True Water recently completed the replacement of a reed bed sewage treatment system that was failing and causing distress for the homeowners. The home sits on ¾ of a hectare (1.7 acres) of flat, clear land. The reed bed was installed only 10m away from the front veranda of the house.
The reed bed system in front of this home had been in operation for five years and had failed. It was blocked by weeds, overgrown reeds and was full of partially treated wastewater. The reed bed was smelly and provided a moist and protected breeding ground for mosquitoes and insects. Mosquito born viruses such as Ross River Fever and Barmah Forest virus are common in Northern NSW. Most people are particularly concerned about keeping their properties insect and mosquito free.
Home sewage treatment systems should not be something you have to deal with or think about. They should just be hidden in the garden, quietly treating your wastewater. It can be tricky to understand the options available, and to ensure you get the right system. People want to have a treatment system that they don’t have to think about; it just works.
Rather than replacing the secondary treatment area with another reed bed, the owners decided to look for another option and called True Water. They wanted a “set and forget” system that would deliver a high level of treatment and get rid of the odour and insects, without the need for them to get their hands dirty.
Challenges with Reed Bed treatment systems
The theory of reed bed sewage treatment is simple, though in practice the treatment is often far from satisfactory. This is usually due to incorrect construction, inadequate sizing, regular flooding from blockages, and infrequent maintenance of the system. However all reed beds will clog up and fail in time.
A reed bed is a manufactured wetland that provides some secondary treatment of sewage water. Before it can enter the reed bed, household wastewater is first collected in a primary treatment tank or septic tank. This is where some solids separate out of the the sewage. The waste stream then passes through an effluent filter to remove coarse solids. This step is important as reed beds can only treat liquid waste.
Getting the exact conditions for a reed bed sewage treatment system to work successfully is difficult. Reed bed systems are not low maintenance and you need a regular maintenance program to keep them working properly. Weeds grow in among the reeds, reducing efficiency and requiring removal on a regular basis. The reeds also need regular pruning, uprooting and thinning out. This is important to allow for sufficient plant growth and cleaning of the wastewater.
Reed beds are not a long term solution. Even if designed, installed and maintained properly, they are only viable for a maximum of 7 to 10 years. Solids, oils, grease, and soaps that make it through the septic tank get caught in the gravel of the reed bed, blocking up the system. It’s just a matter of time before a reed bed needs refurbishment. Refurbishing or cleaning a reed bed includes the removal and replacement of not only the reeds, but the entire gravel bed and pipe work.
The project: Replacing a failing reed bed and septic tank with a single, secondary treatment system
This reed bed was installed as part of the home’s treatment system, along with a septic tank and land application area. The septic tank was located at the rear of the house and collected the home’s wastewater. The sewage from the septic tank then flowed to the reed bed system at the front of the house for treatment. The treated water was then captured in a pump well and pumped back to the other side of the house to be dispersed via sub surface drip irrigation.
The reed bed was 5 metres by 4 metres. With the septic tank and pump well included, the total area of the reed bed was 25 square metres. Although it was huge, the water quality from the reed bed was very poor.
After the initial assessment and consultation with True Water, the client decided to remove the reed bed and septic tank. The sub-surface irrigation area was in good condition, but would need flushing out. This process removes contaminants and bio-film build up.
A new Fuji Clean CE1500EX aerated wastewater treatment plant would service the needs of the home. We worked with the client to choose the best location for the new tank. They wanted the system to be as unobtrusive as possible. The design would place the fiberglass module below ground within the existing gardens. True Water’s consultancy team prepared a wastewater application for approval by Council. Works began straight away after the owners received approval from the council.
The works: Making the most of a wastewater treatment upgrade
The replacement of the failing reed bed system took just a single day.
Our team carefully excavated a hole for the new system within an existing garden bed at the rear of the house. It was placed close to the old septic to minimise the cost of connecting it to the existing drainage network. The old septic tank was pumped out and disconnected from the home’s wastewater supply. It was decommissioned and collapsed and filled in with left over soil from the new system excavation.
A single, compact Fuji Clean system replaced the 25 square metre reed bed. Because the Fuji Clean has a total surface area of only 2 square metres, we completely concealed the tank within the garden. Although less than a tenth of the size, the new system has much better water quality and no odour.
The components of the reed bed required removing in layers to aid in correct disposal. The contaminated materials were all removed from the site. Imported soil levelled off the reed bed area for a nice finish. This allowed the owners to reclaim the space in front of their home and return it back to lawn area.
The original below ground disposal area for the treated water could be retained as it was only ten years old. The irrigation area needed flushing and cleaning because the reed beds hadn’t been providing effective treatment for a long time. Flushing removed the build-up within the irrigation pipes and removed blockages. Due to the high level of treatment from the Fuji Clean, the existing disposal area will operate well for years to come.
The solution: A compact, ‘no fuss’, modular secondary treatment system from Fuji Clean
The Fuji Clean replacement system is completely different to the septic tank and reed bed combination.
The first stage of the process in the Fuji Clean begins with an anaerobic digestion in the first chamber, the same as a septic tank. From there, the more technical aspects of the Fuji Clean system come into play. The wastewater passes through filtration media in the second chamber, a simple but highly refined process. The filtration media provide the ideal environment for microbial breakdown of the wastewater and is the result of years of research and development. The wastewater then goes through an aerobic digestion process followed by a clarification process and disinfection in the final chamber. At this stage the wastewater has been treated to a Tertiary Treatment level and is ready for dispersal. The controlled environment within the module provides a continuous and consistent level of treatment.
The Fuji Clean is a sealed system providing no chance for mosquitoes to thrive or for the escape of odours. The tried and tested treatment process delivers reliable treatment with a strong manufacturer’s warranty. The modular tanks house all components and require no intervention from the homeowner to keep them running.
The True Water Solution
These homeowners achieved their goal. They eliminated the mosquito and smell problems and got a piece of their garden back. Sitting out on their front veranda has become an enjoyable experience. By investing in the upgrade of their sewage treatment with True Water, these owners have increased the value of their home and improved its livability. The Fuji Clean tank remains hidden below ground behind the house, out of sight and out of mind.
The new system gets a simple quarterly service by a qualified technician in accordance with council regulations, the same as any secondary treatment system. However, the owners no longer need to don their gum boots and gloves and get amongst the treatment process.
Our team of home sewage treatment specialists delivered a reliable, cost effective and aesthetically pleasing solution for the home owners’ needs.