Weighing the Pros and Cons of Aerobic and Anaerobic Septic Systems

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In order to treat wastewater in a sustainable fashion, human communities must reconsider the systems that are in place. To increase awareness on how our way of life affects the local ecosystem, we must endeavor to educate ourselves on the two main systems employed to achieve maximum waste degradation.

Two main types of wastewater treatment

Managing residential waste and commercial water treatment is strictly regulated. Nowadays, there are two treatment systems available — aerobic and anaerobic septic systems.

On choosing which septic system to install

Before we dissect the main differences and aerobic and anaerobic systems, we have to discuss two very important considerations. If your household runs on a limited budget and anaerobic system is easier on the purse. The additional machinery required in aerobic systems makes the installation more costly.

The other consideration is the land. A percolation test determines how quickly the soil absorbs water. If your land fails the percolation test, your household is not viable for an anaerobic system. A traditional system works only on land that percolates adequately.

If the soil test does not work out, you must find a way to invest in an aerobic system, which could be your only remaining choice. If your home stands on land that is absolutely flat, you’d have to settle for the costlier set up as well. The subsurface requirements of a traditional septic system require a gentle slope for wastewater to flow into the field.

Aerobic versus anaerobic septic systems

A functional aerobic septic system is better at ammonia removal and in processing grease and fats. It performs better with many different xenobiotic compounds as well. The system can process as much as 98 percent of organic contaminants and works rapidly and efficiently.

The system remains functional even when the ambient temperature lowers. It can handle large volumes of wastewater at any one time. The effluent produced is cleaner compared to a traditional septic system.

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The main disadvantage of the system is the high electrical cost of aeration, which is necessary for maximal efficiency. As such, the system’s carbon footprint is not ideal.

Another disadvantage is the need to dispose of large amounts of sludge, which must never be thrown into local bodies of water for the danger of contamination and consequential impact on wildlife.

Meanwhile, anaerobic systems, which utilize the action of microbes that live without oxygen, do not yield as much sludge (bio-solids) and require less energy to operate as well. However, if there are excess fats and oils, the system may not be able to handle it adequately. The system is also unable to handle phosphate and ammonia.

Which system is best for your home depends on numerous factors, including budget, land properties. Ask yourself whether or not you can deal with the requirements or disposal of biomass.

You must also ask yourself whether a slow process that is less efficient would work for you. Or are you partial to a system that is fast and effective, but requires more energy to run? Consider all these factors carefully.