In 1942, our family built an adobe home on adobe soil, By 1952, when I was attending the University of Arizona, Tueson, my father contacted the soils lab there to discuss the causes for the ongoing drainage problems encountered in our septic system soils.
He received a short lesson on soils and a new understanding about the anaerobic-aerobic interface which occurs when septage hits well aerated soils. After some research, he hit on pumice as a media for the drainfield, due to the porous nature of the material. In short order, he was corresponding with the best soil scientists in the nation most of whom were specialists in agriculture. In the early 1950's FHA had other lending agencies set out to ascertain the "average" life expecancy of septic systems to help in determining the length of mortgages which would be granted for homes without sewer connections.
The University of California, set up a research area in Richmond California, were detailed studies were to be carried out. This was named the Sanitary Engineering Research Lab (SERL). Among the original team were such illustrious names as McGauhey, Winneberger and Pomeroy who are still regarded as the leading lights of waste research.
Their studies soon determined that septic system or domestic wastewater contains high levels of sodium from cleaning compounds, soaps (detergents) and cooking. As any soil scientist worth his salt will tell you, sodiums can sause clays to bind. These gentlemen realized the implications for long-term failure of drainfield soils, as well.
Clays are, in fact, important constituents of soils in the cleanup process, as they are more surface active than silts or sands. This information is repeatedly noted in the series of reports from SERL. Later, in the 1960's and 1970's Coulter and Bendixen (from Cincinnati) carried the message to large audiences of health specialists.
Horne first visited the SEL facility in 1952, and was encouraged to field test his concepts in a wide variety of situations. He patented a distribution system over the pumice media and achieved success in virtually every instance. His methods were applied in Western states, including areas with marginal native soils high sodium in the water supplies.
After using these "mechanical"
methods to provide drainage, Horne contacted Chevron Oil, which had just
purchased a company called California Spray Chemical for its assets. As
luck would have it, the lab facilities were located in Richmond, CA "next
door" to the SERL facility!
The tank does not fail. The soil fails. Keeping the soil aerated and percolating requires understanding of the role of the system components and the need for regular pumping to assure adequate retention time for separation and settling of solids which will, otherwise, flow into the field along with greases, scums, fibers and solids.
After 40 years, 1993 Chevron sold off its ORTHO division to Monsanto. which shortened the line of products. SEPTIC SEEP was transferred to me, as heir, under the new corporation "Drayner, Inc." With the help of ORTHO's retiring production, labeling, manufacturing and advertising experts, who knew and respected Fred Horne, SEPTIC SEEP continues to perform as always.
Meanwhile, the library of technical information begun by Airrigation and ORTHO continues to grow daily, thanks in large part to the resouces of the 90's and the work of people like Dr. Robert Patterson of the University of New England, NSW, Australia, who has just completed a minutely detailed ten year study of the effect of sodiums in household products on wastewater absorption to soils.
His landmark speech at the ASTM conference in New Orleans is to be published for distribution this June, and I will have the privilege of presenting this work at the National Environmental Health Association Conference on June 29th in Alexandria, Virgina.
While I realize that many in this audience are engineers, I earnest request that you become better acquainted with the biological, chemical and physical aspects of soils which are, in most cases, the principle "cleaning" mechanisms for domestic (on-site) wastewater disposal.
Please let me hear from you all on this
matter. After more than 40 years of continuous "exposure" to
world class experts in this field, I hope I am competent to take on your
questions and provide support for your projects. I do not hold a formal
degree but find that my "expertise" on this subject has come
to me by "osmosis".
The Chevron group was formed to develop a garden products section, which was soon to the named ORTHO. Horne worked with this small group on a soil amendment, which would release the sodium bound and restore percolation in failing or marginal systems. With the support the "ORTHO" product developers, he developed a soil amendment product designed for homeowner application through the plumbing to the tank and field. The product was trademarked SEPTIC SEEP, and was supported by a series of articles in Sunset Magazine as well as by features on septic system maintenance tips in literally thousands of newspappers and Sunday supplements.
In May of 1953, the ORTHO product line sprang into the market place, which was primarily garden shops, with some emphasis on farm sales for their line of pesticides. Unfortunately, plumbing shops were not on the call list of the ORTHO representatives, but Chevron management soon turned all marketing over to Horne's company, Airrigation Engineering.
ORTHO's crack sales force soon swept the market with their revolutionary product line, which included specific gardening booklets for everything from tomatoes to prize orchids.
SEPTIC SEEP had to be differentiated from the thousands of "tank additives" which ranged from yeast to dried sewae sludge, many claiming "never pump again!"
A series of third party university and agency tests were performed with "hands off" wastewater and soils scientists to determine the effectiveness of the product in large (regional park, camps, complexes) and individual systems California, Texas, and Arizona. Dosing was carefully monitored to assure the proper ratio for tank and drainage flows.
Once these were completed, the product was applied by about three dozen pumper operators and field reports supplied on results. Someone felt that a "flocculant" product, to help settle solids would be beneficial, but it was soon evident that SEPTIC SEEP was achieving some "dramatic" results with visible changes noted.
Educating the "professional" was
a challenge but explaining the product to the public in a retail setting
was a daunting task. Then, as now, the subject of sewage was deemed "improper"
at the dinner table and even as editorial context in home magazines. Horne
found himself championing the need for education and accurate data to
editors across the country.