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Frozen Septic System

Do You Have a Frozen Septic System? If you, there are 4 basic considerations:A. Where Did it Freeze?B. Why Did it Freeze?C. How to Unfreeze it?D. How Can I Prevent it from Happening Again?A. There are four common locations where systems can freeze. Pipe from house to tankIf the pipe between the house and septic tank froze, two issues need to evaluated. First, make sure there are no leaking fixtures, such as toilets or faucets, or low wastewater generating devices, such as a high efficiency furnace discharging into the system. Secondly, make sure the entire pipe has sufficient slope without any sags to assure water is draining into the septic tank (minimum of 1" drop in eight feet and a maximum 2" in eight feet). Septic tank and/or pump tankWhen a septic tank freezes, the baffles need to be checked to verify that they are still in place and have not been damaged. The tank(s) should also be checked for cracks, although this occurs very rarely. Styrofoam which is designed to be buried can be placed over the tank to insulate it by removing the soil cover, placing 1-3 inches of styrofoam, and replacing the soil cover). If there is a pump in the system, it should be inspected to make sure it is working properly. It is important that the pump is accessible at all times. This may require the installation of a riser to bring the access to the surface. Because bringing the manhole to the surface will allow more heat loss from the tank, it is a good idea to add Styrofoam under the manhole cover or place insulation (loose material such as straw, hay or leaves) over the top of the cover each fall. Pipe to soil treatment areaIf there is a pump in the last tank, it is critical that when the pump shuts off, all the effluent drains back into the tank through a weep hole. A weep hole is typically a ¼-inch hole in the lowest portion of the piping in the manhole. This weep hole will drain water even when the pump is on. Two common problems in pump tanks are check valves that do not allow effluent to drain back and pumping systems designed for drainback through the pump. A licensed onsite sewage treatment professional can determine if a check valve is in place or if the effluent is draining through the pump. Soil treatment areaIf the soil or mound was soggy or wet before the winter, the system needs a thorough evaluation by an onsite sewage treatment professional to determine why it is not operating properly. If sewage comes to the surface while frozen in the winter, this creates a health risk to people or animals that come in contact with it. The solution may be as simple as bringing in additional topsoil or a more extensive reworking of this part of the system. Checking the distribution system should also be done. In gravity situations drop or distribution boxes should be checked and in pressure applications the system should be verified. Why Do You Have a Frozen Septic System?1. Lack of snow cover. Lack of snow allows frost to go deeper into the ground, which can potentially cause a frozen system.Waterlogged system. Failing septic systems (where the waste water comes to the surface or out the side of a mound) are a prime candidate.3. Pipes not draining properly. Anytime there is a dip or low spot in a pipe, sewage can collect and freeze. This is a fairly common problem.4. Cold air entering the system. Open and uncapped riser or inspection pipes and manhole covers can allow cold air into the system and cause it to freeze.Leaking fixtures, which send a small film of water into the pipes. Small amounts of water can freeze more readily than larger flows.6. Irregular use. Regular sewage flows help maintain sufficient temperatures in the system and prevent it from freezing.7. Compacted snow and/or soil. Compacted snow and soils do not insulate as well. How Can You Unfreeze Your Frozen Septic System?The best thing to do is call a licensed septic contractor. Most use pressure washers that generate steam to thaw the system. They have professional tools such as steamers, high-pressure jetters, tank heaters, heat tape and special cameras that can be used in the pipes to determine where the septic system is frozen.You also want to call them immediately to make an appointment, as septic contractors are often extremely busy during a cold snap and it could take 5-10 days for them to get to your house. If you want to try to unfreeze your system yourself, there are some options. A regular septic system will usually start freezing at the distribution box and and work its way out. If your system has a pump tank, that is where they usually start freezing. If you are lucky there will be a way to open them up, but in most cases you will be dealing with frozen ground. If you are careful you could build a fire over the area and try to thaw out the ground. If you know someone that digs graves, they often use a propane-fired heating device to thaw the ground for winter business. Once you get to the distribution box (or pump tank), you can run a garden hose from your water heater and use hot water to thaw things out. You will also want to put some hot water into the septic tank itself to raise the temperate inside it. Before you do this, make sure to get some hay spread out over the system, as even hot water will cool off quickly in cold temperatures. Also, make sure to bring the hose inside the house before using it, to make sure it isn't plugged with ice, and bring it back inside the house afterward in case you need to use it again.   How Can I Prevent My System from Freezing Again?1. Place an 8-12” layer of mulch over the pipes, tank and leach field to provide extra insulation.2. Use more hot water; spread out laundry loads to ensure enough hot water is flowing through the system on a regular basis.If you will be leaving for an extended period of time, have someone there, such as a caretaker, to keep the system in use. Or, you can pump out your tank before leaving4. Fix any leaking plumbing fixtures or appliances.5. Add more insulation to your system, i.e. replace pipe with insulated pipe, add Styrofoam over septic tanks or add more soil cover.6. Avoid driving and walking over the system.7. Make sure all risers, inspection pipes and manholes have covers on them. You can also seal and insulate them for an extra measure of protection.NEW! There is now a new product called the Septic Heater which can prevent your septic system from freezing. This invention uses a fan to blow warm air through the pipes, preventing them from freezing. It is the only product in the world that actually prevents frozen septic systems. More information can be found at

