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Do’s and Don’ts of Aerobic System Maintenance

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Although aerobic systems are more sophisticated than standard ones, they still need routine maintenance in order to function at their peak. Here are some do’s and don’ts for maintaining your aerobic system (tips on standard systems here).

DO hire a TCEQ licensed maintenance provider to service your system. All aerobic systems are required to be checked every 4 months per TCEQ regulations, even if your county doesn’t require a maintenance company to perform the service (there’s a lot more to servicing your system than just adding chlorine, not to mention the health risk of coming into contact with wastewater).

DON’T panic if your alarm turns on — it is usually not an emergency. Call your maintenance provider when your alarm sounds or light turns on and reduce non-essential water usage.

DO hire a maintenance provider that is certified by the manufacturer of your system, and who only replaces the proprietary parts of your system with the same proprietary parts — not with parts for another manufactured system.

DON’T wait several days to report alarm activation.

DO avoid spraying your irrigation sprinklers over the same area of the aerobic system’s distribution area, otherwise excessive wetness/saturation may occur.

DON’T turn the system off.

DO check your chlorinator once a week to once a month on average (depending on your water usage). See our video on unclogging your chlorinator.

DON’T store chlorine in water heater closets or by water heaters. Keep away from gas and electrical. Chlorine needs to be stored in a cool, dry, ventilated area.

DO use ant killer to kill ants if they start mounding by any part of the system.

DON’T use swimming pool chlorine tablets for tablet chlorinators. Only use calcium hypochlorite tablets that are designed for treating wastewater.

DO make sure all parts of the system are easily accessible at all times (do not build over any part, use landscaping that could grow over, etc).

DON’T allow plumbers, landscapers, irrigation companies, etc. to replace anything themselves, or handle any part of the system except adding chlorine and silencing the alarm. Repairs made by the homeowner or others generally voids the system’s warranty, and will make future repairs more costly.

DO be cautious of what enters the system. Items flushed down the commode or poured down the drains do not disappear; they must be treated by the system.

Aerobic systems are designed to treat domestic wastewater and toilet paper only. Things that can harm your system include:

  • excessive use of garbage disposal
  • fat, grease, and oil
  • too many cleaners
  • too much fabric softener
  • bleach
  • cigarette butts
  • diapers and wipes
  • feminine products
  • paper towels
  • condoms
  • Q-tips
  • paint, paint thinners, and varnishes
  • drain cleaners and automatic toilet cleaners
  • hair combings
  • food (fruit, fruit peels, fruit juices, cola, wine, vinegar, salad oil, sugars, coffee grounds)
  • dental floss
  • kitty litter
  • unused medicine
  • etc.

Items such as these can cause the cost of maintenance and tank cleanings to be more expensive.

DON’T allow alteration to any part of the system or spray head locations. Alteration puts the system out of compliance and can cause the property owner additional expense to bring it back into compliance.

DO pump your system when recommended by your maintenance provider.

Van Delden takes a sludge test each time your system is serviced. We normally recommend you to pump out all your tanks/compartments when the sludge level reaches approximately 50% or higher in the aerobic unit or if excessive sludge builds up in the pump tank. (The average household will need to have the system pumped every 2-5 years).

DON’T plant landscaping around the system or spray heads. Keep vegetation mowed or trimmed around the system and spray heads. (Spray can only be applied to vegetative surface.)

DO hire a pumping company that is familiar with your make and model of aerobic system and knows what needs to be done to the system when it is pumped in order to avoid causing damage to the system. Each make and model is different in what needs to be done when it is pumped.

DON’T treat the system as city sewer. Economy in the use of water helps prevent overloading the system. Leaky faucets, running commodes, etc. should be guarded against as well. Avoid doing all your laundry in the same day; surges of water entering the system may hydraulically overload the system and throw off the balance of bacteria.

For 86+ years, Van Delden Wastewater Systems has withstood the test of time as the leading Wastewater System company, providing San Antonio, Boerne, and the surrounding Texas Hill Country with services you can count on now and in the future. 

Call us for any of your wastewater systems needs and let our professionals help you with your septic installation and maintenance requirements: 210.698.2000 (San Antonio) or 830.249.4000 (Boerne).

132 thoughts on “Do’s and Don’ts of Aerobic System Maintenance

  1. Our 1.5 acre lot new home in Magnolia, Texas, Montgomery county has an aerobic septic system. The home is 5 years old. I understand there should be three sprinklers. We have only two. We believe the former owner capped one of the sprinklers for whatever reason. However, one sprinkler is too close to the house, approx. 50 feet from back door. The other is a sufficent distance away. I want to move the sprinklers further from the house and add the third missing sprinkler. My concerns: Would the compressor pump be able to handle the extra distance of 1″ dia sch 40 pink pvc pipe? I anticipate adding approx. 150-175 linear feet. I understand I would need to contact a local septic system company to map the pipe lines in order to fall under county laws for septic systems. I plan on laying the lines myself using a trencher to save some money. Any advice would be warmly received. Thanks!

    • Mike,
      I’m all about saving money, but this is probably not the advice you were hoping for. Anytime a system is altered, a permit is required. Capping and/or moving spray heads is considered altering the design of the system. When the spray heads are moved, you need to ensure the spray area is covering the proper amount of square footage that is required for your home and that it meets all setback requirements. Moving the heads is required to be done by an individual who holds a TCEQ Installer II license. I recommend the spray heads be moved by a licensed ” TCEQ Installer II” only after a professional design is submitted to the county and you have an approved permit.

      That being said, sometimes a larger pump is required if you loose to much pressure to your spray heads. A larger pump will likely require a new control board and electrical supply to your system, which is usually a pretty expensive upgrade. Using 2″ pipe may save head pressure too. This could all be calculated by someone who is qualified to design aerobic systems.

