Thales Directory

Call Scarab Water for wastewater treatment systems

Septic tanks, soak-aways
and On-site domestic sewage treatment plants

Are you new to septic tanks and on-site domestic sewage treatment systems?

Read on - Because here is the information you wont find anywhere else . . . .

In today's lifestyle, many people are moving away from the city, looking for that quite cul-de-sac in an out-of-town leafy suburb where there appears to be some sanity in our surroundings. The relief from luxury city apartments, where downtown degradation has set in, vagrants are everywhere, and the all-night noise funnels its way directly into the 34th floor bedroom window - at 2 in the morning.  

City water shortages and power blackouts offer little comfort to those flushing the toilet, stuck in the lift, and the security system battery is flat. Alternate supply of water and electricity may not be possible, and certainly not on the 34th floor penthouse.

City life is "for the birds".  Pigeons to be exact.

Being out of town, the option of living off the grid is real. Solar power and borehole water are both quite possible. But, when you flush the loo, or start the dish washer, or even make a cup of coffee, do you really know that the wastewater has to go somewhere? If you are connected to municipal sewerage service, you are fine.

Flush and forget. 

If not, you will have to dispose of that sewage on your property, or else have the possibility your stinky, foul water ending up in the stream just off your boundary, or into someone else's borehole. Your own sewage treatment plant has just become a necessity.

Perhaps you are considering upgrading your home, replacing failed septic tanks / soak-aways, or including an on-site domestic treatment plant in the design of your new home - Yes? Then this should be considered an investment.

However, you would need to scratch through a myriad of the different treatment systems out there in the market, some may be ideal, which will offer you genuine peace of mind. Others are nothing more than expensive septic tanks, and you will only know which - soon after the lawn has grown back.
And then there are those systems that are so complicated that trained technicians are required to service the plant every time (see our blog Chalk and Cheese). Load-shedding and power surges adversely affect electronics, digital timers and specialist equipment, and are no more reliable than any other normal systems.  They just become difficult to manage, particularly when the homeowner has left the overseeing of the system to the grounds-man, or garden service.

So, your new sewage system should be simple electrical & mechanical designs, right?

Lodge Sewer Systems

Sewerage System installed at a game lodge manager's home in Mpumalanga

Discreet Sewage system

Scarab sewage treatment systems - discreet and well suited for the home owner

Domestic sewerage treatment

Rural waste water treatment systems in South Africa with septic tanks in the background

The Stink Factor

When deciding what sewerage system would be great equipment for your garden / factory / office / estate, you would be excused if you felt you didn’t want to see it.  Hide it, bury it, surround it with bushes, and this we understand. The common perception is that these things stink, and it’s a reminder of what we waste. It is not something we need to see every day - right? 

Wrong!  In today’s lifestyle, we have come to the reality that our waste has value, and particularly our domestic wastewater.  Several Scarab clients have included our wastewater systems as features when selling their properties, and it certainly is an asset. New owners need to know what they are buying, and what liabilities are not identified at the point of signing up, and handing the keys.

Then, the fact that our systems recycle all the waste water in the home, to be reused for gardens, lawns, flower beds, washing cars and even return to toilets, for re-flushing, makes ownership of on-site waste water treating and disposal package plants so attractive.

And the stink factor – yes, this has some negative perceptions, as sewage does stink. But only when it’s sewage. Septic tanks stink, and this is why they have double seal lids. And anyway,  all tanks should have lids.

Once your domestic wastewater becomes correctly aerated, (the aerobic stage) the smell stops, leaving an almost odourless condition - an earthy smell. Quite pleasant!
Repeat - when raw sewage is open to the air, it will smell.
The large municipal systems WWTW (waste water treatment works) do smell, since they are primarily open sewers, and this technology is classified as “activated sludge”.  Very few package plants are based on this type of treatment technology, since only a few households are prepared to have open sewers outside their kitchen, like the Scarab system at Intongazi.

This WWTW technology is best suited for large municipal flows from towns and cities, and they are often built out of town, on land which is unsuitable for further residential / commercial / industrial development. Furthermore, these installation are at the lowest point so as to offer the best benefits for gravity sewerage.

So, if your package plant stinks, it's not working.