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Septic System Safe Toilet Paper

Septic system repairs are not cheap and can cost from $5,000 to $20,000 or more, depending on where you live and the condition of your system. However, if taken care of properly, they can last for longer than you own your home. One of the ways to take care of your system is using septic system safe toilet paper. To be on the safe side, it is best to use the cheaper, white, 80 grit, septic safe toilet paper- because it will break down easier. The more people in your household, the more important this is. There is no proof of this, but the dyes in colored toilet paper MAY cause problems. In general, you want to be very careful about what you flush down the toilet, not just toilet paper. Just because a product says "safe for septic systems" on the package, doesn't mean it is. The problem is, over 25% of homes in the United States are on septic systems. If a company admits their product is not safe for septic systems, not only will they lose 25% or more of their sales, they also open themselves up for lawsuits. Here is a letter from one lady which shows how this can happen:"I started having problems with our septic system.  I took you advice and had the tank pumped and inspected.  What the contractor found was hundreds of wet-wipes (I have been using because it says safe for septic systems on the box) were plugging the baffles.  He sucked them out when he pumped the tank and I had him jet the lines as well.     These wet-wipes were made by XXX and when I called them to tell them about this problem the person I talked said they had got a lot of complaints about this.  But when I asked if they were going to change their advertising they said no.  I don't understand why they won't warn people about this and feel it is very irresponsible."  Marsha K.         

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Septic Tank Alarm Information

All septic systems that use a pump to move wastewater from a septic pump tank to a drainfield or mound have an alarm installed in the house. The alarm goes off when wastewater is not being pumped from the septic pump tank to the drainfield or mound. When the alarm goes off, you have approximately 400 gallons of capacity in your septic pump tank before wastewater starts to back up into your basement. When you hear the septic tank alarm buzzing, you should call a septic service company as soon as possible. Some common causes that may trigger your septic tank alarm are:1. The pump has broken (average pump life is 10 years)2. Power to the pump has been disconnected3. Wastewater is coming into the tank faster than it can be pumped to the drainfield. 4. The septic tanks are leaking and surface water or groundwater is entering into the tanks, thus during heavy rain storms your pump can't keep up. 5. The pipes in your mound or drainfield are plugged with debris or frozen water, and water cannot pass through the pipes. 6. False alarm. In addition to septic tank alarms, a company in Maine by the name of Aeration systems manufactures a leach field monitor called the Septic Sentry. By measuring the level of wastewater in the field directly, the Septic Sentry provides an early warning against leach field failure. 