      -Courtney Van Delden

  2. I am looking for an aerobic septic system maintenance company close to where I live in Concan, Texas. The one I am currently using is too far away. I cannot seem to find on the internet any listings of aerobic maintenance companies.
    Can you help?
    Thank you,

    • Maggie,
      My best suggestion is to call your county’s septic department and see if they have a list of local TCEQ Licensed Maintenance Providers. If you are searching the internet, you might also want to try searching for septic or aerobic installers since a lot of installers also provide maintenance. You may not be able to find a TCEQ Licensed Maintenance Provider close to you, but I bet you could find some in Del Rio or Kerrville that would be willing to go to Concan, but it may come at a higher price due to the travel distance. Best wishes!

  3. Besides the color code, is there a difference between a septic sprinkler and a lawn sprinkler? I had to replace a sprinkler (someone mowed over it too many times) and couldn’t find one locally.

    • They are pretty much the same if you are using a low angle nozzle. In Texas, the top is required to be purple to indicate the spray head is designated for wastewater. They are hard to find at hardware stores, so you could check with a local installer or maintenance provider to see if they sell spray heads or if they can give you the number to their supplier.

  4. Hello! Is there a way to temporarily prevent the sprinklers from coming on? My son’s team are using our back garden for baseball training once a week and I would prefer not to give them a “shower” during this time!. We have only been in the property for a short while hence the question.

    • I understand not wanting to get “showered”! This is why we install timers on all our aerobic systems – so that the system only sprays in the middle of the night. If your system sprays “on-demand” then either don’t use any water while they are there or turn the system off. We typically don’t recommend turning the system off though. If you are interested in installing a timer, contact your maintenance provider for prices. Best of luck to the team!

    • I don’t know how to post a question on here so I’m taking a shot in the dark. I noticed a “timer” mentioned in the answer given to you. Can you tell me where that timer may be located?

    • The timer will be located in your control box (usually). The control box could be mounted on the side of your house, next to the tanks, or even under the aerator cover.

  5. Can you explain to me the importance of the sprinklers actually spraying, i.e., functioning correctly? This seems like a ridiculous question to me but my husband feels there is no importance to them actually spraying. All of our sprinklers are broken but the water still seeps/pools out of the pipes so he says that is fine and there is no reason to fix the heads. I can’t seem to find an actual explanation to show him why they need to spray vs just seep out of the pipe. Thanks.

    • In short, the spray heads need to spray out (vs. seeping/pooling out) because final treatment of the wastewater occurs through the distribution over the vegetation. Part of the system design is to spray over a certain amount of square footage to evenly distribute the wastewater without saturating the soils. Saturated soils will not treat the wastewater, which leads to environmental hazards and chances for illness to occur. I would highly recommend fixing the spray heads as soon as possible. Best wishes!

  6. We are having a pool built and are wanting to install a privacy fence. What is the acceptable distance between the underground tanks and the fence?

    • Had to say without knowing more about your system. I have seen some aerobic systems that actually have a green disk-looking device sticking up in the middle of one of the green lids, and its part of the system design. Has it always been this way or did it all of the sudden rise up? I’d suggest calling a local aerobic system provider if you are concerned.

  7. Can you set your timer to go off multiple times per day so the alarm won’t sound off every night? I have a wife and 3 daughters. Laundry piles up and showers are forever. Is there a special timer/ system I can buy through my provider to automatically shoot water out when needed? Please help!

    • Most systems with a timer are set to spray at night, but your provider may be able to install an override float. The override float is a third float in the pump tank that will override the timer whenever the tank gets too full. Usually, your alarm does come on at first, or at the same time, but then the system sprays out the water and then the alarm turns off. There may be other variations out there. Call your provider to see what he recommends. Best wishes!

    • Mike, I’m sorry for the delay in responding! We only service and install Clearstream aerobic systems, which do not have a round disk in the lids to pop up, so I’m not familiar with the system you have or what that disk is for. If you look at your system, see what brand it is and then I’d call around to find someone in your area more familiar with your systems brand.

  8. Our aerobic system makes a loud humming noise, is this normal? Also, we’re away from home several weeks at a time, do we leave it on or turn it off?

    • If your system has an aerator pump, then a humming noise is normal. Some aerators are louder than others. But, if the humming is louder than normal, that may be an indication that its working harder and may need to be replaced in the near future. Always leave all components of the system turned on. That aerator should run 24/7. Turning the power on and off can also have adverse effects on some aerators due to changes in air pressure. Hope that helps!

  9. I had a new aerobic system installed last week. Last night and all day today it has rained and the sprinklers have been running non stop. Is this normal or should I be worried? Also all the dirt on and around the tanks have eroded away and sunk about 12″ or more.

    • Is this a system we installed? If so, please call our office so we can get you taken care of. The sunken dirt around the tanks is normal settling – more dirt needs to be brought in to fill the depressed areas. It sounds like rainwater is getting into the system and being pumped out through the spray heads. Perhaps the lids need to be extended to prevent rainwater from entering the system. If we did not install it, I recommend calling the installer to see what they will offer to remedy both.

  10. Thank you for your speedy response. No your company did not install our unit. I live in McKinney, north of Dallas. I will call him today. Thank you for your help.

