Originally Posted by Townandcountrygal
Because septics rely on bacteria for processing, it is best not to use anti-bacterial dish detergents and hand soaps?
In typical quantities, typical usage of the septic system, the average type of soap, and no other issues are present then it will not cause any issue that can't be reversed. I see that you had quite an experience with the septic system http://www.city-data.com/forum/17207957-post23.html
Two years is not an unusually short time between pumping of a septic system if it is used heavily. When they pumped the system out they most likely broke that clump (sludge mat is the term) apart. Did they look at its contents at any time to try to determine what it was composed of? That mat can be created easily under one or many conditions. Some of the issues that can cause it are:
- Disposing of materials that the system can not break down quickly or at all. Some items such as feminine hygiene products, dental floss, cigarette butts, etc., will never break down before the next pumping.
- Never dispose of greases in the drains as these can kill bacteria, inhibit growth, cause solids to congeal, and prevent bacteria from breaking them down. If you cook a lot with oils and greases then drain the pans into a container and dispose of it in the garbage instead. If you work on machinery and are getting oils on clothing then pre-soak the clothing in a bucket or large tank. After the oils are drawn off as best possible dump the bucket or tank outside.
- Heavy use of disposals both under the sink and the newer dishwashers with them built in, can add significant amounts of solids in the pre-treatment or solids tank. If the bacteria do not have time to break these down they can also form these sludge mats. Disposals are not really recommended for use with most On Site Sewage Facilities (OSSF, commonly called septic systems).
- Routine heavy usage of any chemicals whether it is cleaning fluids, bleaches, anti-bacterial soaps, etc., can kill and inhibit bacterial growth in the treatment tank. Even a one time, massive shock to the system can start a chain of events that can prevent bacterial growth or where the growth rate can not keep up with the heavy solids input. If a tank's bacterial growth is imbalanced badly it takes some time for it to return to normal levels.
- Do not wash clothes, shoes, tools, or any other item caked with dirt in sinks or washing machines. Knocked the dirt off, hose it down outside, do what you can to remove the dirt first. That dirt if placed in the system is not going anywhere but the bottom of the treatment tank. Add in some grease and other solids you are forming a sludge mat.
- Heavy flushing of water into the system itself can also cause lowered bacteria growth. This is rarely a case until you get into systems that are built to handle a normal activity of 6 people but more people are added or everyone is taking 2 and three showers a day or washing is constantly being performed.
The reason I asked if they looked at the sludge mat contents is any or all of these conditions might display themselves in the mat's contents. Another issue I have seen are really strange items that had been flushed down toilets. Also encountered are brand new systems where the installers did an "Ooops" and potentially left items in that tank or knocked dirt in before they placed the top on, sealed it, and buried it. Another potential is a treatment tank whose top lid is not properly sealed and dirt/mud had been seeping in.
Right now your system is up and running. I see you have had no prior experience with OSSF systems before this one. Use caution and get into good habits to prevent future problems. I would also recommend pumping your tanks in two years time to get an idea of your typical usage and how much time between pumpings you might be able to do.