Waste Water Treatment Facility
How Does a Gravity Sewer Connection Work?
In a gravity sewer connection sanitary waste that is generated from your property will be transported by gravity from your home or business to the Town’s sewer collection system piping which is located in the roadway Right Of Way (ROW) adjacent to your property. The method of conveyance used in a gravity sanitary sewer connection is to transport wastewater from your property by gravity along a downward-sloping pipe gradient to the Town’s sewer system. The following figure shows an example of a gravity sewer connection.
Figure 1: Gravity Sewer Connection Example
Source: Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) Fact Sheet C1, Gravity Sewer Systems
In a gravity sewer connection your existing septic tank and disposal field (leach field) will no longer be required to be used. Sanitary waste can be piped directly from your home or business by gravity to the Town’s system. Some internal or external re-plumbing of the main sanitary waste line in your home or business may be required to connect to the Town’s system.
How Does A STEP System Work?
In a STEP system, the wastewater from your property will continue to be transported to your existing septic tank via the existing system you currently use. There will be no internal re-plumbing required within your home or business. A new wastewater/grinder pump (STEP pump) will be installed within your septic tank. The wastewater which is held in your septic tank will then be periodically pumped out to the new collection system by the STEP Pump. The solid waste (sludge) will remain in the septic tank where it naturally degrades and is eventually pumped out. This functionality will remain the same as your current septic tank. Your existing disposal field (leach field) will no longer be required to be used following the connection to the Town’s new sewer system. A graphic of a typical STEP system has been included in the following figure.
Figure 2: STEP System Example
The STEP system equipment which will be installed on your property will be owned and maintained by the Town of Oxford. A permanent access easement will be coordinated between you and the Town to allow the Town access to perform maintenance of your STEP system as necessary. Additional details regarding the Town’s easement for access to your future STEP system will be provided to you separately by the Town. With normal water use for a typical single family home, it is anticipated that your STEP pump will run for a short duration, typically less than one hour at intervals of two to four times per week. As a STEP user you will be responsible for supply of the power to the STEP system on your property.
Where Do I connect to the Town’s Main Line Sewer at My Property?
The Town’s new sewer infrastructure contains a system of main line sewers . Along each main line sewer a series of Sewer Service Laterals (Laterals) have been provided for each property. The laterals are owned by the Town. The laterals are run to each properties Right Of Way (ROW). The termination point has been indicated by a wood stake at the ROW line. An example of a ROW termination is shown in the photo below. To connect to the Town’s system, the homeowner is responsible for running either sanitary gravity sewer or low pressure sewer pipe on your property to this ROW connection point to finalize the connection to the Town’s system.
Figure 3: Example Sewer Connection Point
In some cases the witness stake may be cut flush with the ground if the piping was installed in high traffic or access areas. In these cases the wood stake includes nails to allow metal detection for locating it. The Town also has record drawings showing the location of each lateral which has been installed and can help you locate it if you are unable to find it on your property. Record Drawings are available for viewing at the Town office.
What Are You Responsible For Installing As A Gravity System User?
As a gravity sewer system user you are responsible for the gravity sanitary piping systems to connect from the wastewater generating structures on your property to the Town’s lateral connection at the ROW line of your property. Any internal building plumbing modifications (if required) will also be your responsibility as a sewer system user. Procedures, requirements and standards for gravity piping system installations will be provided by the Town as part of the newly adopted Sewer Use Ordinance. This document is available at the Town office.
What Are You Responsible For Installing As A STEP System User?
The Town will provide the STEP pump to each property owner who requires this at no additional cost to the property owner. It will then be your responsibility to hire a qualified Contractor to install the complete STEP system on your property. Standard installation practices and requirements will be established for installation of STEP systems within the Town’s Sewer Use Ordinance. The Town will be required to inspect and approve all installations prior to allowing final connection to the new sewer collection system. The major components of the work include installation of the STEP pump and piping in your septic tank, providing an electrical feed to the STEP pumping system and installation of a pressure sewer lateral from your septic tank to the Town’s sewer lateral at the Right of Way (ROW) line of your property. Procedures, requirements and standards for STEP piping system installations will be provided by the Town as part of the Sewer Use Ordinance.
For STEP system users, in order to aid you in connecting to the new sewer collection system, the Town of Oxford will be providing the initial purchase of some of the major components of your STEP system for you. The Town will be providing the STEP Pump, float controls, simplex pump control panel, septic tank risers and a new septic tank access cover (if required).
How Do I Make The Connection To The Town’s System?
The Town will provide a listing of local contractors who are qualified to perform this work for you to make the connection from your home or business to the Town’s system. As a property owner it will be your responsibility to work with one of the qualified local contractor’s to perform the installation. The qualified contractor will perform the work necessary to allow your home or business to be tied into the new system. The Town will inspect all installations prior to allowing final connection to the new sewer collection system.
Frequently Asked Questions
The following sections provide a listing of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) regarding the new sewer system, gravity sewer connections and STEP sewer connections.
How Do I Know If My Property Will Require A Gravity Or A STEP Connection?
The Town has a preliminary listing of properties which may require the use of a STEP system given the existing topography and elevation of your home or business in relation to the elevation, type and location of the sewer infrastructure in the right of way adjacent to your property. The final determination of the type of connection will be determined by you as the homeowner in conjunction with the recommendations of your qualified installing contractor.
As A Gravity System User What Happens To My Septic Tank & Disposal (Leach) Field?
