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Installing Alternative Septic Systems (ATU) for New Homes

Installing Alternative Septic Systems (ATU)

Hey, everyone. This is Brandon with Freeman’s Construction. I’m here with Greg from Waples Construction in Ramona, CA — at this new custom home under construction. We are installing alternative septic systems (ATU) in this place. We’ll explain why we do that and how it works. 

Why Do We Install Alternative Septic Systems?

We’re doing this setup because this area has a lot of high groundwater, so a conventional septic system won’t work. So we are allowed to do these slightly more shallow, closer to the surface. 

Let me go ahead and walk you through how it works here.

How Non-Traditional Septic Systems Work

We got our main line coming into the first part of the septic tank here. The solids settle out and make their way into this middle chamber, where an aerator stirs them around, keeping the solids to the sides. After that, it goes out of this tank and into the next tank. Now, in the new tank, there’s a pump with a few floats on them, and they work to actuate the pump on and off once it gets to a certain level. From there, we come up and pump out to our dispersal field.

Dispersal Field

So this is our dispersal field. As you can see, we’ve got numerous lines here. It comes from that pump and comes in the first line, drops to the end, and returns to the return line. So it’ll do that through this 40 feet or so here, out one, and return on another. We also have a couple of airlocks at the end and in the middle to keep air from purging in the system, from blocking it from getting to that end.

Drip Line

The drip line is approximately 2,200 feet. This line looks similar to a standard irrigation drip line. However, it’s slightly different for this application. As you can see, there’s an emitter every two feet where water is forced out via the pump.

Pipe Fittings

Here are the special fittings and the pipe that we use. When you twist them, the fitting becomes secured to the tube.

Drip Line Emitters

Let me show you the little emitters on every two feet of the drip line. These are every two feet inside the trench, where the water disperses via that line through the pump. So it’s every two feet down and back. 

The pressure is pushing water back through that. So it runs through here, and anything that doesn’t get pushed out into the ground goes back through that return into the septic tank.

Does the First Tank Function Like a Traditional Septic Tank?

Yeah, pretty much. Everything goes in there at first. The solids settle out, and then the liquid enters the second tank, where that pump is. And from there, it runs through the PVC into this distribution valve, and it starts working out into the leach field. So it starts right here at this first one, goes to the end, comes back, and returns. 

Every other one will be a pressure line, and then it’ll come back with the other side and return. So there are 20 lines here: ten feed and ten return. So that’s standard on these. So we call these drip systems.

Does the Return Line Pump Back into the First or Second Tank?

The return line flushes everything back into the main tank. This way, any mud or contaminated water doesn’t go straight back into the pump chamber. In the first tank, the solids can settle out before returning to the pump chamber.

How the Line Works

All right. So the water comes through the drip line and will go out of every other emitter. Half of them are returned, while the other half are pressured out. These are the connectors or fittings that we showed you earlier. That pipe goes right onto the end of that and then back onto the main tank.

Why Choose Alternative Septic Systems

These systems are fantastic. This is the first one we’ve done on a home we’ve built, but it gives a homeowner some options, whether there’s not space to do a typical traditional septic system with leach lines or where there’s high groundwater. 

Also, when people put in ADUs, they wouldn’t even be able to do a conventional system, but they can put in a non-traditional one. There are a lot of groundwater issues, but the most common one is that there’s no room for two conventional septic systems. Plus, each one would require 100% reserves.

Leach Field

I’m in the drip field, also called the leach field, where all those black emitter pipes run through. There are ten pressure lines and ten reserve lines. We have 4,500 square feet of leach field here.

When Do You Install a Septic System?

We must have 100% space for the reserve when building these custom homes. If the original leach field fails, we must be able to replace that. So all that has to be figured out before we even start the home — before breaking any ground.

Wrapping Up

I hope you learned something today about these new alternative septic systems that we’re putting in. If you’d like more information about building a custom home, remodeling, or building an ADU, you can visit our website and request a project consultation. We’ll see you next time.



1. Request a Project Consultation Online or by Phone

2. We Will Meet With You at Your Home or Building Site

3. Establish a Budget for the Project & Start Drawing Plans

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