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  12. I have a Hoot 500S, AF low dose septic system that is 7 years old at Lake Brownwood. I am having all 3 tanks totally pumped this week for the first time. I live alone so my system is not overloaded. I am pumping because the alarm keeps going off plus the pump tank overflowed. The serviceman has pulled the pump, cleaned it, pumped the pump tank but I am trying to make sure all the basic maintenance is being taken care of. I have read a lot on the internet & my question is regarding the leach field: I cannot find a clean-out port on the field for flushing nor do I know of a way to check the pressure of the field. I have the engineers drawings but they do not show a cleanout port. How do I know if some of the laterals are stopped up by roots or whatever? I would love to get your opinion on this. Thanks!

    • I’m a little confused as to the distribution type of your system (where the water goes after it leaves the aerobic unit). In our area, if there are no spray heads to the aerobic system, then they usually have drip emitter piping. I would recommend calling your service provider or a local installer to locate/flush out the supply lines, which should be done from time to time on low-pressure dosing and drip systems. Often, these end caps/valves have to be dug up, so that may be why you cant see them visually.

  13. My husband does not like the sprinklers, he is afraid they are not good for the kids or dogs. Not to mention they spray in all different directions. He is wanting to put a cover on them. Do you have any suggestions on making this more kid or animal friendly?

    • If your system is being serviced/maintained properly then there should not be any danger to your kids or pets. That being said, I wouldn’t have my kids go run and play in the aerobic system sprinklers, but the system is designed to treat the effluent to the point where it is not a health hazard. The spray area is set by the design of the permit – sometimes the spray heads need to be adjusted – but I’d obtain a copy of the design to be sure it is spraying as designed/permitted. Putting a cover on them will prevent the spray from spraying out onto the vegetation. The final treatment occurs through absorption into the soil and vegetation, so you will be hindering that process if you put a cover over them. Id imagine the area under the cover would stay saturated and that could lead to a health hazard if the final treatment does not occur through the soil/vegetation. There are aerobic systems that do not spray onto the lawn, yet they have drip emitter piping in the ground. You may be able to modify your system (with a design/permit of course), but it will come at a cost. Spray distribution is much less expensive than a drip field. If you are interested in modifying your system, contact a local designer/installer for an estimate. After seeing the cost you might be happy to stay with the spray area.

  14. How do you manually turn on the sprinklers? Usually runs during the day, but we have not noticed lately. Routine has not changed. The red light and buzzer are not on, just wanting to check the sprinklers especially because we put new heads on. I know when tech comes for maintenance checkup, he does something at the box to make them come on. What does he do?

    • Each system is a little different on how to make the spray heads turn on manually, so I would suggest calling your maintenance provider.

  15. Is it bad for a family to live 100 ft from 6 sprinklers that you can smell that is sewage . I’m renting and have a infant my concern is the wind always comes over a hill right in front of my house the sprinkler system is right at my front door and through out the day all I smell is sewer I don’t take my baby outside. What can I do

    • I’m sorry to hear that! The spray from the aerobic system may smell musty sometimes, but it should not smell like sewage. Is this for the system at the house you are renting or a neighbors? Either way, it sounds like the system needs to be properly serviced. Chlorine alone will not make the smell go away. Usually, the first thing to check when the system smells is the oxygen in the system, but there could be other reasons as well. I would approach the system owner to have the system checked first, but if nothing is resolved and you are still concerned, you could report it to the local permitting authority (usually the county or city). I hope the situation improves!!

  16. I have a system with sprinklers that have a head that pop up when the sprinklers are on yet they didn’t put the body deep enough it sticks out of the ground making it difficult to mow because the grsss sometimes grows higher then the sprinkler can they be put lower in the ground?

    • Kenneth,

      Yes sprinklers can be lowered. If there is soil under the sprinkler head, it can be dug out and lowered usually with just a shovel. If there is rock under the sprinkler head, it way require more than a shovel to dig the spray head deeper.

  17. I haven’t heard from you about my sprinklers being buried deeper so the bodies sprinklers wouldnt be exposed and only the popup being exposed when in use can that be done?

  18. We recently bought a house with an aerobic septic system. The furthest sprinkler has standing water & is “swampy” for about 10′ in all directions. I’m gathering this probably isn’t normal? (Thanks for a very useful site, by the way!)

    • I’m glad you find this site helpful! To answer your question: No, this is not normal. It sounds like the spray head need to be replaced. Is the spray head down-hill from the system? Sometimes you can get a siphoning effect from this, but in most cases the spray head just needs to be replaced.

  19. How high should the spinkler head come up from pipe?? Does it matter that it’s 3 to 4 inches above the pipe/ ground??

    • The fact that a spray head stick up a few inches is no a problem, maybe other than aesthetics. If you live in an area when it freezes, it may be more susceptible to freezing/cracking. You may have to be more careful when mowing too. But as far as functionality, this has not proven to be an issue for our customers.

  20. We just bought a house with an aerobic system and since it was “as is” we knew we would have to do work. When the cover to the system was taken off, however, it was corroded and the pump circuit was tripped. Also, the chlorine didn’t look as if it had been used by the system (still a lot in it). The red light is on, but I’m wondering if that could be because the circuit was tripped from corrosion, or if the light means the system is backed up. We are having someone come out this week, but if it’s just the control panel needing replaced, my husband can easily handle this and save us some money. Would a corroded panel cause the red light and pump circuit to trip, and excess chlorine?

    • Unfortunately, there are so many hypotheticals in this scenario, it would be impossible to tell you exactly what is wrong. However, excess chlorine is probably not related to the control panel (unless the control panel controls the chlorine levels, but I’ve never seen any that function that way). The red light can mean 100 different things: just like when your “check engine” light comes on your car – it could mean MANY different things. Your issues may be related to each other, or you might have a several different issues that need to be addressed. I would contact a local, experienced maintenance provider to properly diagnose and repair. If replacing the control panel is easy for your husband, you can try that, but if there are other underlying issues, then you’ll still need to get it properly diagnosed and repaired. Also, if there is something going on with the pump/wiring, you don’t want it to cause a new control panel to go bad prematurely.