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Septic Tank Aerator Information

What is a septic tank aerator?There are two types of bacteria in a septic system which process waste: aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic bacteria require oxygen and are approximately 20 times more aggressive/effective than anaerobic bacteria (which don't require oxygen). In a conventional septic system, the bacteria in the septic tank are anaerobic. There are now aerators available as after market products.  In a regular system the treatment process is started in the septic system.  But because the tank is anaerobic (without oxygen) the treatment process is minimal.  From there the effluent enters the drainfield where the uneven shape of the gravel or the open area of a chamber system creates voids that contain oxygen.  In the presence oxygen aerobic bacteria exist and these bacteria are 20 times more aggressive than anaerobic bacteria. A septic tank aerator works by pumping oxygen into the tank changing it from an anaerobic atmosphere to an aerobic atmosphere and this allows the more effective aerobic bacteria to exist in the tank.  Under these conditions the treatment in the tank is increased and effluent leaving the tank can be cleaner which in turn takes the load off the soil treatment area.  The manufacturers are claiming they can be used to rejuvenate failed systems.  Although there has been little documented data on these claims (the Universities and other government agencies are extremely slow to test new products) the theory is strong and has excellent potential. The drawbacks of a septic system aerator are:*They will burn electricity.  The best advice is to avoid letting the system go into failure in the first place.    *If the pump is too strong, the septic system aerator could agitate the contents of the tank, flushing solids out to the drainfield and creating more of a problem.*The pumps can get clogged with lint from washing machines.

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Laundry Detergent Ingredients

