Opinion

SOUNDOFF: Additives bad for your septic

The snake oil salesmen have gone high tech.

In recent days I have received some computer-generated telephone calls and some e-mail spam messages selling septic tank additives. These same cons have been around for many decades. The products have no more value than they did 50 years ago. The sales pitch is just more sophisticated now. As always, they are still advertised in some magazines, and have shown up here recently in newspaper advertising inserts. They suggest that your septic tank needs an inoculation with their biological agents, enzymes, sawdust or whatever.

The truth is: All you need to inoculate your septic tank with the necessary biological agents is to take a seat on your toilet, move your bowel … and flush!

It is interesting that the primary statement these peddlers make nowadays is the claim that the additives are guaranteed to do no harm to the septic tank. With some exceptions (there are a few harmful additives) the no-harm claim may be true, but there is always a concern that the additives may disperse some of the solids in the septic tanks allowing them to move on to foul the drainfield that the septic tank is there to protect. Harm, or no harm, the pertinent question is “Do the additives do any good?”

It will also do no harm to the septic system if you flush $20 bills down the toilet, and it will do just as much good. The $20 bill treatment is actually preferable because you probably already have a bunch of extra $20 bills conveniently lying around your house anyway, and watching the currency swirl down out of the bowl may be an experience you can tell your friends about at cocktail parties.

I may be known for crackpot letters to the editor about various topics, but this topic happens to fall within the narrow area of my professional expertise. If you are considering investing your hard-earned money in any of those additives, and would like a second opinion, please ask any sanitarian in your county health department, or any sanitarian in any other county health department, or any sanitarian in the state Department of Health before you send in your money.

Please remember, also, that you can do more good by sending your extra money to any good charity out there than you can by enriching purveyors of worthless concoctions, or you can save the money to help pay for pumping of the solids out of your tank when your next routine tank inspection shows that it is time to do so.

Vin Sherman is employed by Island County

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