You heard the commercials and read online reviews as you hunted for a new septic or sewer option. You decided on an aerobic system because it had great efficiency ratings, and you wanted to make sure you chose something that was both efficient and environmentally friendly.

However, you still don't quite know how your system functions or how to take care of it. You assume you'd just call your septic experts if anything went wrong. But how would you know that something had gone wrong in the first place?

Read through the information below. We'll tell you everything you have ever wanted to know about your aerobic septic system.

The Aerobic Waste Removal Process

If you didn't know it before, you might get a shock now—your aerobic system uses bacteria to break waste down. These aerobic bacteria get their name because they use oxygen (the "aero" component of "aerobic") to metabolize the organic matter that goes through your septic system. These bacteria need both oxygen and organic matter to stay alive and make this process work.

In an aeration system, the bacteria live either in sludge or in basins. Then a surface aerator or diffusion aerator sends extra oxygen into the system at the same time as organic waste. The bacteria eat the waste, breathe the air, and give off carbon dioxide as a waste product. As a result, you will have clean water to either put back into the environment or the municipal water supply.

Depending on the type of aerobic system you own, you may need multiple units to ensure the water comes out clean. For example, systems that use the surface aeration method may need added units (and therefore more space) to run wastewater through several cycles to completely cleanse it. Your septic experts can tell you more about how your specific system works.

The 411 on Aerobic Bacteria: Harmful or Helpful?

Bacteria tend to have a bad reputation because they cause many of the unpleasant and even dangerous illnesses that plague the human species. So when you see the word "bacteria" included in a product's description, you may feel wary.

However, the bacteria in an aerobic system cannot infect or otherwise hurt you. They, like many other microorganisms, have a mutually beneficial relationship with humans.

For example, did you know that you have more bacteria cells in your body than your own cells? Bacteria in your digestive tract help you process foods, while bacteria on your skin contribute to your immune system.

People also use bacteria to make cheese and yogurt, as well as pickles and other fermented foods. These bacteria do not harm you, and the ones in your aerobic water treatment system won't either.

Strategies When Your Aerobic Bacteria Have Problems

The best way to keep your aerobic septic system in good condition involves prevention. Do not use your system in such a way that the moving components break or you kill the bacteria. The bacteria can die when harsh chemicals and toxic contaminants enter the water. You can find a list of these contaminants in one of our previous blog posts.

However, should you accidentally put some of these chemicals into your plumbing, or should you simply notice that your system no longer works as effectively, contact a septic expert in your area. He or she will examine your system and check the bacteria levels to see what went wrong. Then he or she can advise you on your best course of action.

Often, you can use more oxygen and more organic waste to boost the bacteria's presence. Or you can drain the water and add new bacteria. Call your septic professionals to learn more about what you can do for your personal system.