Are you pouring a lot of coffee grounds or soda down the drain at your restaurant or commercial property?
A recent study by the Onsite Sewage Treatment Program at the University of Minnesota Water Resources Center wanted to find out if dumping a large
quantity of soda and coffee into a septic system could have a negative impact on how the septic system functions. Because coffee and soda are known to be highly acidic, the goal of the study was to determine if large volumes of these items, say from a convenience store that sells a lot of coffee and carbonated drinks, could disrupt how a septic system does its job.
Homeowners with septic systems probably don’t need to worry about this as much as commercial properties, such as restaurants, gas stations and
convenience stores, because they aren’t throwing as much of the product away on a daily basis. At commercial operations, many of them have a time limit in which to keep a pot of coffee before they have to dump it and make a new pot. They also might have self-serve soda machines, allowing customers to pour a glass, taste it, and dump it out in favor of a different flavor. Meaning that these types of businesses could dump a lot of coffee and soda down the drain daily, causing a disruption to their septic systems.
Coffee grounds won’t break down in a septic tank, causing businesses to have their septic tank pumped out more frequently. Coffee grounds are also very acidic, meaning they can affect the pH balance of your tank. If this
happens, the environment in your tank for healthy bacteria could change and your system would then struggle to break down the waste flowing into the system.
How a Septic System Works
Septic systems are underground wastewater treatment systems that combine a septic tank and a drain field or soil absorption field. The septic tank is used to separate the solids, oil, and grease from the wastewater that comes from bathroom and kitchen drains, laundry and in commercial properties, their drink dispensers, and liquid waste disposal. Once those items are separated out, the system discharges the remaining liquid into other parts of the system until it is released slowly into the leach field where the sand, organic matter, like peat or sawdust, or constructed wetlands will remove or neutralize pollutants such as bacteria, nitrogen, phosphorus, and other contaminants.
The University of Minnesota study looked at how the most common beverages sold at a restaurant or convenience store could impact a septic system. It included black coffee, the most common, iced coffee, coffee with sweetened creamer, coffee with regular half and half, and Coke since that is the most popular soda variety. The researchers studied the effects of these products on biological oxygen demand, chemical oxygen demand, total suspended solids, chloride, total phosphorus, total Kjeldahl Nitrogen, and pH.
It found that coffee beverages with more additives to them, such as sweeteners and creamers, produced higher strength wastewater which can have a negative impact on how your septic system functions. All of the beverages studied had higher wastewater concentrations than typical septic tank effluent. The study found that regular black coffee had the lowest levels of any of the beverages tested and that iced coffee had the highest wastewater concentrations of any of the beverages tested. Coke was found to have the lowest pH level compared to the other five drinks that were sampled.
At Crews Environmental, we are experts in the maintenance and upkeep of both residential and commercial septic systems. We can locate your septic tank if you are unsure where it is, and we can not only inspect your tank for problems but also pump it out. We also can inspect your drain field, which is usually made up of rock and pipe or chambers and soil. Our technicians look for water surfacing on top of or along the sides of the drain field area, any smell coming from the leach field, saturation of the drain field, or any obstructions like trees, roots, shrubs, or tire ruts that can negatively impact how your system is functioning.
The goal of an inspection is to make sure that every part of the septic system is working properly. If it isn’t, we can work with you to come up with a plan for repair or replacement. If you live in Southwest Florida and you are concerned about your septic system, give Crews Environmental a call today. We have served the area since 1982 and septic systems are our specialty.
Crews Environmental is the leading company for septic services in Fort Myers and Cape Coral. We are available 24/7 for any emergency pumpout needs! Call us today at 239-347-0644 to schedule a same-day appointment!