  21. Within the past 1-2 weeks my system started spraying 1-2x daily, during the day. Previously I rarely noticed spraying, I think because it was at night. I can’t tell if it’s on a timer that somehow adjusted. Is daily spraying normal? (Not much rain over the past few weeks).

    • It sounds like it may have to do with the timer or photocell. It will spray as often as it needs to, depending on how much water you use. Also, be sure you don’t have any running toilets, dripping faucets, etc.

  22. first thanks for having all this info on your site as well as doing some Q&A. i live in orange county, TX and have a clear stream 500n with drip lines 2 zones. starting to have some problems with roots getting into the drip and connectors braking at the headers wanting to go to spray heads. have contacted my county health department about this and acquired the stamped drawing of the original design. was told i would be in violation but they couldn’t tell me why or what law prohibits this just to get with the professional sanitarian that stamped the drawing. the area the spray heads would be in are 100’+ away from my water well and 13′ from property line. (same area the drip is located). just seeing if you know this would be in violation?

    • Usually, drip lines are installed as a last resort, so my first thought is that there must be a reason that spray heads were not installed to begin with. There are other regulations regarding to spray area locations (i.e. making spray heads out of violation), so I would agree that you need to contact a septic designer (Registered Sanitarian or Engineer). If you contact the designer that designed your drip system, he may be able to tell you why it was designed to have drip instead of spray. If you cant get a good answer, I’d contact other septic designers and provide them with a copy of the drawing you got from the county and see if they can help. Good luck!

  23. This blog is awesome, learning so much. We are looking to purchase a home with land so we can have our horses with us. What is the normal spray radius of the sprinklers and how far do we need to keep our equine friends from the area that in sprayed?

  24. My pretreatment access dome or lid does not seem to close securely. …obviously rainwater can trickle in thru there….should it be sealed or locked down?

    • Obviously, you want to keep rainwater from entering the system, but a little may enter with heavy rains. If you have a lid that can be screwed on, that should be fine. You could extend the riser higher to prevent surface water from entering the system. Typically, sealing the lids will make future maintenance harder. There are so many lid/riser types its hard to give you a solid answer because I don’t know your specifics.

  25. I recently purchased a home in Harris county texas with a clearstream aerobic system that was already installed. I would like to know who I need to contact to get a copy of the septic system layout. We recently had some heavy rains and I have water backing up a 3″ pipe that is in my yard about 10 feet from my kitchen sink. It seems to especially overflow when running our garage disposal. We have only been in the house about 20 days and want to prevent this from becoming a catastrophe. Thanks for the help and all the advice

    • Typically in Texas, aerobic systems are permitted through the county so you can usually obtain a copy from them. Or, you could try calling the installer if you know who that was. Is you alarm on for the system? Did you have an inspection on the aerobic system when you were in your option period?

  26. How close to the perimeter of the home can the sprinkler heads be located? or is there a minimum distance?

    • Per Texas regulations set by TCEQ, there is no separation distance between the spray head/area and foundations, however, each local entity can be stricter. You really need to check with the local permitting authority as it may vary.

  27. Is it necessary to add anything periodically to my aerobic system? I have seen an additive called Bio-Clean, but I cannot find it anywhere locally. They advertise the benefit is adding bacteria to the system to break down more solids, thus having to pump less often. What are your thoughts? Thanks in advance for your feedback.

    • No, you do not need to add anything to your aerobic system, and doing so could actually be bad for the system. There is no product that can magically break down the solids in the tank. Just by using the system (and not abusing it), there is natural bacteria in the tank. I don’t know of any 3rd party entity that recommend adding bacteria, unless its self acclaimed or possibly a company trying to make an extra buck off of service. That being said, there can be exceptions to the rule, but it doesn’t sound like you need it.

  28. My annual maintenance contract is up for renewal. Is there a process for me to get certified to DIY my own maintenance and reporting? Not looking to contract out, but I’ve watched the guys perform the service….it ain’t rocket science. I’m in Montgomery County, north of Houston. I just hate paying for things that I can do.

    • TCEQ sets Texas state minimum standards, but each county can be more strict. Some counties allow homeowners to do the service themselves, some don’t. Some counties have DIY certifications, but not many do. While it may seem like service is easy, there is a lot of knowledge that is needed behind it to do a good job. Besides fully understanding how the system works and how each part works in its own way for system operation, it requires a lot of electrical knowledge, diagnosing experience, and health risks since you are dealing with raw sewage (it is definitely recommended to get the recommended vaccines), and having the necessary tools and parts on hand for maintenance and repairs. There’s much more than just checking the chlorine and making sure there’s no overflow…although that’s all that some service providers do…so it may seem easy if that’s the kind of service you’ve been receiving. Our company prides ourselves in doing the most thorough service with well qualified technicians (which then go through a lot of training)…which believe it or not, is VERY difficult to find even at the highest pay grade in the industry. Its not rocket science, but there’s a lot more to it than most people think. If you really want to DIY your service, check with your county septic department for local rules and classes.

  29. I’m trying to help my elderly neighbor troubleshoot why his aerobic system buzzer will not shutoff even though his sprinklers spray. I looked in his pump tank and noticed the gray float sitting below the top of pump (more than half the pump can be seen). I think this gray float has fallen down and is snagged on the pump. I was able to lift it only an inch with a pvc pipe with a hook then sprinklers went off. So to me this is the “on” float and there is a yellow float which I think is the low level float which is one foot up from the gray float. It appears both floats we’re only attached with tape. So basically only about 2 feet of the tank is being used. Someone told him your aerator is going out, but there’s no smell. I think his on float has fallen. What do you think?

