Household Wastewater Systems
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Household Wastewater Systems Mike Kizer OSU Extension Biosystems & Agricultural Engineering. Typical Waste Water System. Well. Renovated Wastewater. Wastewater System Regulation.

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Household Wastewater Systems Mike Kizer OSU Extension Biosystems & Agricultural Engineering

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Household Wastewater Systems

Mike Kizer

OSU Extension Biosystems & Agricultural Engineering

Typical Waste Water System


Renovated Wastewater

Wastewater System Regulation

  • Regulatory agency in Oklahoma is: Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) 707 N. Robinson, OKC (Tel: 405-702-6100)

  • DEQ field offices in many counties Check local listing under: Oklahoma – State of –

  • Regulations are outlined in Title 252 of Oklahoma Administrative Code, Ch. 641

  • DEQ wastewater system website:

Minimum Lot Size for Wastewater Disposal Systems

Wastewater System Separation Distances(distance in feet)

Wastewater System Components

  • Water-tight sewer lines

  • Septic tank

  • Disposal system

    • Subsurface drain field

      • Absorption trenches

      • Infiltration chambers

    • ET/Absorption trenches

    • Aerobic system with sprinkler

    • Total retention lagoons

    • Pre-approved alternative disposal systems

Screen vent pipe opening to prevent blockage by birds, squirrels, etc.

  • Household Plumbing Sewer and Vent System

  • Sewer lines in the house collect waste water for conveyance to the septic tank

  • Roof vents and the traps under sinks, tubs, showers, toilets and wall/floor drains prevent sewer gas from entering the house.

Main Sewer Pipe

Septic Tank

  • All household wastewater systems will have a septic tank

  • Microbial action digests solid wastes

  • Liquids flow through tank to disposal area

  • Tank size

    • 1000 gallon liquid capacity (4-BR house or less)

    • Add 250 gallons per additional bedroom

Typical Septic Tank Installation

Two-Chamber Tank


House Foundation

Wastewater Piping Materials

  • Water-tight Sewer Conveyance Lines

    • Cast iron

    • PVC (Sch. 40 is preferred weight)

    • Transite (asbestos-cement)

    • Orangeburg (paper-tar product: old houses)

  • Drain Field Lines

    • Perforated PVC

    • Polyethylene infiltration chambers

    • Clay tile (old houses)

Effluent Disposal Area Options

  • Absorption field

    • Absorption trenches

    • Infiltration chambers

    • ET/Absorption trenches

  • Lagoons

  • Aerobic systems

  • Authorized alternative systems

Subsurface Absorption Field Approval

  • Percolation Test

    • 3 test holes in drainage area perc at a rate of 60 min/inch of water or faster

  • Soil Profile Description

    • 3 test holes without any of the following:

      • (1) impervious material (bedrock, clay pan)

      • (2) water saturated soil (discoloration)

      • (3) loamy coarse sand or coarser soil, or

      • (4) sandy clay or finer soil

The size and type of waste water disposal system is very dependent on the soil at the building site. Even before a percolation test or soil profile evaluation you can get an idea of site suitability from the county soil survey.

Cross-Section of Subsurface Absorption Trench

8-ft minimum distance to center of next trench

Perforated Pipe

150’ MAX.

Lateral lines following the slope contour

150’ max. length

Infiltration Chambers

  • Polyethylene infiltration chamber has 100% open volume vs. 50% for gravel-filled absorption trench

  • Corrugated design gives strength to support ground traffic over its 2-ft width

  • Chamber cost per unit length is approximately equal to unit cost of perforated PVC pipe, plus gravel and installation

ET/Absorption Trench System

  • Used when soil percolation rate is too slow for ordinary subsurface absorption trenches

  • Uses evapotranspiration (ET) of grasses plus soil absorption to dispose wastewater

  • Plant a mix of cool and warm season grasses for year-round ET

Cross-Section of ET/Absorption Trench

Cool-Warm Season Grass Mixture

Perforated Pipe


  • Used when soil percolation rate is too slow for soil absorption systems

  • Require 2 ½ acre minimum lot size

  • Fencing required around the lagoon

  • Size based on house size, and rainfall and evaporation of geographic zone

  • Must retain all wastewater (no overflow)

Typical Lagoon Installation

  • 2.5 acre minimum lot size required

  • 4-ft high fence required

  • lagoon size based on house size and local rainfall

4 ft



1 ft min.

7 ft

5 ft max.

Concrete Pad

Location & Lagoon Size

The required size of total retention waste water lagoons (because of their annual hydraulic balance) makes them less desirable the farther east you build in Oklahoma.

Aerobic Systems

  • Used to treat septic tank effluent where subsurface disposal is not possible

  • Bubbling air through effluent supports aerobic bacteria for further digestion

  • Exposure to oxygen kills most pathogens

  • Chlorination allows surface land application of wastewater through sprinklers

Onsite Aerobic Treatment System

Onsite aerobic treatment systems treat septic tank effluent further by aerobic digestion, chlorination to kill pathogens, and surface application through a spray head sprinkler system.