Are Leading Brand Laundry Detergents Environmentally Friendly? Consumers have become much more concerned about how the products they use impact the environment in recent years. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for even highly educated consumers to find out just what ingredients are in certain products, and how they might impact the environment.Take the leading brand laundry detergents. You certainly won’t get a straight answer by looking at the ingredients label, where you typically find the following cryptic message: “Ingredients include surfactants (anionic and nonionic) and enzymes.”We cannot provide you with specific ingredients used in Tide or other name brand laundry detergents, for a couple reasons. First of all, companies are not required by law to list their ingredients, and claim that their formulations are confidential. Secondly, the ingredients they use change periodically, whether due to reformulation or simply the use of alternative ingredients to reduce costs. However, the following list of ingredients commonly used in the leading brands, along with a description of how they impact the environment, should give you a good idea of what’s really inside:Alkyl benzene sulfonates or ABS (also linear alkyl benzene sulfonates or LAS, linear alkyl sodium sulfonates).A class of synthetic surfactants (usually identified as “anionic surfactants.”)  ABS are very slow to biodegrade and seldom used. LAS, however, are the most common surfactants in use. During the manufacturing process, carcinogens and reproductive toxins such as benzene are released into the environment. While LAS do biodegrade, they do so slowly and are of low to moderate toxicity. LAS are synthetic. The pure compounds may cause skin irritation on prolonged contact, just like soap. Allergic reactions are rare. Because oleo-based alternatives are available, LAS should not be used.Alkyl phenoxy polyethoxy ethanols (also nonyl phenoxy ethoxylate or nonyl phenol). This is a general name for a group of synthetic surfactants. They are slow to biodegrade in the environment and have been implicated in chronic health problems. Researchers in England have found that in trace amounts they activate estrogen receptors in cells, which in turn alters the activity of certain genes. For example, in experiments they have been found to stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells and feminize male fish. One member of this family of chemicals is used as a common spermicide, indicating the general level of high biological toxicity associated with these compounds. Artificial fragrancesArtificial fragrances are made from petroleum. Many do not degrade in the environment, and may have toxic effects on both fish and mammals. Additionally, they often can cause allergies and skin or eye irritation. Diethanolamines (also diethanolamine, triethanolamine and monoethanolamine).   A synthetic family of surfactants, this group of compounds is used to neutralize acids in products to make them non-irritating. Diathanolamines are slow to biodegrade and they react with natural nitrogen oxides and sodium nitrite pollutants in the atmosphere to form nitrosamines, a family ofpotent carcinogens.EDTA (ethylene-diamino-tetra-acetate).A class of synthetic, phosphate-alternative compounds used to reduce calcium and magnesium hardness in water. EDTA is also used to prevent bleaching agents from becoming active before they're immersed in water and as a foaming stabilizer. EDTA does not readily biodegrade and once introduced into the general environment can re-dissolve toxic heavy metals trapped in underwater sediments, allowing them to re-enter and re-circulate in the food chain.Optical brightenersOptical brighteners are a broad classification of many different synthetic chemicals that, when applied to clothing, convert UV light wavelengths to visible light, thus making laundered clothes appear "whiter." Their inclusion in any formula does not enhance or affect the product's performance in any way; they simply trick the eye. Optical brighteners do not readily biodegrade. They are toxic to fish when washed into the general environment and can create bacterial mutations. They can cause allergic reaction when in contact with skin that is then exposed to sunlight. Most optical brighteners are given trade names which consumers are unlikely tosee on a label.Petroleum distillates (also naphthas). A broad category encompassing almost every type of chemical obtained directly from the petroleum refining process. Any ingredient listed as a "petroleum distillate" or "naphtha" should be suspect as it is, firstly a synthetic and, secondly, likely to cause one or more detrimental health or environmental effects.PhosphatesA key nutrient in ecosystems, phosphates are natural minerals important to the maintenance of all life. Their role in laundry detergents is to remove hard water minerals and thus increase the effectiveness of the detergents themselves. They are also a deflocculating agent; that is, they prevent dirt from settling back onto clothes during washing. While relatively non-irritating and non-toxic in the environment, they nonetheless contribute to significant eutrophication of waterways and create unbalanced ecosystems by fostering dangerously explosive marine plantgrowth. For these reasons they are banned or restricted in many states.  Products containing phosphates should be considered unacceptable.   Note: The major laundry detergent manufacturers no longer use phosphates in their formulations. PolycarboxylatesSimilar in chemical structure to certain plastics and acrylic compounds, these are relatively new, synthetic phosphate substitutes.  Because they are recent additions to the consumer product chemical arsenal, however, their effects on human and environmental health remain largely unknown. Though tests show they are non-toxic, do not interfere with treatment plant operation and generally settle out with the sludge during water treatment, until further study and analysis are conducted, use of this ingredient is not recommended. Further, they are not biodegradable and are petroleum based.Polyethylene glycol (also PEG). Another type of anti-redeposition agent, PEG is a polymer made from ethylene oxide and is similar to some non-ionic detergents.  Not considered toxic, it takes large doses to be lethal in animals.  However, PEG is slow to degrade and is synthetic.Quaternium 15An alkyl ammonium chloride used as a surfactant, disinfectant and deodorant that releases formaldehyde, a potent toxin.Xylene sulfonateXylene is a synthetic that, when reacted with sulfuric acid, creates a surfactant.  Slow to biodegrade in the environment and moderately toxic.

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It’s not about laundry. It’s about love!

