the formaldehyde was removed by soil organisms.
Sewage treatment (package) plant tips
If you have an aerobic treatment system, here are some things you can do to keep the system running.
1) Limit the amount of chemicals your campers put into their holding tanks by encouraging them to use holding tank products that are enzyme or bacteria based. You'll also have to restrict the chemicals and bleach used by you and your staff for daily park maintenance.
2) Watch the treatment system carefully and add extra bacteria to the system to counter the effects of chemicals.
3) If the system stops working, check the pH (use a swimming pool test kit) and bring back the pH level into the 7.2 to 7.9 range with bicarbonate of soda. Dissolve two ounces of dry bacteria and 20 pounds of dry dog food in tepid water. Let the mixture soak for up to two hours to activate the bacteria. Add this mixture and a sack or more of dry dog food to the sewage treatment plant tank. Turn the blowers back on and the system should kick off again.
If you have a seasonal park where the system is shut down for several months during the off season, you will probably find the system has gone completely anaerobic. Because the system has been shut down for several months, the pH level will have dropped to 6.0 or lower and the atmosphere can be quite smelly when the blowers are turned back on. To start the system at the beginning of the season, dose it with the
bacteria-dog food mixture and the dry dog food.
Dry bacteria is far more concentrated than bacteria in a liquid medium and far cheaper to use. In purchasing dry bacteria, be sure to compare bacteria counts and not just the price per pound. A quality count is 3 to 5 billion bacteria per gram or 110 to 150 billion per ounce. Insist on a written bacteria count and MSD sheets. When comparing products consider the recommended dosage and the cost of using the product for the season. In my opinion, the amount used shouldn't depend upon the size of the septic tank but upon the usage it receives.
4) If a system starts to form clumps on top of the primary treatment tank, you need to bring pH above 7.2 and add four to six ounces of bacteria for every 3,000 gallons of capacity. The clumps are caused by filamentous bacteria, an undesirable bacteria which can quickly take over a treatment system. If the filamentous bacteria is not quickly brought under control, the operator might have to shut down the system and have it pumped out. Filamentous bacteria have long spiral coils, are resistant to bleach used in the final sterilization stage and can trap E. Coli in their coils thereby protecting them from the final bleach stage.
5)A problem many parks experience is surge loading - large quantities of waste on the weekend and little if any during the week. (In some parks, the situation is reversed: lots of weekday waste and little on the weekend, but the effect is still the same.)
Since an aerobic system works on a much faster cycle (three to four times faster than a septic system), the plant in a park with a large weekend loading will begin running out of waste to treat by Tuesday or Wednesday. The park operator might have to kick start it for the weekend.
An effective method of helping to even out the flow into the system is to add one or more surge tanks in front of the plant. These tanks should be capable of holding one or two days worth of sewage. When the system starts to run out of sewage to treat, pump more in from a surge tank. In order to keep these holding tanks from becoming anaerobic, add a small aerator.
Septic Tank tips
If you have a septic system, you will find that chemical holding tank products will kill the bacteria in the system. Although you might notice a build up of strong odors, a bacteria kill usually isn't apparent. The tank will continue to work as settling basin, allowing liquid to float out into the leach line.
However, with no bacterial activity, the leach line eventually will plug up, and, after a while, a heavy crust of toilet paper and soap curd will form at the surface of the wastewater in the tank.
If this happens, local water quality representatives might require you to completely replace the system if you consult them or if liquid surfaces and someone calls them.
There are ways to avoid this and to bring a system back on line fairly quickly.
