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PROJECT TOPIC- IMPROVING SEPTIC TANK PERFORMANCE BY A NEW RATIONAL DESIGN APPROACH

PROJECT TOPIC- IMPROVING SEPTIC TANK PERFORMANCE BY A NEW RATIONAL DESIGN APPROACH

ABSTRACT

This study was aimed at developing a rational approach to septic tank design in order to reduce health risks associated with improperly treated effluent especially in developing countries. To this end, several research tools including questionnaires, pilot scale study and model formulation were employed. Questionnaires were used to conduct a preliminary study with a view to ascertaining people‟s perception with regard to septic tank design, use and maintenance. This preliminary study revealed that the septic tank is a poorly designed and grossly overlooked but indispensable waste management facility. Pilot scale studies were conducted to monitor physicochemical and microbial parameters. A sludge accumulation model was formulated from first principles by applying material balance to a model septic tank. The model was calibrated using data from three different septic tank audits spanning 3 years, 5 years and 8 years respectively and involving over 1000 septic tanks. A correlation coefficient of R = 0.98 was obtained between measured and calculated sludge accumulation data. The sludge accumulation model showed that sludge does not accumulate at a constant rate as is usually assumed but rather at a reduced rate over time. The sludge accumulation model was compared with two existing but purely empirical models namely: Weibel‟s model derived in 1955 for the US Public Health Service and Bound‟s (1995) model. Finally a rational approach to septic tank design was developed. Design charts and a Microsoft Excel based design programme were produced to aid the unlearned designer and the computer literate designer respectively.

CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION

1.1 BACKGROUND OF STUDY

The septic tank system is the most widely used onsite treatment system for domestic wastewater. In fact, most developing countries (Nigeria inclusive) lack the technology and economic power to construct and operate sewerage systems for conveyance of domestic wastewater to central sewage treatment facilities, so a greater population rely on the septic tank system for sewage treatment. It is an enclosed receptacle designed to collect wastewater, segregate settleable and floatable solids (sludge and scum), accumulate, consolidate and store solids, digest organic matter and discharge treated effluent (Bounds, 1997). In the United States only, over 50 million people use the septic system (Collick et al., 2006). According to Fidelia (2004, in Burubai et al., 2007), over 46% of the Nigerian population use the septic tank system. The septic tank system was once thought to be a temporary solution to domestic wastewater treatment and disposal. This was true until 1997 when the United States Environmental Protection Agency and Congress officially recognized the system as a sustainable, long-term solution for treating wastewater.
The septic tank is an anaerobic reactor due to the insufficiency of oxygen concentration to act as electron acceptor.

The wastewater is degraded by micro-organisms aerobically while the C, CO2 SO4 act as electron acceptors to form CO2, H2, CH4 and S2- (sulphides). At the same time, most of the organic N is converted to NH+4 (inorganic). The effluent flows into the drain field where aerobic degradation occurs due to abundance of oxygen in the unsaturated soil layer. The C in the wastewater is now oxidized to CO2 while NH4+ is oxidized to NO2- thus raising the nitrate level of the sewage to about seven times the limit acceptable for dumping water (10mg/l). The H+ released from the oxidation of NH4+ now reduces the pH of the effluent.
A properly functioning septic tank system should be able to reduce the pollutional level of wastewater to such a level as is within local and international standards for wastewater disposal. The septic tank system consists of a water tight tank for removal of solids and partial digestion of organic matter, and a drain field which is a secondary treatment system. The tank is an anaerobic system while the drain field is mostly aerobic which further treats the effluent before channeling it to the groundwater. In some cases, the drain field could be a gravity type or a dosing type.
All things being equal, the septic tank system does not pose much problem and requires little maintenance.

However when the system is not working properly, it merely serves as a route for recycling pathogens and deadly chemicals through the ecosystem. According to Cogger (1988), nearly 40% of groundwater attributed disease outbreaks can be traced to the failure of onsite disposal systems. Weissman et al. (1976), Bidgman et al. (1995) and Taylor et al. (1981) among others, reported cases of disease outbreak resulting from groundwater contamination due to septic tank failure. In Africa where most people depend on streams, shallow wells and boreholes, the case is even more severe.

PROJECT TOPIC- IMPROVING SEPTIC TANK PERFORMANCE BY A NEW RATIONAL DESIGN APPROACH

1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM

If wastewater flowing into the septic tank does not receive adequate treatment, it is simply passed on to the groundwater unnoticed thus wreaking havoc on public health. Researchers have shown that most septic tanks especially in developing countries do not even attain an average performance throughout their lifetime. The result is that most septic tanks only act as a conduit for conveying raw / under treated sewage into the soil leading to massive fouling of our groundwater.

And because the groundwater is the main source of potable water in most communities, man constantly stands the risk of water borne and water related diseases. Most times, the groundwater is used without treatment on the common assumption that it is “always clean”. The menace of such diseases as typhoid fever, diarrhea, giardiasis, gastroenteritis, hepatitis, methemoglobinamia, samonellosis, dysentery, etc will continue to plague humanity until a systematic approach to the design, construction and maintenance of the septic tank system is adopted.
The foregoing indicates that the septic tank system requires proper design, construction, use and maintenance. The cardinal aspect of septic tank maintenance which is of interest in this research is desludging. The absence of a deterministic equation for the prediction of desludging interval has usually led to too frequent desludging or excessive accumulation of sludge in the septic tank. Too frequent desludging increases cost of operation while excessive accumulation of sludge drastically reduces the efficiency of the septic tanks. The problem at the heart of this research is to develop a systematic and rational approach to the design of septic tanks and also to provide suitable guidelines for the maintenance of the septic tank system in order to ensure the protection of public and environmental health.

1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY

Most of the existing methods of septic tank design are not based on extensive scientific research and have so far proved inadequate. Most times what is referred to as design is mere lumped sizing instead of systematic and rational design. Therefore, the main objective of this research is to develop a systematic approach to the design and maintenance of septic tanks.
Hence, the specific objectives of this research are:
(i) To derive a model to predict the rate of sludge accumulation in septic tanks;
(ii) To calibrate the model using field data;
(iii) To predict the desludging interval of septic tanks by relating sludge accumulation to reduction in detention time;
(iv) To compare the sludge accumulation model to existing models
(v) To expose the unreliability of prevailing design methods and maintenance; and
(vi) To present a step by step procedure of how to design a functional septic tank using facts from the research.

PROJECT TOPIC- IMPROVING SEPTIC TANK PERFORMANCE BY A NEW RATIONAL DESIGN APPROACH

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