    • See my question above. Thank you. Great website. I use to be a TCEQ OSSF inspector over 20 years ago. But I’ve forgotten a lot of stuff.

    • A fallen “on” float likely would not cause an alarm (but it may cause the pump to continuously run causing it to burn up), unless this float happens to be the high water alarm float which may be staying active for some reason. Either way, the floats should be secure in the tank. Once the floats are secure, see if that takes care of the alarm. If not, then you might have an aerator issue also.

  30. Hi, I am not very familiar with these systems and I have a couple of questions that are of concern to me. My neighbor has one of these systems and almost every day around 3-4pm…about the time I am bringing my son home from school, his system starts spraying. The issue I am concerned about is, that he doesn’t use any chlorine in the system and the smell that comes from the spraying is absolutely awful. You really can’t stay outside without getting nauseated. Sometimes I open the windows to let fresh air in but I will have to close them when it comes on. I have even had guests over when this happens on the weekends and they have told me that it does not seem safe. Should this be a health concern? I am mainly concerned that when the wind is blowing, that fecal matter and whatever else is in the water being sprayed, is coming onto my property and is also in the air we are breathing. I thought it was required to use the chlorine to keep it from being a health concern. If so, who should I contact about this matter. Thank you in advance for your time.

    • No aerobic system should have a sewage-type odor. This is usually an indication of a lack of treatment of the wastewater, so I’d be concerned too. There are many reasons that could cause this. Chlorine will help aid in disinfection but will not get rid of the odor, there is probably a lack of aeration or something causing a lack of treatment. Have you tried talking to your neighbor? As a last resort, you could report it to the County or local health department, but I would only do that if your neighbor is not being cooperative in resolving the issue.

  31. I purchased a home in Montgomery county and it has a Clearstream system which I am completely unfamiliar with. Which tank do I add the chlorine to? The fist, second or both? How much do I add? Also, is there some kind of cover that I can buy to go over the aerator to quiet it down?

    • You really need to have a maintenance provider come look at your system and tell you where your chlorinator is. Some Clearstream systems have the chlorinator built in, some aren’t, and depending on the age/model of the system, the chlorinator may be inside the pump tank, between the aerobic and pump tank, or even installed directly into the lid. There’s so many ways to set them up, that I can’t tell you without seeing your system.

  32. i have lived in magnolia tx for 7 months and the neighbors aerobatic system has saturated my back yard 2 times a few days ago i was up to my angles in their mess what can i do about this we all live on 1/3 acre lot i should not need to deal with their septic issues yes i have tried to talk to him he waved his hand in my face and walked away. what do i do now?

    • You can always contact the local septic department to file a complaint (usually the County) – they will investigate if there is any health hazard/public nuisance and address with the owner if they find that its needed.

  33. Hello,
    We are thinking to buy some land to build a house it requires an aerobic septic system the problem is the Spray some of it would be on a hill and going uphill is that allowed

    • It depends on local regulations. The spray piping is pressurized so it can spray at a higher elevation than the tanks. You may be limited as to how much slope there can be.

  34. How many hours should an aerobic system sprinklers be spraying for 2 people living in the home? We just moved in and the sprinklers spray from 1130pm – 6am! Thanks in advance!

    • It will depend on the levels that your floats are set at. However, that sure seems like a very lengthy amount of time. Do you have any dripping faucets or running commodes that may be putting extra water into the system?

  35. Friends called me to replace a sprinkler head on their aerobic system, said it was broken, too much standing water. What I found upon arrival was the tanks are at the top of a hill, and the heads (esp. one in particular) are lower than the tank, one being situated at least 4 feet lower than the outlet of the pump. I tried to explain they need to situate the sprinkler head at a higher grade, approximately the same level as the pump outlet and keep the discharge line level by that method, otherwise, in my opinion, the water left in the 1″ line will simply drain down to the lower sprinkler head following each discharge They don’t want to agree, but I know of no other way, because I doubt there are heads that seal after pump discharge, but they feel the head being replaced should stop the water from draining out. Well, water has been known to run downhill, so is there any other solution? Thx.

    • The spray heads usually have internal seals that do go bad so replacement may be the first step. Also, there are sometimes gaskets that can be inserted around the internal filter of the spray head to prevent water from draining out. Usually the supplier will get a pack of gaskets with the case of spray heads but these are not typically inserted unless specifically requested to be inserted. There are many brands of spray heads so there may be variations of these gaskets and seals. You may be able to call your local supplier and see if they can get you a new spray head with an extra gasket and possibly and extra seal. You may want to give that a try before raising the spray head elevation. If there is excessive water siphoning from of the pump tank and out of the spray head, you may also want to then try adding an anti-siphon hole on the spray line inside of the tank to break the vacuum and to prevent the tank from completely draining once the pump turns off.

    • It depends on your local regulations. In Texas, there are no separation distances between foundations and the edge of the spray area. Check your local rules as it may vary by local jurisdiction.

  36. We have a small compose area in the back yard that has rich soil in it. About 2 months ago I noticed that the aerobic septic sprinkler in the back turned itself and was watering the compose pile! I have no idea how many time it had done that as I usually don’t look back there. Is it safe to use the soil from that compose pile for my vegetable garden this year?

    • We are not sure if harmful bacteria in soil affects vegetables. You may want to check with a gardening expert.

  37. I have a Clearstream 600n aerobic and liquid overflowing into my pump compartment through 4″ pvc has a removable pvc case. Is there supposed to be a filter in there or is this for chlorine pucks? I add liquid bleach outside of my hatch compartments in a separate 4″ pipe that gets sucked in by pump recirculation little at a time. And where I add chlorine bleach has a tee connection with one end aubmerged on bottom and the other end above liquid level closer to the lid. Should both be submerged or is this set up to be part of eduction process?

