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A manhole (alternatively utility hole, cable chamber, maintenance hole, inspection chamber or access chamber) is the top opening to an underground utility vault used to house an access point for making connections or performing maintenance on underground and buried public utility and other services including sewers, telephone, electricity, storm drains and gas. It is protected by a manhole cover, also known as a ‘biscuit’, a plug designed to prevent accidental or unauthorized access to the manhole. Those plugs are usually made of metal or constructed from precast concrete (especially in Europe). Manholes are usually outfitted with metal or polypropylene steps installed in the inner side of the wall to allow easy descent into the manhole.

Manholes are generally found in urban areas, in streets and occasionally under sidewalks. They are usually in circular shape to prevent accidental fall of the cover in the hole.

In rural and undeveloped areas, services such as telephone and electricity may be carried on pylons rather than underground.

  • Leaking Water and Sewer lines
  • Water Pressure Problems
  • Pressure Relief and Pressure Reducing Valves
  • Leaking Faucets, Valves and Fixtures
  • Sewage Ejector Pumps
  • Backflow Preventer Installation and Testing
  • Plumbing Fixture Installations and Repairs
  • Drain Cleaning, Sewer Cleaning & Jetting
  • Leak Detection & Leak Repair
  • Polybutylene Pipe Replacement, Polybutylene Repiping
  • Emergency Plumbing Repairs
  • Plumbing Fixture Installations and Repairs
  • Polybutylene Pipe Replacement, Polybutylene Repiping
  • Drain Cleaning & Sewer Cleaning
  • Water Heater Installation
  • Water Heater Replacement
  • Water Heater Repair
  • Camera Inspections
  • Leak Detection & Repair
  • Gas Leak Detection & Repair
  • Gas Appliance Installations
  • Water Pressure Regulators

A septic tank, the key component of the septic system, is a small scale sewage treatment system common in areas with no connection to main sewage pipes provided by local governments or private corporations. (Other components, typically mandated and/or restricted by local governments, optionally include pumps, alarms, sand filters, and clarified liquid effluent disposal means such as a septic drain field, ponds, natural stone fibre filter plants or peat moss beds.) Septic systems are a type of On-Site Sewage Facility (OSSF). In North America approximately 25% of the population relies on septic tanks; this can include suburbs and small towns as well as rural areas (Indianapolis is an example of a large city where many of the city’s neighborhoods are still on separate septic systems). In Europe they are generally limited to rural areas only.

The term “septic” refers to the anaerobic bacterial environment that develops in the tank and which decomposes or mineralizes the waste discharged into the tank. Septic tanks can be coupled with other on-site wastewater treatment units such as biofilters or aerobic systems involving artificial forced aeration.[1]

Periodic preventive maintenance is required to remove the irreducible solids which settle and gradually fill the tank, reducing its efficiency. In most jurisdictions this maintenance is required by law, yet often not enforced. Those who ignore the requirement will eventually be faced with extremely costly repairs when solids escape the tank and destroy the clarified liquid effluent disposal means. A properly maintained system, on the other hand, can last for decades and possibly a lifetime.

A septic tank generally consists of a tank (or sometimes more than one tank) of between 1,000 and 2,000 gallons (4000 – 7500 litres) in size connected to an inlet wastewater pipe at one end and a septic drain field at the other. These pipe connections are generally made via a T pipe which allows liquid entry and exit without disturbing any crust on the surface. Today the design of the tank usually incorporates two chambers (each of which is equipped with a manhole cover) which are separated by means of a dividing wall which has openings located about midway between the floor and roof of the tank.

Wastewater enters the first chamber of the tank, allowing solids to settle and scum to float. The settled solids are anaerobically digested reducing the volume of solids. The liquid component flows through the dividing wall into the second chamber where further settlement takes place with the excess liquid then draining in a relatively clear condition from the outlet into the leach field, also referred to as a drain field, or seepage field, depending upon locality.

Septic tank lift pump alarm system located in a house.

