How To Carry Out A Septic Tank Soakaway Percolation Test
1.31 Well drained and well aerated subsoils are usually brown, yellow or reddish in colour. Examples of subsoils with good percolation characteristics are sand, gravel, chalk, sandy loam and clay loam. It is important that the percolation characteristics are suitable in both summer and winter conditions. Poorly drained or saturated subsoils are often grey or blue in colour. Brown and grey mottling usually indicates periodic saturation. Examples of subsoils with poor percolation characteristics are sandy clay, silty clay and clay.
1.32 A preliminary assessment should be carried out including consultation with the Environment Agency and local authority to determine the suitability of the site. The natural vegetation on the site should also give an indication of its suitability for a drainage field.
1.33 A trial hole should be dug to determine the position of the standing groundwater table. The trial hole should be a minimum of 1m2 in area and 2m deep, or a minimum of 1.5m below the invert of the proposed drainage field pipework. The groundwater table should not rise to within 1m of the invert level of the proposed effluent distribution pipes. If the test is carried out in summer, the likely winter groundwater levels should be considered. A percolation test should then be carried out to assess the further suitability of the proposed area.
1.34 Percolation test method – A hole 300mm square should be excavated to a depth 300mm below the proposed invert level of the effluent distribution pipe. Where deep drains are necessary the hole should conform to this shape at the bottom but may be enlarged above the 300mm level to enable safe excavation to be carried out. Where deep excavations are necessary a modified test procedure may be adopted using a 300mm earth auger. Bore the test hole vertically to the appropriate depth taking care to remove all loose debris.
1.35 Fill the 300mm square section of the hole to a depth of at least 300mm with water and allow it to seep away overnight.
1.36 Next day, refill the test section with water to a depth of at least 300mm and observe the time, in seconds, for the water to seep away from 75% full to 25% full level (i.e. a depth of 150mm). Divide this time by 150. The answer gives the average time in seconds (Vp) required for the water to drop 1mm.
1.37 The test should be carried out at least three times with at least two trial holes. The average figure from the tests should be taken. The test should not be carried out during abnormal weather conditions such as heavy rain, severe frost or drought.
1.38 Drainage field disposal should only be used when percolation tests indicate average values of Vp of between 12 and 100 and the preliminary site assessment report and trial hole tests have been favourable. This minimum value ensures that untreated effluent cannot percolate too rapidly into groundwater. Where Vp is outside these limits effective treatment is unlikely to take place in a drainage field. However, provided that an alternative form of secondary treatment is provided to treat the effluent from the septic tanks, it may still be possible to discharge the treated effluent to a soakaway.
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