    • It sounds like an old tablet chlorinator. If so, you can leave the old chlorine tube out, it is no longer necessary. If the liquid chlorinator is using chlorine at a moderate level in comparison to the amount of water being introduced into the system, then it is most likely working as designed. Depending on the model, it relies on a Venturi set up which would require it to have access to atmospheric pressure, i.e., above the water level. Hope this helps.

  38. I just had my system pumped. When they left, I looked into the two exposed tanks and saw the water was very low in both of them. Its now been 8 days since the system was pumped and the water level in the farthest from the house tank is still the same level but the one closest to the house is getting pretty full and I don’t see any water dripping into the rear tank like I used to. The sprinklers have not kicked on since the tanks were pumped.

    • Is this an aerobic system? If so, the last tank with the pump in it will keep the level lower than the other tanks when it sprays onto the yard. Depending on how much water your family uses, its possible that you haven’t used enough water for the tanks to fill enough to spray out. Or, perhaps you just haven’t seen the spray heads go off, or maybe the system is on a timer. Is the alarm on? Is the power to the system turned on?

  39. I am new to septic… I have an on/off switch on the outside of my home for my septic tank. this switch is located right where the tank is located. This is in addition to the panel in my basement. Should the outside switch be set to ON or OFF? There is no alarm going off and there is no problems with the septic tank.

    • My first thought is that they should both be “on”, unless there is something weird with the wiring. There’s always those odd scenarios that make it hard to say that one size fits all.

  40. I’m getting ready to build a 90,000 square ft storage facility in Montgomery County, TX. The local sewer district wants me to pay $10,000 for a sewer tap and then extra taxes every year forever. So I started thinking why not an aerobic system?
    I will have 1 bathroom for this project and that’s it. 1 potential issue is this…the sprinkler heads will be about 600 feet away from the bathroom. Is that too far to run the piping? Does anyone have an idea about something like this would cost? This is an important one….how much room is required for the disposing area. The area that I want to do it in Is about 7,000 square ft

    Thanks in advance
    Matt Erickson

    • You might not be able to put in an aerobic system if city sewer is available. It probably depends on the local ordinances. As far as the required spray area, you’ll want to consult with a designer that knows the local regulations as each county can have more stringent rules than the minimums set by TCEQ.

  41. My aerobic system is about five years old and has functioned fine till recently. I have two discharge sprinklers. When the pump kicks on the first sprinkler works fine. The second just trickles a little. I replaced the sprinkler and only slightly improved the trickle. With the sprinkler dug up and removed, I manually started the pump. First sprinkler is great as usual. Barely any flow at the fitting where I disconnected the second sprinkler. I have no soft spots between the sprinklers so I do not suspect a leak. I assume there is a tee somewhere but am not sure what to do next. Thank you. Great site with lots of great advice!

    • Thanks! We love to help when we can! The price will likely vary a lot by region and regulations, but I’d say between $800 – $2500 would be a fair ballpark range. Other things that affect the cost are if the digging will be done by hand or with machinery, ease of access of relocation area, etc. Hope that helps! Also, permitting is usually required, so this will effect the cost if you are paying a professional for pulling a permit, or if your “buddy” does the work on the side 🙂

    • You may not see any leaks, clogs, or faulty connections from the surface. It’s may require digging up and inspecting the line in further detail.

  42. Is there an average cost to redirect lines of an aerobic system if we want to build a pool? If so, what is the range of cost?

  43. I use vinegar and baking soda every few months to clean my sink drains – is that harmful to the aerobic system? Also I use toilet bowl cleaner when needed (Lysol brand NOT CLOROX BRAND). I try to do it only when necessary. Any problem using the Lysol Toilet Bowl cleaner.

    • Most cleaning chemicals are ok if used in moderation. A little common sense goes a long way though. For example, a 5 bathroom house with a maid that cleans 1-2 times per week will be adding more chemicals to a system than a home that has 2 bathrooms and only cleans 1-2 times per month.

  44. When we moved into our home, we were told to pour 1 gal of bleach a month into the chlorinator pipe outside to keep the smell down. I’m not sure that this is correct. Shouldn’t we be using tablets instead of liquid bleach? Also, the sprinkler heads are very close to the house and I think that they should be farther away, What is the normal distance for the sprinkler heads to be away from the house?

    • There are several types of chlorinators. If you were instructed to use bleach (liquid chlorine), then you must have a liquid chlorinator. There are also tablet chlorinators that use tablets, but the chlorinators are not universal, so you need to use the right type of chlorine for your chlorinator (which it sounds like liquid). There is no “normal” distance for spray area because the spray locations are usually custom locations for each property. Every state/county has different regulations for setback distance between spray area and the house. Here in Texas, there is no setback requirement – which means the spray area can be right up to the foundation (but not on it). Hope that helps!

  45. I have a master switch next to my water well which cuts water to the entire property. I am going on vacation for a couple of weeks and had considered shutting off this switch/valve by the well so that I can avoid any potential water disasters while I’m away. But I don’t know how this might affect my aerobic system. Even though there is no waste going to the system, is it harmful to have the water turned off?

    • Turning the water off should not be an issue. Just be sure to keep the electricity on so that the aerator can still run.

  46. our septic tank all of the sudden started to gurgle and I noticed that our sprinklers were not coming on. I’ve cleaned the sprinkler heads, checked the float to make sure not caught up on any thing and still nothing going to sprinklers!