1)If liquid starts to surface, you have a major emergency brewing and need to take immediate action. There are several things you can do.
a)You can call in a plumber to Roto-Root or suck out the leach line, getting as much of the clumped solids as possible out of the line. This may help for a short while, but you will still have clumped solids in the gravel bed that block the flow of liquid into the soil. This is caused by heavy organic loading and lack of bacteria to digest wastes in the septic system. When this organic loading of the leach line becomes more than the naturally occurring soil organisms can handle, leach line failure occurs.
b)The best solution is to open the leach line at the distribution box, if you have one, and inject concentrated hydrogen peroxide into the leach line. I have found that the best way to do this is with a siphon pump. Caution is needed in using concentrated peroxide because it can burn your skin. While you can call our company for exact instructions on accomplishing this, hiring a company that has experience in opening lines in this fashion is easier and safer than do-it-yourself approach.
If you do not have a distribution box, you'll need to dig down to the leach line and break into it. Prior to that, you'll need to pump the tank down to remove as much liquid as possible so that the hole you dig doesn't fill with wastewater.
2)Once you have performed the emergency procedure to open the leach line, you should put in a distribution box and add at least one more line to the system so you have a back up leach system. Most underground contractors can do this for you.
3)If you have problems with odors from sewer lines, adding bacteria to the system will help, but you also might find it useful to add a vent stack fitted with an activated charcoal filter. I recommend putting the vent stack close to the septic tank and keeping it as low to the ground as you safely can so that odors will vent through the vent stack fitted with the charcoal filter before escaping through other vent sources in the park.
4)Another thing that can be helpful is to add a small air pump to the first tank if you have a two-tank system. If you have two septic tanks end to end, the first one should have the baffle broken out so that it serves as one large treatment tank. By adding aeration to this tank, you turn your septic system into a modified aeration type system which will give better and faster treatment to the effluent.
Tips for lagoons or settling ponds.
Lagoon systems also can have problems created by chemicals stopping bacterial activity in the system. Generally, two types of lagoon systems are used. Some states require a septic tank to hold the solids with only the liquid discharging to a lagoon. Other states allow use of a lagoon for both digestion and disposal of liquids.
Both systems can have problems, which usually are indicated by excessive algae growth and/or odors. Two things are needed to stop both of these symptoms. First, proper bacterial activity to break down and digest waste is needed; and, second, you need to add aeration to most lagoons to help in digestion by adding oxygen to the water and help to evaporate liquid from the system.
In addition to limiting the amount of chemical holding tank products going into your waste treatment system, you must control the other places chemicals that kill bacteria are introduced into the system.
1)One of the biggest sources of problems is the laundry room where park guests use bleach and improper soaps. Old fashion soaps were based on lye and tallow and worked fairly well. They also did not affect the action of sewage treatment facilities. Promoting soaps that are environmentally friendly and eliminating the use of bleach in the laundry will go a long way toward making a system work better. Posting a sign in the laundry room that states: Because this park is on a septic system (or has a sewage treatment plant), please do not use liquid bleach is simple and helpful. Also not selling liquid bleach will go a long ways towards cutting the amount of bleach going into the sewage system. There are a number of environmentally friendly soaps available today, and there are non-chlorine based bleaches available that use various dry forms of peroxide based products. Recently liquid versions of non-chlorine bleach have appeared on market shelves. You should stock them and require your campers to use them.
2)Limit the use of chemical cleaning products and start using more environmentally friendly cleaning products. Do not use chemical toilet bowl cleaners nor sanitary blocks or deodorant blocks because they can kill
beneficial bacteria. A number of heavily advertised products contain chemicals harmful to sewersystems. Avoid cleansing powders, bleach, cleaning liquids, laundry soaps with bleach, toilet bowl cleaners and cleaners that contain quaternary ammonia.
Instead, use product like bicarbonate of soda, vinegar, Bon Ami, lemon juice and citric acid to do a variety of cleaning for you in an inexpensive and environmentally friendly fashion. Pumice stones also can be helpful.
You need to kill bacterial activity in only a couple of places. You need to sterilize toilet seats and shower floors in bathrooms. You also will need to sterilize any surface where someone has bled or vomited. You need to sterilize cutting surfaces and counter tops in food preparation areas.
