Every building, whether residential or commercial, requires a system for treating the wastewater coming from that building. In many cases, homes are hooked into a public sewer line that carries wastewater to a sewage treatment plant. In other cases, this sewage is treated in a residential septic system, capable of treating up to 1,000 gallons of wastewater a day. While residential septic systems are very common, with one in five households using residential septic systems to treat their wastewater, many people do not consider how businesses or buildings housing many people (apartment buildings, for example) treat their wastewater, when a public sewer system is not available. Commercial septic systems function much the same way as residential septic systems, with a few significant differences.
Commercial v. Residential Septic System Regulations
One key difference between commercial and residential septic systems in the state of Ohio is which governmental agency is in charge of regulating them. The Ohio Department of Health oversees the regulation of residential septic systems, while the Ohio EPA oversees septic systems for most businesses, whether industrial or commercial, including anything other than one-, two-, or three-family dwellings. In some counties, septic systems handling less than 1,000 gallons of wastewater a day, even when serving a business or commercial operation, will also be regulated by that county’s health department. Perhaps the most significant difference between commercial and residential septic systems lies not necessarily in the purpose of the building being serviced, but instead in the volume of water being treated. What that means is that an apartment building housing more than three families, though a residence for those who live there, would actually require a commercial septic system.
Commercial v. Residential Septic Basic Design
The basic design of any septic system, whether residential or commercial, is the same. Each drains the wastewater from the building into a holding tank, where the solids settle and begin breaking down and effluent flows into a secondary treatment system to be filtered until it is clean enough to be released back into the ground. The basic design for commercial septic systems is the same as residential septic systems. However, commercial systems, because they treat a larger capacity of wastewater, typically require a much larger system, and in some cases will also require additional pre-treatment of the effluent to help it degrade more quickly.
A Larger Design for Commercial Septic Systems
In some cases, the building requires a septic system that is much larger than the space available. One of the easiest ways to design a system large enough to handle the capacity of a commercial septic system is to extend the drainfield, allowing for a much larger volume of wastewater to be treated. However, space restrictions may prevent extending the drainfield horizontally. In such cases, the drainfield can be extended vertically, deeper into the soil. In some cases, the holding tank is installed aboveground, with the drainfield extending vertically below the tank, which allows for a larger capacity when extending further into the soil is not a viable option.
Commercial Septic System Maintenance
Regular maintenance of any septic system, whether commercial or residential, is essential to its proper functioning and longevity. Due to the significantly larger volume of wastewater that commercial septic systems treat, however, more frequent maintenance visits are needed. In some cases, more frequent tank pumpings will be needed, and the more extensive drainfield of a commercial septic system will need to be inspected regularly to ensure it is functioning correctly.