Modular sewage treatment plants

Onsite Modular package plants installed for a solar plant in northern Cape - South Africa

The Right Size sewage system

Deciding on the correctly sized sewage treatment system, will be your first objective. All wastewater plants, and septic tanks will be designed on type of wastewater, and volumes (usually litres per day) and quoted as a daily flow (24 hour period).  This is when the full day's cycle in calculated, including peak periods (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and the off peaks (mid-morning and mid-night).
We use the SABS National Building Regulations (NBR) guidelines on water use. NBR suggests that each person could use up to 250 litres of water per day, which includes washing, showers, toilet, laundry cooking etc. A three bed-roomed house could have up to 6 people living there, and this water usage is around 1500 litres per day.  Hotels, camp sites, retirement villages and hospitals have their own consumption rates, and possible processing volumes.

There is no real problem with over-sizing a treatment system, except for the initial costs. Under-sizing will create overloading, and the plant will fail. The bacteria will become fat, lazy and overfed. And pretty much useless, like politicians. If your underground septic tanks are undersized, they may need to be extended, to increase capacity (retention time). This would mean digging up the property, disrupting the flow whilst the sewerage system is live (i.e being used).  This is a nightmare.

But, speak to us and we will give you your expected daily water use figures. And why  3-chamber septic tanks are necessary.

Water Assets, Waste Liabilities and gifts.

If sewage treatment package plants are an asset, should we bury them?
I would think not.
Some designs promote an underground system, (which includes the septic tanks), with neat plastic lids (inspection covers).  One wonders what a lawnmower does to plastic thingies hiding in the grass. And when the 10-ton honey sucker - or even a 1 ton bakkie,  arrives to de-sludge (this is a part of maintenance on all systems - even ours !) and fails to see plastic thingies covered near in the flower bed. If you going to spend the (un)reasonable fee for a sewerage system, you would want to see the darn thing, right? And should there ever be a problem, and it leaks, or something breaks, you won’t know. You will continue to believe your asset is safe, out of harms way, and saving water. Meanwhile its leaking.  Serious repairs could require digging up your manicured lawn, removing the treatment system, repairing and returning it back to operation. And in the meantime, raw sewage is floating into the neighbour's property. It becomes a liability.

All water is an asset, particularly when you have already paid for it, so keep it in a safe place. Even when you haven't paid for it, as in rainwater, this is a gift. Just wondering how one manages rainwater harvesting, whilst living in the luxury city apartment.

Your move to the country suburb is a good choice.

Plastic Septic Tanks

Failed underground Plastic Septic Tanks

Buried septic tanks failure

Plastic sewage septic tanks collaped underground

Septic tanks - roto-moulded plastic

We do have requests for plastic septic tanks and treatment systems to be buried, and we understand the reasoning.  However, based on our many years of experience, civil-works (concrete & clay) is the only reliable, safest, long term solution. Its easier (and cheaper) digging holes and burying plastic tanks, and anyone can do it.  However, even the professionals get this wrong, as seen above. If you going to spend a fortune on a water recycling plant, get it right the first time.
Do it once!

For some really sound advice, give us a call.

Buried Concrete domestic sewage treatment systems

These underground sewage treatment systems are favourites in Australia, but they are so much different. All our (SA) systems are either plastic, steel or fibre-glass, but Ozzies are concrete, weighing maybe 6 tonnes.  

The design incorporates septic tanks, balancing, treatment (aeration) chamber, clarification and disinfection. Some even have a small pump-out chamber for irrigation. It is not surprising that these systems don't perform as they should. Each stage is short in capacity, and not catered for an adequate retention period, or load balancing, and this shows in the performance. It takes time to process the waste, and this has not been considered in the design stage. Someone decided on a size, then got the engineers to fit it all in.

When these systems go in, they don’t ever come out. They don’t leak, implode, crack or float out the ground. But, they are a terrible design. Those 'down under' are not too concerned about water treatment quality. 

“If it pretends to work, we pretend to care”. 

Ironically, I paid for this one (below).

Concrete Sewage Systems

Onsite sewage treatment plants

Home Sewerage system

installation of Home Sewage systems / treatment plants in Australia

Treatment plants - installation

Domestic sewage treatment systems installation in Australia

South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) and the package plant industry

We are often asked if our products are SABS rated, because the consultants want to know if we represent these quality standards.
We are not SABS rated - and not likely in the near future. And we will never tell people we are rated, just because it would not be truthful.

