If you are living or building in an area that isn’t serviced by a sewage disposal pipeline, it is important to understand the different waste water treatment systems that are available to you.
Conventional septic waste systems are usually made up of tanks that are buried and release wastewater back into the earth. Around 25% of homes that are not connected by a sewage disposal pipeline to a main use this method.
While septic systems can be effective, sometimes septic systems fail or cause runoff related issues, and it can be a good idea to look at alternative waste disposal methods. It is also necessary to understand the legal requirements in NSW to ensure your system meets the minimum standards.
The Plumbing Code of Australia (PCA) is the technical standard for all plumbing and drainage work in NSW. All plumbing and drainage work in NSW must comply with the PCA.
The PCA covers all the requirements for installation, connecting to a water main, complying with waste requirements, inspections and the necessary paperwork.
Once you know what you are legally able to do, there are a few different options you can consider for your wastewater treatment system.
When you are working with limited space, a filtering system can be a good option. These systems are usually made up of a recirculating filter that filters the waste before releasing it back into the drain field.
Sand and peat are common materials used for filtration in conjunction with traditional septic systems.
Conventional septic tanks are useful because they break down the pathogens in waste products with naturally occurring bacteria. Once the waste is drained back into the soil, the aerobic bacteria in the soil continues to break it down further.
However, not all soil has the same rates of permeability, so sometimes this process doesn’t occur properly. Aerobic systems pass the waste through an additional tank containing bacteria to ensure that the waste is sufficiently broken down before draining into the field.
Another option to consider in terms of your home waste are toilets that don’t use a flush or septic system. Composting toilets and incinerating toilets are both extremely well suited when space or soil quality limit the ability to use septic systems.
They also use very little or no water. In a composting system, aerobic bacteria and fungi reduce waste. Incinerating toilets are self-contained and use an electric or gas incinerator to eradicate waste. Both provide good, environmentally friendly alternatives to drainage models.
Whatever wastewater treatment system you decide to use in your home, there are plenty of resources to help with the design and implementation of on-site wastewater systems to Australian standards. Water NSW has provided this handy guide.
The guide brings together detailed design aspects of a variety of common disposal systems and showcases emerging technology. Remember that waste disposal doesn’t have to be messy! Do your research and you will be prepared to ensure your system is safe and functional.