The remaining impurities are trapped and eliminated in the soil, with the excess water eliminated through percolation into the soil (eventually returning to the groundwater), through evaporation, and by uptake through the root system of plants and eventual transpiration. A piping network, often laid in a stone filled trench (see weeping tile), distributes the wastewater throughout the field with multiple drainage holes in the network. The size of the leach field is proportional to the volume of wastewater and inversely proportional to the porosity of the drainage field. The entire septic system can operate by gravity alone, or where topographic considerations require, with inclusion of a lift pump. Certain septic tank designs include siphons or other methods of increasing the volume and velocity of outflow to the drainage field. This helps to load all portions of the drainage pipe more evenly and extends the drainage field life by preventing premature clogging.

An Imhoff tank is a two-stage septic system where the sludge is digested in a separate tank. This avoids mixing digested sludge with incoming sewage. Also, some septic tank designs have a second stage where the effluent from the anaerobic first stage is aerated before it drains into the seepage field.

Waste that is not decomposed by the anaerobic digestion eventually has to be removed from the septic tank, or else the septic tank fills up and undecomposed wastewater discharges directly to the drainage field. Not only is this bad for the environment, but if the sludge overflows the septic tank into the leach field, it may clog the leach field piping or decrease the soil porosity itself, requiring expensive repairs.

How often the septic tank has to be emptied depends on the volume of the tank relative to the input of solids, the amount of indigestible solids and the ambient temperature (as anaerobic digestion occurs more efficiently at higher temperatures). The required frequency varies greatly depending on jurisdiction, usage, and system characteristics. Some health authorities require tanks to be emptied at prescribed intervals, while others leave it up to the determination of the inspector. Some systems require pumping every few years or sooner, while others may be able to go 10-20 years between pumpings. Contrary to what many believe, there is no “rule of thumb” for how often tanks should be emptied. An older system with an undersized tank that is being used by a large family will require much more frequent pumping than a new system used by only a few people. Anaerobic decomposition is rapidly re-started when the tank re-fills.

A properly designed and normally operating septic system is odour free and, besides periodic inspection and pumping of the septic tank, should last for decades with no maintenance.

A well designed and maintained concrete, fibreglass or plastic tank should last about 50 years.[2]

  • Excessive dumping of cooking oils and grease can cause the inlet drains to block. Oils and grease are often difficult to degrade and can cause odour problems and difficulties with the periodic emptying.
  • Flushing non-biodegradable hygiene products such as sanitary towels and cotton buds will rapidly fill or clog a septic tank; these materials should not be disposed of in this way.
  • The use of garbage disposers for disposal of waste food can cause a rapid overload of the system and early failure.
  • Certain chemicals may damage the working of a septic tank, especially pesticides, herbicides, materials with high concentrations of bleach or caustic soda (lye) or any other inorganic materials such as paints or solvents.
  • Roots from trees and shrubbery growing above the tank or the drain field may clog and or rupture them.
  • Playgrounds and storage buildings may cause damage to a tank and the drainage field. In addition, covering the drainage field with an impervious surface, such as a driveway or parking area, will seriously affect its efficiency and possibly damage the tank and absorption system.
  • Excessive water entering the system will overload it and cause it to fail. Checking for plumbing leaks and practicing water conservation will help the system’s operation.
  • Over time biofilms develop on the pipes of the drainage field which can lead to blockage. Such a failure can be referred to as “Biomat failure”.[3]
  • Septic tanks by themselves are ineffective at removing nitrogen compounds that can potentially cause algal blooms in receiving waters; this can be remedied by using a nitrogen-reducing technology,[4] or by simply ensuring that the leach field is properly sited to prevent direct entry of effluent into bodies of water. Some pollutants, especially sulfates, under the anaerobic conditions of septic tanks, are reduced to hydrogen sulfide, a pungent and toxic gas. Likewise, methane, a potent greenhouse gas is another by-product. Nitrates and organic nitrogen compounds are reduced to ammonia. Because of the anaerobic conditions, fermentation processes take place, which ultimately generate carbon dioxide and methane.The fermentation processes cause the contents of a septic tank to be anoxic with a low redox potential, which keeps phosphate in a soluble and thus mobilized form. Because phosphate can be the limiting nutrient for plant growth in many ecosystems, the discharge from a septic tank into the environment can trigger prolific plant growth including algal blooms which can also include blooms of potentially toxic cyanobacteria.

