30Environment Agency How is your sewage treated?Many homes are connected to the mains sewer and get a bill from Anglian Water for treating this waste. Over the last few years Anglian Water has been removing phosphate at its larger sewage treatment plants; this has lowered the amount of phosphate entering the Broads and rivers. However, there are many households who do not have mains sewage available and use either a package treatment plant or septic tank.A package treatment plant is a more sophisticated unit than a septic tank, needs an electrical supply and often has some equipment above ground, such as a pump or a raised cover. Treatment plants can drain to a watercourse provided that the plant is maintained properly but this liquid does still contain some phosphate. A septic tank (see diagram below) is usually a two or three chamber system, which allows the solids to form into sludge at the bottom of the tank. Septic tanks must drain into the land, not into a watercourse.Do you have a septic tank or package sewage treatment plant?If the answer is yes, then the Environment Agency needs your help to improve the water quality in the rivers and Broads near your Norfolk home. There are several Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in Norfolk that do not currently have good enough river water quality to fully support their fantastic wildlife. Please see map on opposite page. The water quality near these SSSIs is generally very good apart from the level of phosphate (a nutrient) which is too high. We need your help to put this right. High phosphate leads to algae growth which prevents light reaching through the water and uses up oxygen, affecting the water creatures. Phosphate comes from several sources including: dishwasher and laundry detergents added to soften and hold dirt in the wash water; human sewage and animal manures or fertilisers washing off fields and yards. Several initiatives such as Catchment Sensitive Farming are underway to reduce these problems.. . . . . . . . . . We need your help to improvewww.environment-agency.gov.uk How can you reduce the phosphate coming out of your septic tank or package treatment plant?1. Have your tank emptied regularly (at least once a year) to avoid a build up of sludge. A proportion of phosphate settles out into the sludge. If this sludge is not removed then the volume of the tank is reduced, therefore, more untreated sewage will pass out into the soakaway, carrying phosphate and solids with it. Solids in a soakaway can also cause blockages which are expensive to fix. When choosing a de-sludging contractor, please ensure that they will dispose of the sludge responsibly and safely, preferably to the nearest sewage treatment works.2. Check that your septic tank is not connected into the watercourse.Septic tanks do not clean the sewage sufficiently for it to directly enter a watercourse. If your tank pipes water straight to a watercourse, please consult a drainage expert to stop this. You would be breaking the law if you allow this situation to continue. One symptom of septic tank liquid entering a watercourse is smelly black/grey strands of 'sewage fungus' in the water.3. Choose environmentally friendly detergent brands with no phosphate at all.They're out there on the shelves if you look for them. Watch for the word PHOSPHATE on the side of each packet. Phosphate is sometimes called sodium tripolyphosphate (STPP). Aim for less than 5% if you can.4. Use less detergent.Reducing the amount going into the system will reduce the amount coming out. Even if you do use detergents with phosphate in them, you can still help the environment by using the minimum amount recommended on the pack, and of course still get good results.5. Buy laundry liquids or powders instead of tablets.Laundry liquids tend to contain less phosphate than laundry tablets.6. Minimise bleach and disinfectant use.Both septic tanks and package treatment plants are biological systems that rely on micro-organisms. Using too much bleach or other powerful cleaning agents can kill these micro-organisms.7. Keep roof water out of your sewerage system.Rainwater from the roof is clean and doesn't need treatment. If large volumes of rainwater are put into septic tanks they can wash out solids into the soakaway. Roof water should be discharged to a separate soakaway or to a watercourse.8. Do not put solid items such as nappies and sanitary items down the sewerage system.They often block the system, leading to sewage overflowing into gardens and bad smells! Bag it and bin it!
31Broadland News Spring 2012To find out moreIf you would like to find out more information about sewage systems visit our website or contact us on 03708 506506, Mon-Fri 8am - 6pm. Calls to 03 numbers cost the same as calls to standard geographic numbers (ie. numbers beginning with 01 or 02.e-mail:email@example.com visit our website www.environment-agency.gov.ukwater qualityYour feedback is important to us... We need to show the Government that this project will help improve water quality and that we are using our funding effectively to reach as many people as possible. Please do take the time to fill in this slip, cut it out and send it 'free' to:FREPOST RSCL-RTJS-LEJSEnvironment AgencyDragonfly House, 2 Gilders WayNorwich, NR3 1UBOr e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.orgThank you1. How is your household sewage disposed of? Please tick: Septic tank* Package treatment plant* Mains sewer2. *If you are not on mains sewer, does the above information give clear advice and guidance about how to maintain or check your sewerage system? Yes No3. Will you be changing the way you maintain or check your sewerage system after reading our guidance? No Why __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Yes How __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________4. Do you have any problems with your sewerage system that you need advice on, or other information that could help us with this project? Yes No If yes please state:_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Name ______________________________________________________________Postcode _______________e-mail address if you would like further information_____________________________________________________________________. . . . . . . Thank you for reading this article. With a few changes, together we can all improve our rivers and Broads to make them a better place.