I want to take some time to poke fun at a class of onsite wastewater treatment systems (yeah, right) referred to as ATU's or aerobic treatment units. These contraptions are slapped together by a variety of snake-oil purveyors and find their way into peoples yards through a complex and effective manipulation of smoke, mirrors, sleight of hand, payola and coercion, in other words, marketing. In their most basic form (and that's really all there is) they are simply aerated septic tanks. Somehow, someone figured out that that could toss a fish tank aerator into a common septic tank and charge thousands of dollars for it.
(The heart of the scam can be found at your state or local environmental health office however. This is because if the regulations determine that you need and ATU, you cannot simply go buy your own aerator for $250.00 and stick the hose in your septic tank NOOOOOOO......you have to go pay thousands of dollars to buy their aerator so they can stick the hose in your septic tank.)
You have to admit, that's pretty slick marketing... unless you happen to be the one paying for it of course. What's really funny about ATU's is the lengths each peddler will go to to try to differentiate their ATU from all other ATU's. This is a losing battle because they are all exactly the same thing, Aerated Septic Tanks. Some will extol the virtues of the geometric precision of their dynamic aeration chamber which leads to enhanced treatment including the conversion of chicken-shit into chicken salad. Others will try to close the blinds on your ability to think by telling you that their gizmo provides an attachment surface for tired little microbes and thus combines suspended and fixed growth processes. This is of course chicken salad (or was it the other one?) because they don't put enough attachment media in the things to do anything...it's all a hoax, period. All the work is done by the air compressor that runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. And yes, the electrical cost is significant.
As far as actual treatment results.....well let's just say that, from what I have seen, the only data that shows that these Aerated Septic Tanks consistently remove nitrogen from wastewater, is the data the snake-oil salesmen have paid for. In other words, in real-world applications, where they are not being spoon-fed a select diet of organically grown, antibiotic free, scientifically diluted, free range wastewater prepared by the galloping gourmet, served according to a precise dining schedule and in carefully measured bite-sized pieces, they just do not seem to work......
ATU's do, however, come complete with an extensive list of excuses provided free of charge by the manufacturer as to why that stink-pot in your back yard is not doing the job you paid for. When the list is exhausted, most of the peddlers have a toll free phone number you can call to get more. I hear a few of these companies have web sites where you can download thousands of previously tested excuses that are guaranteed, in writing, to make you think the reason the thing is not working is your fault. Here are a few:
You are using too much water.
You are not using enough water.
You are using the correct amount of water at the wrong time.
Your water is too hard.
Your water is too soft.
Your water is just right and the monotony is killing the microbes off.
Have you tried talking to it? Try enunciating more clearly.
Have you tried praying for it? To it?
You need to buy another "pod".
You are using antibacterial soap. Can't you just rinse off outside?
You are taking penicillin or some other antibiotic.
You can't use oral contraceptives and expect this thing to work!
How do you expect it to work with all these kids you have?!
ATU....Always Trouble Underground
ATU...Another Troubled Unit
ATU...Always Totally Under-performs