Posted on

Cummings outlines best practices for constructing soakaways

Cummings outlines best practices for constructing soakaways


The method used by most contractors to build soakaways in St Vincent and the Grenadines may be hindering the efficient breakdown of waste material.

Parliamentarian Daniel Cummings was speaking on the New Times radio programme on Wednesday, {{more}}when he urged persons to be aware of the practices used to construct their septic systems, as some of these practices should not be used when building soakaways.

“In this country, I have for a very long time, been trying to get builders, contractors to understand the basic principle of building a septic tank and soakaway,” he said.

Cummings, who is a civil engineer by profession, explained in simple terms the method of building a soakaway and highlighted some of the best practices that should be utilized.

He noted that solids settle to the bottom of the septic tank, while liquid floats on top and eventually flows off the soil as the septic tank fills up overtime. While bugs act on the solid waste in the bottom of the septic system, the water is treated on the surface of the sand.

However, Cummings has observed that the use of boulders in the soakaway by Vincentian contractors interferes with this process.

“If we doing any test on these things that people build here and call them soakaways, they will never be passed, because they hinder, rather than allow the water to pass through. When you put boulders in a soakaway what you trying to do, especially if the surrounding soil is clay material or you have it in a box, a concrete box,” he said.

The New Democratic Party (NDP) shadow minister for Transport and Works, Energy, Water and Housing added that sand, rather than boulders or fine particled soil, should be used in the construction of soakaways, as it will allow for more surface area over which the waste water will pass, allowing it to be treated more effectively.

“The other thing about concreting a soakaway surface is so illogical, because the ironic thing here is that they don’t realize that for the microbes to operate, they need oxygen so you really don’t want to close them up. You want an open thing with the sand where they can have room to breathe and break down the waste. You don’t want to seal it with concrete. You cover it with sand and allow grass to grow on it and let it grow natural because it’s the water going into the soil,” Cummings said.

“If you take a stone, a six-inch block of stone, the area that it has is just the sides. But if you take that block of stone and you crush it, the further you crush it, you infinitely increase the surface area available. And that is what you want.

“Material that is too close has less surface area, material that is too fine, like clay, they have no available…because they are all bound closely together, but sand, rabacca, gravel, anything like that, fine for the soakaway.”

Cummings stressed that it is important for homeowners to understand the science of a septic system and expressed hope that builders pay attention and construct better soakaways.