In the wider Ropley area, many homes have a cesspit, septic tank, or package treatment plant. When these systems aren’t working well, they can have a huge impact on the local environment by causing chronic sewage pollution. This subtle, long-term pollution can easily go unnoticed, but can be costly for system owners and dangerous for wildlife.
Sewage is rich in nitrogen and phosphorus, which are highly effective natural fertilisers. When they get into our local chalk streams – either directly or from the land – they encourage the rapid growth of algae. These algal blooms starve the streams of sunlight and oxygen, with devastating consequences for mayflies, brown trout, and many other species.
Luckily, expensive repairs and environmental harm can be avoided with a little know-how. If you have an off-mains system, you are legally required to prevent it from causing pollution. You must ensure that the system is suitable for your home and usage. You must also arrange frequent emptying and maintenance, and perform regular checks for signs of trouble.
It’s also important to take care about what enters your system, as the wrong additions could make it inefficient or even non-functional. Oil, fat, food waste, cotton buds, ‘flushable’ wipes, and sanitary products can cause blockages. Medicines, pesticides, disinfectants, bleach, and drain cleaner can kill the bacteria that help to break down the waste.
You can learn more about how to keep your system safe and effective with advice from the Septic Smart project – visit www.hiwwt.org.uk/septicsmart. Our work is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Watercress and Winterbournes Communications and Events Officer