    • There’s a lot of other things that it could be. It could be that the pump is inoperable or clogged up, it could be the float is bad, it could be wiring or the control board, or a popped breaker, etc. If your system has a timer or photocell, you will have to mess with those to manually activate the pump.

  47. We are relativley new to the aerobic septic system; purchased an existing home. There are three floats in the tank. The middle float is the alarm float. We’ve had timer problems lately and the service guy today noted that the alarm float should be the top float. After some thought, wouldn’t it make sense to have the middle float the alarm float … when there’s still additionalmcapacity in the tank? He’s planning to return to move the alarm float to the top but if not correct, not sure I want them to do that. Central Texas north of Austin.

    And thank you for this very helpful info.

    • Our pump tanks are set up with 3 floats: the bottom float is the one that turns the pump on (then the timer activates when its time to spray), the middle float is the alarm float, the top float is the override float so that if there is excessive high water, it will override the timer and allow the system to spray. A lot of tanks are only set up with 2 floats (the pump “on” float and the alarm float), so maybe he is thinking of that? Or, maybe their systems are usually different than ours, where the middle float overrides the timer and allows the system to spray so that the alarm does not activate for high water unless the pump really isn’t turning on. There could be other ways that are more preferable to others. I wouldn’t think the order of the floats would cause or resolve any of your timer issues though. Maybe he can help explain his reasoning for wanting the alarm float on top. Ultimately, its your system – if you don’t wan it changed then don’t change it…but if he has a logical reason for his suggestion for your system and can explain his reasoning, then you might want to take his advice. Best wishes!

  48. Hello. Great information on this website. Question for you as we just our septic maintenance done last week and the gentleman suggested we try something we had not heard of in the 8 years we have been in our home. He said add a cup of sugar to the toilet closest to our system. Flush it down, wait 15 minutes and then add a cup of cornmeal and flush it. This will create a yeast like bacteria that will help break down the black water and filter it before it goes to the next sections. This will help the sludge levels. We had so many issues when we first got the system and are finally seeing the benefits. I would hate to disrupt that. (It was not installed by your company). Your answers to the many questions here were most helpful in understanding the aerobic system by the way. Thank you.

    • I’ve never heard specifically of that method, but there are a lot of “theories” of items that people put in their system. The truth is, there is no magic solution, and you shouldn’t need to add anything to your system. The tanks already have the bacteria needed to break down the solids, so just be sure you aren’t introducing anything in the system that will affect the bacteria. Sometimes, its a matter of household usage (items we eat, medicines taken, hydraulic surges of water into the system, etc.) The good news is, sugar and corn starch wont harm the system like other items sold off the shelf or the many other things people want to put into their system. Will it help? Probably not, but if it doesn’t hurt, then try it and see. Did he recommend a frequency? You mentioned “you are finally seeing the benefits”, is this after one week of using the sugar and corn starch?

  49. I need to put a timer on my aerobic system as my control box does not have one. I called my service provider and they wanted over $700 for a new control box with a timer. I was thinking I could just have a Intermatic 24hr shut off timer installed next to the control box (like I have for my outside lights at night) and have it be a cheaper alternative. That sound like a good solution or am I missing something?

    • There may be a reason, did you ask your maintenance provider? This is possible in some circumstances, but in others its best to have a newto control box with timer.

  50. Hi I’m new to aerobic systems. I dint know you had to have your system check at least 3 times a year. Know I got a fine for it. Do you know if I show proof that hat I got someone to check It would have hey accept it?

    • You’ll need to check with the Authority that gave you the fine, but in any case I’m sure they’ll want to see that you got someone to check it.

  51. Hi I’m new to aerobic systems. I dint know you had to have your system check at least 3 times a year. Know I got a fine for it. Do you know if I show

  52. We are considering selling a portion of our property and will have to relocate our aerobic system sprinklers about 50 ft to stay compliant with our local county code. What can we expect to pay to have this done, including the redesign and labor? We may not sell the property if relocating the sprinkler heads is cost-prohibitive.

    • Here locally, typically spray re-routes run between $1200 – $2000 all inclusive, assuming there are no access issues and that you have enough area to re-route the spray heads. In some instances, re-routing the heads can turn into a whole new system, or converting to drip irrigation, which is much more costly, but those instances are rare. It will depend a lot on your local regulations and local costs. I would suggest calling around to get accurate pricing.

  53. Hi. Thank you so much for all of your knowledge. I am purchasing a home that is now in escrow. It was brought to my attention just a cpl of hours ago that my new home is using the aerobic septic. I know NOTHING about this. I am concerned. I love the home. I have extreme O.C.D. I am worried and now wonder if I should go thru on this purchase… I read above that someone mentioned they were seeing the benefits of using Aerobic Septic. What are the benefits? Is it possible to not use this time and have the normal sewage from the city installed in my rural area? if so, what do you think approximately, the cost of installing the type of sewage that I don’t have to do anything with? I’m really concerned about this because again, I never even heard of this… Thank you in advance for any info you can provide me with…

    • Hi,

      I’m happy to help as best as possible. You have a lot of concerns and questions that I think are addressed in the following links. I would definitely consider hiring a professional and experienced inspector for the brand of aerobic system that is at the property and meet with them so you can understand how the system works. It will either put your mind at ease or the opposite…but at least you will know. Also, check with the company(s) who have been servicing that system and ask questions, see if they can give you any maintenance history. It’s a good idea to have a 3rd party person do the real-estate inspection (not the person currently servicing the system) so that you can get another eye on it. System set-ups vary per state, so I can’t give you a lot of specifics. Aerobic system are not scary, but they do require more maintenance and expense just due to the nature of the system. I hope these links help. (Then scroll down to the FAQs for aerobic systems)

  54. I have a clearstream system, a 500N. It has a high level float that turns the pump on if the water level in the pump tank should get too high, for whatever reason. We had a lot of rain recently and apparently the system is taking in some rain water. I was able to manually turn on the pump and was able to reduce the delay time and cover the photosensor so the pump would come on and empty the pump tank. Everything works, but apparently the high level float switch is bad. That’s a normally open float switch, correct?