    Soil capacity to retain phosphorus is large compared with the load through a normal residential septic tank. An exception occurs when septic drain fields are located in sandy or coarser soils on property adjoining a water body. Because of limited particle surface area, these soils can become saturated with phosphate. Phosphate will progress beyond the treatment area, posing a threat of eutrophication to surface waters.[5]

    In areas with high population density, groundwater pollution levels often exceed acceptable limits. Some small towns are facing the costs of building very expensive centralized wastewater treatment systems because of this problem, owing to the high cost of extended collection systems.

    To effectively treat the sewage waste in Septic Tanks, it is convenient to install Aerobic Treatment Units which supply air and ensure development of micro organisms, without the need for activated sludge. In a three chambered system, the last chamber works both as the settling chamber as well as the anoxic chamber, which is a denitryfying process and removes the nitrates which cause algae bloom to develop in receiving water bodies. For more details log on to [][2]

    To slow development, building moratoriums and limits on the subdivision of property are often imposed. Ensuring existing septic tanks are functioning properly can also be helpful for a limited time, but becomes less effective as a primary remediation strategy as population density increases.

    Trees in the vicinity of a concrete septic tank have the potential to penetrate the tank as the system ages and the concrete begins to develop cracks and small leaks. Tree roots can cause serious flow problems due to plugging and blockage of drain pipes, but the trees themselves tend to grow extremely vigorously due to the continuous influx of nutrients into the septic system.

    Grease traps (also known as grease interceptors, and grease recovery devices) are plumbing devices designed to intercept most greases and solids before they enter a wastewater disposal system. Common wastewater contains small amounts of oils which enter into septic tanks and treatment facilities to form a floating scum layer. This scum layer is very slowly digested and broken down by microorganisms in the anaerobic digestion process. However, very large amounts of oil from food production in kitchens and restaurants can overwhelm the septic tank or treatment facility, causing a release of untreated sewage into the environment. Also, high viscosity fats and cooking greases such as lard solidify when cooled, and can combine with other disposed solids to form blockages in drain pipes.

    Grease traps have been used since the Victorian era. They are used to reduce the amount of fats, oils and greases (FOG’s) that enter the main sewers. Effectively they are boxes within the drain run that flows between the sinks in a kitchen to the foul sewer system. They only have waste water flowing through them and are not served by any other drainage system such as toilets. They can be made from a number of different materials; e.g. Stainless Steel, Mild Steel, Plastics, Concrete, Cast Iron and can hold anywhere between 40 liters to 45000 liters and above. They can be located above ground, below ground, inside the kitchen or outside the building.

    The traditional means of achieving this is with the passive grease trap (interceptor). The first patent was lodged by Nathaniel Whiting of California in the late 1800’s. The design remains pretty much unchanged. The current industry standard for passive grease interceptors is ASME A112.14.3, (or PDI-GD101).

    A grease recovery device (GRD) is a recent development which aims to separate out the grease and water and collect the grease for recycling. The current industry standard for GRD’s is ASME A112.14.4.

    Both traditional traps and GRD’s use the same physics which is that grease and oil are lighter than water and will rise to the top when the mix is allowed to stand for a time. They both feature a tank with an inverted weir at the outlet in order to allow water out but not grease. A traditional trap is designed to hold the grease within its tank constantly reducing its working volume and hence its ability to allow the required dwell time of 27 seconds or more for the grease/water separation to occur.

    The design codes for traps allow for an average efficiency of as little as 85% between cleanouts for the trap to be considered adequate. This means that on average 15% of the grease in the waste water is entering the sewer line. Eventually even with a robust cleanout regime it is likely that there will be a sewer backup.

