CHENNAI : Ours is one of the few countries in the world where people still get into sewers to check and unclog them. There are sewage tankers that are seen around town very often – we have an unparalleled level of tolerance with sewage, its handling and its treatment!
The city has grown from having open drains in the 1800’s to getting its first planned sewage network implemented in 1914. Since then there have been many updates to the network and the clear demarcation of five zones with pumping stations covering the entire city. Then why do we still encounter this sewage tanker on our main roads you may ask? It is because many newer parts of the city are still outside the utility limits and rely on alternate methods for dealing with their daily waste water.
In today’s context of water being a scarce resource, it is a sustainable move to recycle our sewage water. Larger developments often have their own sewage treatment plant (STP) planned as part of the green initiatives for the occupants. When using an STP, water is treated so that it can be effectively reused for landscaping or flushing requirements.
As a resident of an area unconnected to a sewer system, the responsibility of handling my sewage is on me. The most effective way of handling this for a small scale residence or in rural areas is to have a small septic tank with soak pit. The septic tank is a watertight box, usually made of concrete or fiberglass, with an inlet and outlet pipe.
Wastewater flows from the home to the septic tank through the sewer pipe. The septic tank treats the wastewater naturally by holding it in the tank. The wastewater forms three layers inside the tank. Scum on top, Sludge at the bottom and grey water in the middle. While the grey-water percolates through the leach pit and is bio-filtered by gravel and soil, the solids have to be periodically pumped out — bringing in the sewage tanker!
So if you are the proud owner of an on-site sewage facility — here are some ways in which you can extend the life of the system and put off pumping as far as possible! The first thing to do is to design the system so there is a different tank for sewage and other water waste. This reduces the amount of solids drastically allowing a lot of the kitchen and shower water to soak off into the ground naturally.
Be careful with the amount of fats, oils and grease into the sink — these are hard for the natural microbes to break down. Disinfectants and cleaners break down the bacteria doing all the hard work in your tank — careful how much you use, specially the drain unclogging ones. Watch what you flush — you don’t want to cause a clog… be extra careful with chemicals or medicines as these will contaminate the soil. And lastly – talk to your sewage tanker operator — ensure they are pumping out the waste in an approved area and not dumping where no one is watching!