I have found that one ounce of bleach in a pint of water does an excellent job of disinfecting and saves a great deal of money. Spray on the surfaces that need sterilizing and allow them to dry naturally.
Bactericides need at least two minutes of contact time to be effective so don't wipe surfaces dry after applying a bactericide. Allow the liquid to air dry for maximum effect. Don't use bleach on any surface that can be etched by the acid in bleach.
3)Nothing other than solid wastes, white toilet paper, urine and water should be put down a toilet.Cigarette butts, sanitary napkins, Tampons, condoms, disposable diapers, facial tissues and paper towels don't belong in a sewer system.
If your food preparation area has a sink with a garbage disposal, you should use it as little as possible and even consider removing the disposal unit. Raw foods which contain few, if any, bacteria are hard for waste systems to digest. Instead, compost vegetable peelings, egg shells and coffee grounds. Encourage campers to dispose of cooking grease in a coffee can or other container rather than flushing it down the sink. Grease is difficult for a treatment system to digest, and it can create real problems if the system is marginal.
4)Limit the amount of water flowing into the system by adding low flush toilets, water flow restrictors onshower heads and checking all water valves for leaks on a regular basis.
Jim Harrison, JWH Distributing Northwest Hospitality News, August 1996
Food service operations are routinely harassed by the bacteria that live in their drains and grease traps. Using nitrates and sulfites instead of oxygen as a source of energy, these micro-culprits devour fats, oils and grease; and, as a result of their eating, give off gas-hydrogen sulfide and other nose curling odors best left to chemistry labs.
Anyone who's smelled even a hint of the rotten egg odor of hydrogen sulfide knows that the gas can take a starving person's mind off the thought of eating. It's definitely not conducive to food or ice cream sales.
These culprits have met their match with Eco-Save LDF (liquid drain formula)Eco-Save LDF (liquid drain formula) in the presence and absence of oxygen, and LDF's bio-formulation out competes the usual micro-monsters of the restaurant drain world under anaerobic (without oxygen) conditions. In other words, LDF's organisms block the normal biological production of hydrogen sulfide and other noxious gases.
LDF was used to resolve a significant grease and odor problem at a major high-rise casino resort facility in Lake Tahoe. Although restaurants, bakeries, and butcher shops were located throughout the facility, the majority of the food concessions were on the upper floors. The concessions developed unmanageable grease and odor problems in the drain lines as well as the discharge lines leading into the grease traps.
To alleviate the problems, the facility had contracted with a major drain cleaning company which snaked out clogged lines daily and pumped out the 5,000-gallon primary grease trap in the lower level weekly at cost of $1,500.00 per week.
Odor problems caused by drain line gas production, in the upper floors, were so severe that the exhaust hood fans in food preparation areas were left on 24 hours a day. In spite of that and the aromas created by food preparation, staff and diners still could smell foul odors.
Eventually, a major grease blockage occurred six inches down the primary drain line that ran from the resort's upper floors to the basement sewage collection pit. Since snaking didn't restore the flow, the facility's management and those working on the problem decided to charge the line with carbon dioxide to dislodge the blockage.
The pressure created by the carbon dioxide in the line, however, ruptured the connecting seals of the sixinch line. Sewage and grease sprayed over the equipment in the main dining room, resulting in several days of down time.
Following the incident, the management decided to try LDF. The initial test site was the upper floor butcher shop. In the test, a metering pump fed 25 ounces per day of LDF into the butcher shop's main floor drain. Within 24 hours, odor was no longer perceptible. Drain line accumulations were reduced significantly; and after 30 days of treatment, line snaking was no longer necessary to maintain flow. Because of the changes at the butcher shop, the bio-augmentation program expanded to 18 sites throughout the resort.
The makers of LDF have files full of similar accounts. If you're plagued with unpleasant odors or drain plugs, try using Eco-Save's LDF.
"Green" way before it became fashionable
P.O. Box 195
Santa Rosa, CA 95402