Septic Management

Recent years have seen an increase in the number of options for proper management of septic waste. The choice of which option to go for is dependent on budget, land availability, skill level of the contractor, expected amount of waste that will be generated, and whether or not someone will be around to maintain the septic system.

Irrespective of which septic management system you choose, from our experience there are a few common points to keep in mind.

  • General points

Directly address any perceptions of concerns residents may have about septic management.
Particularly people who live close to the facility may be concerned about smells coming from the facility or the potential for overflow of sewage or contamination of their water sources. If possible, it’s useful to inform community members during the third pre-construction meeting about the septic management strategy and address and concerns that may come up.

Ensure separation of grey water and fecal matter
Grey water is the water from sinks, bathing stalls and clothes washing. During construction, make sure that this water is separately channeled to a soak pit or septic line, while the fecal matter is routed to the septic tank. If grey water is routed to the septic tank, it will unnecessarily increase the volume of liquid being collected in the septic tank and increase the frequency of desludging.

Try to place septic tanks behind or beside facilities in places where people are less likely to walk on them.
In community spaces, kids often play outside and the community toilet may be located near one of their common playing spaces. If the tank is built in front of the facility, children may use this as a playground which would pose a safety hazard.

Make sure that the testing and commissioning of the septic tank system is within the contractor’s scope of work.
Doing this requires technical expertise and makes sure that the septic tank has been properly constructed and is ready for use. Any issues can be immediately identified and rectified by the contractor.

Though vent pipes are necessary for septic tanks, they can be stolen and sold off.
While there’s no way to prevent this, mobilizing the community to support the facility and look after it can minimize how often this occurs.

There are special factors to consider for remote communities and more cramped communities that are close to the city center.
These are discussed in the Factors to consider in choosing a septic management system document linked in the resources.

  • Sammaan Septic Management Approach

The septic management approach of Project Sammaan facilities was relatively simple given the scale of the project and space constraints we faced in our sites. For most sites, we used Improved Septic tanks and either connected these with existing septic lines, or with soak pits (as per site conditions). Originally, we had planning to implement decentralized septic management systems at a few of our project sites, but due to the time gap between site selection and start of construction, there wasn’t sufficient space to construct these systems.

Depiction of cross-section of an improved septic tank

  • Resources

Check out our resources to learn more about factors to consider in septic management and to see sample designs for septic systems. Guideline for monitoring septic tank construction are also provided, along with the process for commissioning tanks.

Factors to consider in choosing a septic
management system

Design documents for septic tanks

Monitoring construction of septic tanks
and soak pits

Process for testing and commissioning
septic tanks