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In the July installment, we focused on septic tanks: their operation and maintenance.  This article will discuss the next step following the treatment tank: leach fields. A leach field is an area of soil that typically consists of an arrangement of trenches containing perforated pipes and porous material (often gravel) covered by a layer of soil. The function of a leach field is to continue the treatment activity by removing viruses and bacteria from wastewater so that it is safe when it returns to groundwater supplies.

1Gravel trenches were the customary element of leach fields.  However, a new versatile and effective technology has been introduced to Roatán by ACME Environmental Solutions utilizing chambers from INFILTRATOR Systems.  These gravelless leach fields receive the partially treated waters, the effluent, from a septic tank and transmit it into the undisturbed soil under and around the chambers, where final treatment and disbursement occurs. These chambers are formed from a series of arched, plastic vaults. The sides of each chamber have louvers to allow wastewater to seep into the surrounding soil. Because effluent flows freely into the space formed by the parallel rows of chambers, it spreads over much of the trench floor.

Leach fields should work efficiently for a long time, but many malfunction sooner than necessary for various reasons.  Your leach field will enjoy a longer life if these guidelines are followed.

Excess Water – Households should avoid using large amounts of water on any single day – spread laundry washing over multiple days.  Homeowners can minimize the flow of water from their homes by fixing leaky faucets.  Surface water runoff should be directed away from the leach field.

Clogs – Too many solids can clog both a septic tank and a leach field, and potentially lead to failure of the system.  ACME recommends that homeowners minimize the amount of undigested food waste that flows into their sewage system from the sink or garbage disposal and not dispose of inorganic solids such as dental floss, diapers or feminine hygiene products. Never flush substances that do not decompose.2

Structural Damage – If the leach field structure is damaged, it can cease working properly and lead to flooding, backup and system failure.  For this reason, homeowners should not drive vehicles over their leach fields.  Roots can also clog or damage pipes, so owners should never plant trees close to leach fields.

Our daily habits determine the well-being of our sewage system and leach field.  Prevention is the key! Once a leach field has failed, an expensive underground repair follows.  It is our responsibility to treat our sewage waters to protect our groundwater.  Treating our sewage responsibly will permit the island to maintain a healthy water supply and environment.

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