Los Angeles, October 9, 2016. Open letter to all our customers: A few days ago, one of our customers, Mr. K, purchased one of our products, a Superpop washer and it was delivered in a little bit more than 24 hours. Unfortunately the machine was damaged by that famous cargo company and it arrived with a crack on the lid. Politely, Mr. K sent us an email that went straight to my inbox. He was asking how much we would charge for a replacement lid. I started to write a formal reply explaining his washer was protected by a 3-year warranty and we would send him a replacement free of charge, as I do hundreds of times every week, but then I stopped for a moment. Wait! What am I doing? Why use this formal language? This is not me, this is not our company! We make machines to be used by humans, we interact with humans and we are The Laundry Alternative! Why our communications need to be the same as everybody else? Then I decided to delete and restart. Now it wasn’t only Thomas the design manager writing. It was me, Thomas, the washing machine lover writing an email to my close friend K. It was something like this: Dear  K. I’m sorry that incident happened to our washer. Selling you a replacement part? Are you crazy? I refuse to sell you replacement parts for your washing machine until the warranty expires. Instead, I’m sending you a brand new washer right at this moment.Oh! And don’t forget that here you’re the boss.Have a good one! Tom Yes, my friends, I asked if one of our customers was “crazy”. Who would think an American company would dare to use such colloquial language to communicate to a customer. And do you want to know why? The answer is super simple. Since Corey Tournet started the company in 1999, the company never sold a single product. We don’t sell products, we are paid to offer solutions. That is our soul and that’s why we are called The Laundry Alternative. Life is too short to waste time with useless formalities. And come on, folks. Receive an email reply that looks like it was written by a robot? Nope! No way! Never with my signature! That moment I could realize how big is our legacy and how important our brand is. It is true that we are the alternative to do laundry protecting the environment but our alternatives go much beyond that.  Different from competitors that think only about profit and search for the cheapest supplier in China, we design our own products focused on American and Canadian needs. We are constantly listening to people because we make machines for humans. And we are also humans. We are an American company, we understand our people and our beloved Canadian neighbors and we will never stop listening because every day we can learn something new that can be used to improve our products or our services.We are crazy. Totally crazy.Just like the lovely Disney character Gyro Gearloose. (But our inventions work, LOL)  Maybe we should have bowl of Haldol for breakfast instead of the usual corn flakes.Who would be crazy enough to create a hand crank washing machine? We knew the idea would sound silly, maybe even absurd, and here it is. We had the guts to innovate and our non-electric washer is so good that one of our customers called it WonderWash and the nickname was turned into the model name.  Almost 20 years later and hundreds of thousands of units later, our “crazy” idea helped the US and Canada save millions of Kw/h of electricity and millions of gallons of water.  And it was only our first product.  After that, we created our first spin dryer, so efficient that it cuts the drying time in over 70%. It can even extract more water than the best full size washer on the market that claims to be “High Efficiency”.  We went ahead and again decided to run away from the beaten path launching a clothes dryer that can be hung on a door and connected to any power outlet and uses 84% less electricity than a regular full size tumble dryer without shrinking clothes. Who doesn’t love it? Our product portfolio grew up and thanks to our customers we improved our products. Your support helped the United States of America and Canada reduce the negative impact on the environment. Who would think the WonderWash would cause such good impact? Who would believe when we said we were going to launch the biggest capacity household spin dryer in the World? Who would say we would receive calls from customers saying the SuperPop cleans and rinses much better than the best model made by the giant company Whirlpool? Our secret is not exactly a secret. We think simple, we think out of the box, we are crazy enough to try and we do it with love. And that’s what we do every day, because it’s not about laundry, It’s about love. The love that we feel for the USA and Canada, the love that we feel for our environment and the most important, the love that we feel for you, our customer, our big boss. And our competitors… well… I don’t mean to sound arrogant and please don’t understand that way, but I don’t believe those flimsy machines and even a frustrated copy of the WonderWash sold by adventurers on the Internet can be called competitors. It is true they are sometimes cheaper than our products but they don’t support the American design, they don’t even respect the so called “American Dream”. It’s super easy to bring a container full of junk from Asia and sell cheap, sometimes without even testing the products. I want to see those so called “competitors” doing exactly what we do in our warehouse in Nashua or in our lab in Los Angeles. We spend years testing and even intentionally destroying prototypes, redesigning, remaking everything hundreds of times if needed only to make sure our washers and spin dryers won’t explode, or a dryer won’t start a fire, for example, before we authorize the production to start. Our products are a little bit more expensive because we are constantly investing in new technologies to protect even more our environment for the future generations and make our customers life much easier. Thank you so much for your support.There’s a lot more to come. Designed and engineered in the United States of America, the land of the free and home of the brave. With love Thomas Alfred Banton-Ortega Product Design Manager The Laundry Alternative Inc.

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