    A problem with a traditional trap is that it must be emptied out either by scooping out or pumping all the contents and carting the effluent away to a specialist renderer or to landfill. This is a very unpleasant undertaking and is in consequence often neglected causing the same problems as if the trap were not there at all.

    To try to maintain some degree of efficiency there has been a trend to specify larger and larger traps. Unfortunately providing a large tank for the effluent to stand also means that food waste scraps also have the time to settle out at the bottom of the tank further reducing the available volume and adding to the clean out problem.

    Because it will have been in the trap for some time, the grease collected in this way will have been contaminated and is unsuitable for further use. This kind of grease is referred to as brown grease.

    The essential difference between a GRD and a traditional trap or interceptor is that the GRD constantly removes the captured grease into a separate container and thus maintains its efficiency. A good GRD will have means of preventing the food scraps from entering the tank ( a strainer basket ) and a means of regularly flushing out the fine silts which would otherwise collect in the bottom of the tank. Properly installed in the correct kitchen environment a GRD will continuously give high levels of efficiency ensuring the sewers remain clear with no blockages or back-ups.

    “(F) any necessary monitoring techniques to accompany the measures to assess over time the success of the measures in reducing pollution loads and improving water quality.”

    State Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control programs must provide for the implementation of management measures that are in conformity with this management measures guidance.
    The legislative history (floor statement of Rep. Gerry Studds, House sponsor of section 6217, as part of debate on Omnibus Reconciliation Bill, October 26, 1990) confirms that, as indicated by the statutory language, the “management measures” approach is technology-based rather than water-quality-based. That is, the management measures are to be based on technical and economic achievability, rather than on cause-and-effect linkages between particular land use activities and particular water quality problems. As the legislative history makes clear, implementation of these technology-based management measures will allow States to concentrate their resources initially on developing and implementing measures that experts agree will reduce pollution significantly. As explained more fully in a separate document, Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program: Program Development and Approval Guidance , States will follow up the implementation of management measures with additional management measures to address any remaining coastal water quality problems.
    The legislative history indicates that the range of management measures anticipated by Congress is broad and may include, among other measures, use of buffer strips, setbacks, techniques for identifying and protecting critical coastal areas and habitats, soil erosion and sedimentation controls, and siting and design criteria for water-related uses such as marinas. However, Congress has cautioned that the management measures should not unduly intrude upon the more intimate land use authorities properly exercised at the local level.
    The legislative history also indicates that the management measures guidance, while patterned to a degree after the point source effluent guidelines’ technology-based approach (see 40 CFR Parts 400-471 for examples of this approach), is not expected to have the same level of specificity as effluent guidelines. Congress has recognized that the effectiveness of a particular management measure at a particular site is subject to a variety of factors too complex to address in a single set of simple, mechanical prescriptions developed at the Federal level. Thus, the legislative history indicates that EPA’s guidance should offer State officials a number of options and permit them considerable flexibility in selecting management measures that are appropriate for their State. Thus, the management measures in this document are written to allow such flexibility in implementation.
    An additional major distinction drawn in the legislative history between effluent guidelines for point sources and this management measures guidance is that the management measures will not be directly or automatically applied to categories of nonpoint sources as a matter of Federal law. Instead, it is the State coastal nonpoint program, backed by the authority of State law, that must provide for the implementation of management measures in conformity with the management measures guidance. Under section 306(d)(16) of the CZMA, coastal zone programs must provide for enforceable policies and mechanisms to implement the applicable requirements of the State Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program, including the management measures developed by the State “in conformity” with this guidance.

    D. Program Implementation Guidance

    In addition to this “management measures” guidance, EPA and NOAA have also jointly published Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program: Program Development and Approval Guidance . That document provides guidance to States in interpreting and applying the various provisions of section 6217 of CZARA. It addresses issues such as the following: the basis and process for EPA/NOAA approval of State Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Programs; how EPA and NOAA expect State programs to implement management measures “in conformity” with this management measures guidance; how States may target sources in implementing their programs; changes in State coastal boundaries to implement their programs; and other aspects of State implementation of their programs.

    other websites we recommend you look at