Long-term ﬂow rates and biomat zone hydrology in soil columns receiving septic tank efﬂuent
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Soil absorption systems (SAS) are used commonly to treat and disperse septic tank ef?uent (STE). SAS can hydraulically fail as a result of the low permeable biomat zone that develops on the in?ltrative surface. The objectives of this experiment were to compare the hydraulic properties of biomats grown in soils of different textures, to investigate the long-term acceptance rates (LTAR) from prolonged application of STE, and to assess if soils were of major importance in determining LTAR. The STE was applied to repacked sand, Oxisol and Vertisol soil columns over a period of 16 months, at equivalent hydraulic loading rates of 50, 35 and 8 L/m2/d, respectively. In?ltration rates, soil matric potentials, and biomat hydraulic properties were measured either directly from the soil columns or calculated using established soil physics theory. Biomats 1 to 2 cm thick developed in all soils columns with hydraulic resistances of 27 to 39 d. These biomats reduced a 4 order of magnitude variation in saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ks) between the soils to a one order of magnitude variation in LTAR. A relationship between biomat resistance and organic loading rate was observed in all soils. Saturated hydraulic conductivity in?uenced the rate and extent of biomat development. However, once the biomat was established, the LTAR was governed by the resistance of the biomat and the sub-biomat soil unsaturated ?ow regime induced by the biomat. Results show that whilst initial soil Ks is likely to be important in the establishment of the biomat zone in a trench, LTAR is determined by the biomat resistance and the unsaturated soil hydraulic conductivity, not the Ks of a soil. The results call into question the commonly used approach of basing the LTAR, and ultimately trench length in SAS, on the initial Ks of soils.
Copyright IWA Publishing 2006. The definitive peer-reviewed and edited version of this article is published in Water Research Volume 40, Issue 12, July 2006, Pages 2327-2338, doi:10.1016/j.watres.2006.04.018 and is available at www.iwapublishing.com
Environmental Science and Management not elsewhere classified