  55. I have a clearstream system, 500N. The contactor is snapping constantly in the control box. A red light is blinking on and off on the timer every time it snaps. Is this a sign of a bad contactor or timer? Also what should the 10 hour timer be set at? It has two dials, one ON one OFF. The ON is set to 3 and OFF to 7. It is a Crouzet ODRU timer. It has the two dials and a green and red light. The green light is on all the time. The red one is blinking and the contactor is jumping every time it blinks. I really appreciate your input. Thank you

    • Because there are SO many variables – we can’t attempt to diagnose electrical issues without checking the system. I’d recommend contacting a licensed service provider to check the system and answer your questions personally. Best wishes!

  56. We have an aerobic system. When bleach is low, we used to get the we do not. The system is running and we tested the alarm via switch, it is working as well. The system is only two years old…no foul smell, etc. shall we be concerned? When we first moved in, the alarm went off for low bleach at least once a nothing, even though we check it and it’s low or run out..

    • I’ve never heard of the chlorinator having an alarm, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some out there. Are you sure your alarm was related to your chlorine level and not just a coincidence of timing? The chlorine does not control odors, that is more related to the oxygen in the system. Maybe call a licensed professional to come check your system and answer your questions.

  57. We have an aerobic system. When bleach is low, we used to get the we do not. The system is running and we tested the alarm via switch, it is working as well. The system is only two years old…no foul smell, etc. shall we be concerned? When we first moved in, the alarm went off for low bleach at least once a nothing

  58. why do some people living in the same neighborhood have to have the aerobic system and others get by with having the old septic ground type system put in..we were required to have a soil test and were told we had to have the aerobic system…one neighbor had his put in with no soil test…and the other had his septic system which was leaking redone and just had more field line put in…it ends 2 ft. from my property line

    • Good questions! Not sure where you are located…but I will have to answer as it relates to our local area and local regulations in the San Antonio and surrounding areas. First, there are a lot of conventional septic systems that were installed before aerobic systems were required, so those older systems may be grandfathered if they are working properly. Here, aerobic systems are required if there is too much rock. There are some subdivisions here that each lot has a different soil type – so some are allowed to have conventional while others require aerobic or even other types of systems. I don’t know your neighbors situation, but here locally, any time a system is constructed, altered, extended or repaired, a permit is required. The permit application requires information about the soil on the property – which requires soil profile holes for a conventional system. The permit also ensures the drainfield meets setback requirements from property lines, etc. I can’t answer all your questions to the specifics of your neighbors, but the permits are usually public record, so you might be able to contact your local health/septic department and ask those questions.

  59. Is there a setback from property line for an aerobic system. We are planning on selling part of our property in ft bend county and the tanks are close to the proposed property line.

    • TCEQ sets the minimum standards and setback requirements, but your county may have more stringent regulations, so you really need to verify with Fort Bend County if that is where the property is located. Per TCEQ rules: the setback from tank to property line is 5 feet, the setback from the edge of the spray area to the property line is 10 to 20 feet depending on if the system uses a timer (or if your aerobic system has drip irrigation the setback is 5 feet). Again, check with your county though because they might have more stringent rules.

  60. We are going to have a hard freeze. is there anything we are supposed to do to our aerobic system to prevent problems? The timer is supposed to go off in the middle of the night (early morning)

    • The spray heads or spray lines may freeze, but there’s not a lot you can do to prevent this. If you delay the timer for your heads to spray when its not freezing, then that might prevent frozen spray heads. But, we do not turning the power off to your system. If you have a linear aerator, the diaphragms could be affected by the cold weather, but you cant really prevent that.

  61. We have an aerobic system. The last few days we have had a very hard freeze. I am hearing a constant tapping noise coming from the bathroom faucet. Is this because the pump is working to keep the water flowing within the septic tank?

    • The tapping should not be from the aerobic system…it sounds more like you might have other frozen pipes in the house. The spray heads could freeze along with the spray lines, but usually the water within the tanks do not freeze because they are more insulated and its more water volume. It’s possible your pump cant pump down the liquids because of frozen spray pipes/heads, but I can’t think of a reason you’d have a tapping noise from the bathroom faucet.

  62. we are dealing with a spray advanced treatment system and now (because it is so unusually cold here) we are having problems with the spray heads freezing and setting off the alarm) Do you know of any remedy (besides a thaw which we are not expecting anytime soon) for freezing and refreezing sprinkler heads?

    • You’ll probably just need to wait until it thaws out, and minimize your water usage until the system can spray out unless you manually thaw them somehow.

  63. Hello, my Aerobic septic tank gave us a high water level warning. We have had freezing temperatures here in Dallas for about three days. I turned of the power switch for the water line per my service providers recommendation. I am under the assumption that the pipes that lead to the sprinklers are frozen. We have been conservative on our water use since the alarm. The sun is finally out and temperatures are supposed to get to 45 today by noon. How long do you recommend waiting to turn back on the power switch for the water line? I am worried about cracking the pipes.

    Thank you so much for your advice.

    • Fortunately, we don’t have long freezes much in Texas. We are in San Antonio, where we get even less cold weather than you, so we don’t really have a lot of experience with this situation on an on-going basis, so I don’t really have a good answer for you. I’d wait until everything starts to thaw out, then try at your best discretion.

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