(Septic Tank)




Typical Aeration Chamber of Aerobic Treatment System

Stack-Feed Contact Tablet Chlorinator

Chlorine Tablet Feed Tubes

Effluent Outlet

Effluent Inlet

Ca(OCl)2 Tablets

Pump Chamber and Surface Application System

Spray Heads

Access Hatch


Pump Control & Alarm Floats

Finding Waste Water System Components

  • Waste water components are normally downhill from the house (gravity flow)

  • Septic tank can be no less than 5 feet, and is normally no more than 50 feet from house

  • Two-way sanitary sewer clean-outs located:

    • Within 5 feet of the house

    • Within 5 feet of every bend greater than 45º

    • Every 100 feet of straight sewer line

  • Grass over septic tank may be brown in summer

  • Grass over drain field will be greener in summer

Locating Waste Water System Components

Clean-outs on main sewer line

Locating Waste Water System Components

2 1/2-inch roof vent on branch line

4-inch roof vent on main sewer line

Sewer system roof vents

Locating Waste Water System Components

Largest roof vent on main sewer line

Clean-outs on main sewer line exiting house

Regular green stripes in a dry lawn are the lateral lines

Household Water Use

  • Typical Usage: 50-100 gallons/person-day

    • Clothes washer: 30-50 gallons/load

    • Dishwasher: 7-15 gallons/load

    • Garbage Disposal: 4 - 6 gallons/day

    • Shower/Bathtub: 25-60 gallons/use

    • Ordinary toilet: 1.6 - 5 gallons/flush

    • Water softener:50-100 gallons/regeneration









Organic Solvents


Septic System Additives

Biological Additives

  • Will not eliminate need for tank pumping

  • 20% of sludge is inorganic (indigestible)

  • Billions of bacteria live in septic tanks-- a few million more have little effect

  • If natural bacteria have been killed, added bacteria will die also

  • Normal population is restored in 30-60 hours even if 99.99% has been killed

Maximum Safe Levels of Cleaners(Single dose in 1000-gallon septic tank)

  • Bleach (5.25% Cl): 1.3 gallons

  • Cleansers/Disinfectants:2.5 gallons

  • Drain Cleaners:0.65 ounces

Chemical Additives

Strong Acids and Bases

  • Disrupt normal tank biological activity

  • Harm soil structure in drain field

    Organic Solvents

  • Clean thin layers of sewer line build-up

  • Contaminate ground water

Annual Cost of AdditivesAmherst, MA Retailers Study - 1989(using manufacturer’s recommended rates)

  • Biological (11):$19.75/yr

  • Solvents (3):$78.00/yr

  • Acid/Base (8):$13.48/yr

Annualized Pumping Cost(USPHS Pumping Frequency Estimate)$150 Pumping Cost for 1000-gal tank

Septic System AdditivesConclusions

  • Biological additives are harmless but of little use

  • Chemical additives can damage septic system and contaminate ground water

  • Don’t use if active ingredients are unspecified

  • Annualized cost of additives is about the same as for tank pumping on recommended schedule

  • “These products make a lot of money for the people that sell them.”

Waste Water System FailuresCommon Causes

  • Hydraulic overloading (too much water)

  • Solids migration to drain field

    • Failure to pump tank on schedule

    • Baffle failure

  • Root intrusion into sewer lines

  • Traffic damage to drain field

  • Garbage disposal overuse

Reducing Hydraulic Loading

  • Equipment Adjustments

    • Low flow toilets (1.6 gpf and 0.6 gpf)

    • Water-saving showerheads

    • Front-loading washing machines

  • Lifestyle Adjustments

    • Shower vs. bath

    • Distribute laundry loads throughout week

    • Distribute bathing morning & evening

    • Full loads only for washer & dishwasher

Root Damage

  • Plant no trees or shrubs near sewer lines

  • Copper sulfate to kill tree/shrub roots

    • Treatment is not toxic to plants

    • Once intruding roots are killed, absorption ends

    • Add ½ cup of crystals to distribution box or to cleanout downstream from septic tank

    • If added through toilet, 2 pounds of crystals are needed (not harmful to tank bacteria)

  • See OSU CR-6428 for more information

Traffic Damage

  • No vehicle parking over drain field

  • No vehicle traffic except lawn mowers

  • No traffic at all if ground is saturated

Solids & Drain Fields

  • Solids must be retained in septic tank

  • Baffles should be inspected when tank is inspected or pumped

  • Use of additives that “liquefy” sludge and scum can lead drain field failure

  • Septic tanks: like fuses in electrical wiring (failure in controlled location; cheap to fix)

Garbage Disposals

  • Add to hydraulic load (running water)

  • Add to solids (more frequent pumping)

  • Poorer digestion environment

    • (Carbon:Nitrogen ratio is more unfavorable)

Water Softeners & Septic Systems

  • Salt does not affect septic tank functioning

  • Added hydraulic load (regeneration water)

    • Use water meter or sensor controlled regeneration rather than time clock alone

  • Added sodium can affect marginal drain fields (dispersal of clays slows perc rate)

    • Use potassium chloride (KCl) salt if a problem

MWPS-24 Home*A*Syst OK DEQ Ch. 641

Onsite Domestic SewageWorksheet #3

Disposal Handbook

On-Site Wastewater System Resources

If you don’t maintain your on-site wastewater system, it will demand your attention when it is most inconvenient.

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