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What is an alternative septic system?

The Alternative Septic System differs from the traditional septic system. It is a solution for sites with a rock base, the soil depth is not enough, or there is high-located groundwater. In these cases, traditional septic systems would not be suitable, so in their place come the alternative ones.

What distinguishes the Alternative Septic System from other species is that it requires less soil. It means that the drainage field is smaller, the standoffs to the water table and soil restrictions are reduced.

This type of septic system is more complex and advanced than traditional ones. The Alternative Septic System includes more equipment and processes that are necessary for its proper functioning. All this means that it requires more specific maintenance than other septic systems. 

That is why it is necessary to regularly contact a licensed company to assist you in caring for the alternative system and give you guidelines in its proper use. It will prevent the Alternative Septic System from malfunctioning and causing problems affecting public health and the environment adversely.


How does it work?

As mentioned above, Alternative Septic Systems do not require a large amount of soil or a large drain field. But they use a standard septic tank like traditional systems. The only difference is that the leach field is made of interlocking polyethylene arches that provide a continuous drainage area. In this way, chambers create a space through which wastewater can pass. In these cases, it is not necessary to add gravel or geotextile.

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Sub-types of alternative septic systems?

There are three types of Alternative Septic Systems:

Aerobic Treatment Unit

The Aerobic Treatment Unit works similarly to standard septic systems. Both types of septic systems treat wastewater using natural processes. The difference is that the Aerobic Treatment Unit uses oxygen which breaks down organic matter.

What is specific about this type of septic system is that the decomposition process is much faster. It helps for better water purification. Once the septic system has performed all the necessary operations, the result is cleaner water. And this, in turn, makes Aerobic Treatment Units suitable for installation in environmentally sensitive areas.

Another characteristic of the Aerobic Treatment Unit is the so-called suspended growth process, which takes place in the aeration chamber. In this process, the air mixes with the wastewater. It allows the bacteria to float freely and grow. When they become large enough, they begin to absorb solids.

In rare cases, Aerobic Treatment Units may have a second aeration chamber connected to the first. It is used for the further processing of solids. Some of the solids fail to be broken down by bacteria, so they settle. Here is the role of the second aeration chamber. The solids are returned to the first chamber by gravity or pumping to undergo the decomposition process again. 


Some of the advantages of the Aerobic Treatment Unit are:

  • Better wastewater treatment, unlike other septic systems;
  • Helps to protect water resources in areas where there are non-functioning septic systems;
  • An alternative option for sites with inappropriate conditions, such as soil, size, and others;
  • Extend the life of the drain field;
  • Reduces discharged ammonia to receiving waters.


Mound Septic System

The Raised Bed Septic Tank Systems, also known as Mound systems, are alternatives in cases where standard septic systems are not suitable.

The Mound Septic Systems have three main components, namely:

  • septic tank
  • pump chamber
  • mound – this is the drain field

What characterizes this sub-type of alternative septic systems is that the wastewater first goes into the septic tank. In it begins the process of decomposition of solids.

In the septic tank, wastewater is divided into three main layers. The first, the top layer, is made up of light solids and fats known as scum. In the middle is the layer formed by effluent. And at the bottom are deposited all the heavy solid particles that form a sludge.

When the wastewater in the septic tank reaches a certain level, it begins to move to the pump chamber. From there, very evenly, continue to the drainage field. In it, the wastewater is additionally treated by passing through a sand fill.


This sub-type of alternative septic systems provide:

  • Dosing and resting cycles;
  • Uniform distribution of wastewater;
  • Wastewater treatment in sand fill before disposal;
  • A longer distance that wastewater travels before reaching groundwater – provides better water purification


Sand Filter Septic System

Sand Filter Septic System is the third sub-type of Alternative Septic Systems. This system is also suitable for areas where conditions do not allow a standard septic system installation. 

The Sand Filter Septic System has four main components. These are:

  • septic tank
  • sand filter
  • pump chamber
  • drain field


When wastewater leaves your home, it goes directly into the septic tank. In it, they will go through the necessary purification processes. When the procedure completes, the water flows into the pump chamber, and then it is pumped out into the sand filter.

In the sand filter, wastewater goes through three main processes:

  • (1) Aerobic microbes absorb some nutrients in the wastewater; 
  • (2) The solids shall be filtered by the sand; 
  • (3) And the last step is starting a chemical process in which the contaminants adhere to the sand grains.

When the wastewater goes through all the necessary treatment processes, it is directed to the drainage field, where it descends into the soil and flows into the groundwater.


Components of the alternative septic system?

The Alternative Septic Systems consists of three main parts:

  • The septic tank of the Alternative Septic System is a container made of concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene. It is the same as standard septic systems, as this component is the first stop of the wastewater. As we shared above, in a septic tank, wastewater is divided into three main layers.

The heaviest solid particles go to the bottom, where they form the so-called sludge. Over time, this layer thickens, so a professional company must periodically clean the septic tank. The lightest solids, fats, and oils go to the top and form the top layer called the scum. The thickest layer is structured in the middle, namely effluent;

  • The so-called effluent is the wastewater that leaves the septic tank and is directed to the pump chamber. It is the second component of the Alternative Septic System.

The pump chamber is a container made of concrete, fiberglass, or plastic. Its function is to collect wastewater from the septic tank and direct it to the drain field. It happens in stages so that the effluent is uniformly distributed in the drain field, and the system is not loaded.

