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What is sewage treatment?17.03.15

We often get asked about the difference between sewage treatment and septic tanks. Here’s how Naomi describes it:

Sewage is the human waste and domestic greywater (from sinks, baths, showers, washing machines, dishwashers etc) that we produce on a daily basis. It all ultimately ends up back in the environment and a basic distinction in its route to the environment is whether it is treated in any way to mitigate its effect on the environment before it arrives there.

It is only in the last 30 years or so that mechanical wastewater treatment plants have been readily available at a domestic level and prior to their adoption, septic tanks were the common form of sewage management. Whilst septic tanks provide a primary form of treatment by removing the solids from our domestic sewage, the wastewater (making up 99% of the volume of domestic sewage) is left to the ecosystem to deal with – for this reason septic tanks in the UK must discharge to a soakaway in the ground where the liquid waste will degrade before reaching our groundwater.

Today however, there are many more options available which allow us to treat our septic effluent or liquid waste to a level where the treated effluent can be safely and legally discharged to a watercourse. This is generally called sewage treatment.

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