COVID-19 raises questions for septic systems | Coronavirus

Hygiene has become one of the best bets against COVID-19. The particular emphasis on cleanliness leads people to turn to an old, unshakable solution when faced with germs – bleach.

Bleach and other disinfectants like Lysol and other household cleaners – including laundry detergent that contains Lysol – can damage the septic tanks. People with well water and drainage fields are particularly at risk of being too clean.

“The sewer system works with a balance between good and bad bacteria,” said Joan Davis of Affordable Septic Systems in Lebanon. “If you use bleach and products to kill bacteria, all the bacteria are killed and then the solids cannot break down. So these solids get into your runoff field and the runoff field fails. “

But the key could be how much cleaning solution we use.

Shane Sanderson, director of Linn County Environmental Health, said it would be difficult to manipulate a drain field with household bleach.

“What you need to understand is that in a gallon of bleach, only 4 or 5% of it is chlorine,” he said. “It works to kill bacteria on a kitchen surface, but when you think of a tank that is literally full of bacteria, it doesn’t really affect that amount.” For example, in Linn County, the code requires septic tanks with a capacity of 1,000 gallons. That size of tank, Sanderson said, would be difficult to damage.

“A slight increase in household bleach or kill-alls isn’t going to really affect a drain field, basically because of the dilution,” he said. “You’d have to toss a five gallon jug of bleach in your sink to see a kill in the tank. ”

However, other cleaning agents can cause damage. “White wipes, baby wipes,” he said, “we always want to keep these out of the system. These will cause damage. “

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