The pump chamber consists of three parts, each of which has a specific function. The pump serves to pump water from the septic tank to the pump chamber. In turn, the pump control floats take care of the pump control.

When the wastewater exceeds the preset level, the float turns on and distributes the water evenly to the drain field. If there is a problem or damage with the pump, the third element will turn on, namely the high-water alarm float. In cases when the alarm goes on, you need to call a specialized company to assist you;

  • The drain field is the third principal component of the Alternative Septic System. It differs from the drainage fields of other septic systems. What is specific is that the drain field is raised above the soil’s natural surface. It consists of three layers – soil on the top, gravel in the middle, and a specific sand fill in the bottom.

In this sand filling, there is gravel around the pipes. The septic tank effluent is pumped through these pipes to the drain field, controlling the water doses that enter. Wastewater passes through this specific sand and moves through the natural soil. During this process, the wastewater is treated, and all harmful bacteria and viruses are destroyed.


Why do we need it?

There are areas where environmental conditions do not allow the installation of a standard septic system. Such conditions may be the presence of shallow soil, rock base, or high groundwater. Installing a traditional septic system in a site with similar conditions can lead to system malfunction and significant damage.

In these cases, you must install an Alternative Septic System. They are designed to replace traditional ones by providing efficient wastewater treatment. 


What kind of problems can occur?

When it comes to Alternative Septic System maintenance, some of the main problems you may encounter are:


  • An overcrowded septic tank. It may be due to improper maintenance or infrequent pumping and septic tank cleaning. Signs for problems with the septic tank can be foul odors, overgrowth, wet spots around the septic tank, slow draining, bubbling, returning water to you, etc;
  • Improper functioning of the drain field. Drainage field problems can also come from the septic tank. To find out where the problem is coming from, you need to contact professional technicians to perform a septic system inspection and locate the problem;
  • Clogged pipes. They can also be the result of a malfunctioning septic system. So the regular inspections and procedures for the maintenance of the septic tank are needed.


What type of service do we need according to the issue we have?

  • Septic System Inspections are performed by highly qualified inspectors who will test your septic system. During the inspection, they will check if there are clogged pipes, slow water drainage, or bubbling. The assessment includes each part of the system, including the septic tank and drain field. Regular inspections of your Alternative Septic System will protect you from huge damages;
  • Your Alternative Septic System will also need regular Septic Tank Pumping. Many solid particles and fats remain in the septic tank, which slows down the practical work of the septic tank. It is essential to share that the septic tank pumping of alternative septic systems is performed more often than in standard septic systems;
  • Septic Tank Cleaning, unlike pumping, removes absolutely everything, both the solid sludge from the bottom and the wastewater. It will help your system work better, and it will extend its life;
  • The Septic System Repair. In some cases, it is necessary to repair the Alternative Septic System. If you notice a problem with your system, you should contact a specialist immediately. The timely intervention will prevent unpleasant damage;
  • The Alternative Septic System needs complete maintenance throughout its life. It includes not only inspections, pumping, cleaning, or repair. You also need to take good care of it.


Part of your main tasks is: watching what kind of waste you throw in the sewer, monitoring and contacting a professional company in case of problems, and following the instructions given by us.

Irregular maintenance risks not only the efficient work of your Alternative Septic System but also your health. Along with this, there is a risk of nature pollution.


What kind of expert do we need and why?

The Alternative Septic System requires routine and regular maintenance. It must be performed by licensed professionals who have the necessary experience and knowledge to inspect and maintain different types of systems.

Regular maintenance of the Alternative Septic System prevents problems that require costly repairs, helps with public health care, and protects against environmental pollution.

The team of Fresh Clean Septic consists of highly qualified professionals. They have many years of experience in the installation, inspection, and maintenance of alternative septic systems. We have the necessary high-quality equipment and machinery to provide the best services.

In case you need maintenance and inspection of your alternative septic system, you can contact us. We will take the best care of your septic system and answer all your questions.


How to find the right company for alternative septic systems?

When looking for the right company to maintain your Alternative Septic System, you need to see if it is licensed and in which area it is located. Fresh Clean Septic serves all septic systems in Woodinville County.

Our team consists of certified specialists who have a long professional experience in all septic systems services. If you need professional assistance in Woodinville, do not hesitate to contact us and make an appointment for an inspection. We are here to help you and answer all your questions.


Frequently Asked Questions

Is an As-Built necessary for septic inspection of my Alternative Septic System?

Yes. The inspection requires the so-called As-Built, as well as when a company comes to your home for maintenance. The plan contains information about where your septic system is located.

Do you offer regular septic service and maintenance services? 

Yes. Fresh Clean Septic offers Regular Woodinville Septic Services, which include regular Inspection, pumping, cleaning, maintenance of your septic tank and system.

How do I know if my Alternative Septic System needs to be pumped?

Usually, the frequency of the septic pumping depends on the size of the septic tank and the number of people living in the house. In case you are not sure whether it is time to pump, you can contact us to make an inspection and determine the condition of your septic tank.

What are the signs that my Alternative Septic Systems is failing?

The most common signs are bad odors, bubbling sounds, wet spots, and overgrowth around the septic tank and drain field.

How do I know where my Alternative Septic System is located?

Your Alternative Septic System is installed in your yard. You can check the location of your septic system according to the drawing, the so-called As-Built.

I’m experiencing liquids bubbling up. What do I do? 

If you’re experiencing liquids bubbling up, then your septic tank is full. In this case, you need to contact us immediately to avoid possible unpleasant consequences.