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Septic Lagoons: What They Are and What You Should Know

sewer-septic system
Septic systems are in widespread use in the United States, particularly in rural areas, and the majority of such systems use buried tanks. However, a common alternative to buried tank systems is the lagoon septic system.
Instead of a concrete, plastic, or steel tank, lagoon septic systems utilize a shallow, exposed pond for waste acceptance and decomposition. This pond is similar to natural ponds, but critical differences separate the two types.
Below is more information about lagoon septic systems, including how they are installed and what you need to do to keep them maintained.

Septic Lagoons

The use of the word lagoon may create a mental image of lush tropical paradise, but septic lagoons are quite different. In fact, most septic lagoons are fairly barren, open ponds with short, outlying vegetation. They are usually constructed in a square or rectangular shape with shallow sloping sides.
A septic lagoon is an elegant solution to disposing of wastes and works well in areas where tanks may be overwhelmed, such as farming operations. Septic lagoons are also used where traditional drain fields aren't possible due to soil conditions and other constraints.
Wastewater enters a septic lagoon from a home's plumbing or other waste-generating sources. The liquids evaporate into the atmosphere, which leaves solid materials at the bottom of the lagoon.
Both aerobic and anaerobic bacteria convert these wastes into a variety of byproducts, including methane and carbon dioxide. Much of the gases generated pass into the atmosphere while other materials are consumed by algae.

Design Features

Septic lagoons aren't deep and usually are designed to contain wastes in a two-to-five feet deep impoundment. In addition, septic lagoons are often built at high points in the landscape, as opposed to ordinary ponds, which are constructed in areas of natural drainage.
Should a septic lagoon be built too low, runoff from surrounding features will cause the lagoon to overflow. As such, this may result in disruption of the waste decomposition cycle or contamination of surrounding water sources such as wells.
Another important feature of septic lagoons is the impermeable walls that are designed to contain wastewater. Unlike septic system drain fields, which are deliberately designed to permit liquid wastes (effluent) to pass through the soil, septic lagoons must be capable of holding wastes for lengthy periods of time.
Evaporation must be given sufficient time to occur in septic lagoons. A failure to contain wastes could result in groundwater contamination or cause other harm to the environment.

Maintenance Considerations

Septic lagoons don't require daily maintenance, but there are some necessary tasks that must be performed to prevent the waste cycle from failing.
One maintenance item is keeping surrounding vegetation low and also preventing the growth of disruptive plants. Despite the fact that it might seem helpful, many plants that grow naturally in wetlands and other swampy areas are not suitable for septic lagoon use.
For example, cattails, reeds, and other common marshy plants will destroy the integrity of the septic lagoon's structure and allow wastewater to leak. For the same reason, trees should also be kept far away from septic lagoons, as their roots will break apart the walls that protect the lagoon.
Another maintenance task is periodic pumping of accumulated sludge. Just as in a septic tank, sludge accumulates inside septic lagoons and will eventually render the lagoon unusable. The solution is to have your septic lagoon measured for sludge levels annually and professionally pumped on a regular basis.
At Speedy Clean Drain and Sewer, we can help provide this service and are available to help you with any of your septic tank or septic lagoon needs.