No package plant design is SABS rated.

SABS do not even have criteria for testing on site systems, and last time we checked, were not prepared to look in this direction. What they can do is offer a certificate for water treatment quality, but that document expires 24 hours after the sample was taken. Since it takes about 7 days to complete the laboratory analysis, the report is invalid by the time it is issued. Somewhat pointless, agreed?

Down under, in Australia - all sewage systems from single house to 21-man plant (3 homes) must be tested prior going on the market. The privately (read - commercial / for profit) run test program lasts for 7 months, whereby suppliers will offer a system for test, at this approved facility (usually at a municipal WWTW). The design is subjected to daily tests, and results recorded for the duration of the period.
It is understood that since the accreditation program is for profit, the clients would expect favourable results, and at a cost of up to A$75 000, not too many designs fail. At least with SABS, the perception of quality, and fit for purpose is the deciding factor.
However, anything above 21-man camp in Australia, does not require any quality tests, and the performance is monitored under the national EPA - Environmental Protection Agency.  This means that one can install any big system without tests or pre-approval, and the EPA would be obliged to test the plant periodically. 
When SABS decides to offer their quality certificate, we would probably be the first approval. We have already been tested by Talbot & Talbot Laboritories,
the old Durban Metro,   (back in the pre-historic time when the first Neanderthals were running the council), and Umgeni Water, and been tested / approved / endorsed by all. We are quite used to being scrutinized with a jaundiced eye.
So, if there are no SABS approved systems, why do 93% of people believe there is?

Steel and Sewerage package plants

Some sewerage package plants are supplied using "beyond service life" shipping containers, and / or mild steel frameworks. Special coatings have been applied to already old metal parts, which is essential, and this anti-corrosive treatment offers oxidization (rust) protection – while in the factory. These sewerage systems, do, however leave the factory, travel maybe 5000 kilometers, on dirt and dusty potholed tracks, through war zones, and flooded rivers to reach a remote mine-site deep in the African bush, where they get off loaded and reassembled using local inhabitants, without any damage to this coating? After 3 / 5 years, the treatment system is a rust bucket, and would require replacement – yet again. Manhandling in the factory is pretty easy, but on the remote mine-site, crane-age is a must. The alternative - roto-moulded (plastic) tanks, are easily manhandled into position. And they don’t rust, ever. If protected from the sun, the plastic could easily outlive the mine, lodge, camp.

Most above ground package plants and septic tanks are manufactured using the same plastic roto-moulded tanks, although there are a few fibre-glass designs  The roto-plastic base-material is flexible, U-V stabilized, tough and does not oxidize easily. The plastic itself is resistant to chemicals, sewage contaminants, and toxic / corrosive gasses. These tanks are easily welded, cut, and even shaped, often on site. We have repaired a few of our Scarab systems after damage occurred during delivery, and quite successfully.

Chat to us - For some really good advice.

Eco Cleaners

Scarab Multipupose Household Eco Cleaner

Scarab Eco Dishwasher

Scarab Eco cleaners - Dishwash

Ecofriendly Household Cleaners

And finally, you will need to care for your sewage system. It is biological (they all are) and therefore they are living creatures, that mother nature has provided to help us. The bugs are specifically designed to remove all the stinky stuff from the wastewater we generate. Since they are living, breathing bacteria, they must not be mistreated, poisoned or neglected. They will die very easily if harsh household cleaners are used. It does not matter how good a system is, Scarab in particular (hint - hint), the process will die when standard cleaners are used.
Using environmentally friendly household cleaners will go a long way in ensuring the bio sewage system is kept in good shape.

Many supermarket shelves are stocked with cleaners and disinfectants that are based on chlorine ingredients.  Overdosing is common since the horror thoughts of germs floating around the kitchen, bathroom and loo, making us sick, and particularly the toilet. Instead of pouring ¼ bottle of toilet duck every time the toilet is used, arm yourself with a can of air freshener. We mention these nasty household cleaners here.

One last thing, our Eco Cleaners are also suited for other systems. This may not make them work any better, but at least they wont smell so bad.

Please contact us about our super gentle cleaners. We will deliver them countrywide - to your doorstep, via courier.