As a gravity sewer user your onsite septic tank and disposal field are no longer required to be used. They can be abandoned in place. As part of the connection to the Town’s system it will be required to pump out your septic tank prior to abandoning it in place. The septic pumping costs will be the responsibility of each sewer user. The Town will provide inspection to ensure each property owner has pumped their septic or holding tank.
Is Inspection By The Town Required As Part Of Installation Of Connections On My Property?
Yes, inspection by the Town for work on your property for a gravity sewer connection or a STEP connection will be required. Inspection will be conducted through the Town’s code enforcement officer. Any permits for work of trades such as plumbing or electrical, etc. will also need to be coordinated through the Town’s code enforcement officer. To schedule an inspection you must contact the Town of Oxford Code Enforcement Officer.
What If I Can’t Find The Witness Stake At The Right Of Way At My Property?
In some cases the witness stake may have been cut flush with the ground if the piping was installed in a high traffic or access area. In these cases the wood stake includes nails to allow metal detection for locating it. The Town also has record drawings showing the location of each lateral which has been installed for each lot. The Town can provide you access to the record drawings at the Town Office which will help you locate the witness stake it if you are unable to find it on your property.
What Is The Anticipated Initial Installation Cost To You As A Sewer User?
The costs for connection to the Town’s new sewer system will vary for each user and they are dependent upon the characteristics of your specific property. Some factors include the length of piping between your home of business structure and the Town’s sewer service lateral at the ROW, the existing topography, presence of rock in the subgrade and other factors.
To assist you with obtaining pricing from contractors to perform this work the Town has established a Sewer Use Ordinance which will define standard construction practices and installation requirements for both Gravity and STEP users.
To further assist you with this initial investment to connect to the system, the Town will be providing additional details regarding payment options, financing and other provisions which are available to further assist you with the initial up-front costs for connecting.
What Are The Anticipated Operational Costs To You As A Sewer User?
For both Gravity and STEP system users the overall operational costs will be your responsibility as a sewer user. For STEP users, based on a typical residential home with typical water use and current electrical rates from Central Maine Power (CMP), it is anticipated that the STEP pumping system will cost you $10 to $30 per year in electrical power.
For STEP users, the Town will provide periodic pumping of your septic tank as is normally conducted in your existing septic system. As a STEP system user you will not be responsible for costs associated with periodic pumping of your septic tank.
Is There An Annual Fee As Sewer User In Town?
Yes, both Gravity and STEP system users will be charged a User Fee as a sewer system user who is connected to the system. The Town will define fees for each user. The user fees will vary and are based on the specific characteristics of your property and the wastewater flow you generate.
What Are The Day-To-Day Considerations For Use Of The New Sewer System?
The Town’s new sewer system is designed to handle sanitary wastewater and the considerations for day-to-day use are similar in many ways to your existing septic system. A major component of maintaining proper operation of the Town’s overall system is to keep foreign material out of the sewer system.
Foreign Materials: Never flush any of the following: dental floss, fats, oils or grease, feminine hygiene products, condoms, diapers, disposable wipes (example Swiffer™ cloth or toilet wipes), cotton swabs, cigarette butts, coffee grounds, cat litter, or any other items that could potentially clog or damage the sewer system infrastructure on your property as well as the Town’s systems. These foreign materials should be disposed of in your sanitary trash system.
Chemicals & Solvents: Never flush household chemicals such as, gasoline, oil, pesticides, antifreeze, or paint. These items can stress or destroy the biological treatment system at the Town’s WWTF. This can also cause damage within the septic tank as well as the STEP pumping equipment itself for STEP users.
Special Septic Tank Additives: For STEP system users, the Town will provide you with a list of approved septic tank additives. These additives often claim to enhance performance of your septic tank. Typically, they will not result in any negative affects to your STEP system or any other downstream components of the Town’s sewer system. The use of additives is not required for your STEP system to function properly and the use of additives is optional by you as the user.
Keep Excess Water Out of Your System: Do not allow rain drains, downspouts, or storm drains to flow in the direction of the sewer connection systems on your property. For STEP users, these additional water sources will increase the run time of your STEP pump and the subsequent electrical costs to you. For all users, the excess water decreases the available capacity of the Town’s sewer system and increases the volume of water that the new wastewater treatment plant must process. This increases costs for the Town which increases user rates (User Fees) for you as a sewer user.
Protect Your System: The Town has made an investment in the new sewer system and they are partnering with you as a new sewer user. The Town asks that you protect your system and their system and report any vandalism. The Town wants to ensure that vandalism does not cause a problem to your system which may negatively impact your residence or property.
Conserve Water: Conserving and minimizing water use will save you money as a sewer user. Lower water use equates to less STEP pump run time for STEP users and lower power costs for you. This also lowers your water bill as well. Several of the following provisions are recommended:
- Install aerators on all faucets
- Completely turn off all faucets and taps when not in use
- Flush only sanitary waste not trash or other foreign material
- Use water consuming appliances such as clothes washers and dish washers only when they are full
- Do not run faucets or taps continuously when shaving or brushing teeth
Overall Message: Flush Responsibly & Conserve Water!
Do I Need to Turn My STEP Pump On & Off Manually?
No, your STEP pump is a submersible pump which is designed to operate under water in continuously submerged conditions. The STEP pump system includes three control floats as well as a control box located above grade. The control floats and control box allow the pump to operate automatically to drain your septic tank as needed. No manual switching is required by you as the property owner.
How Do I Obtain One of The Town Provided STEP Pumps?
You must apply for the Town Provided STEP pump at the Town Office. It is recommended that you have one of the pre-qualified installing contractor’s review the installation at your property to determine the recommended approach prior to applying for a STEP pump. The installing contractor will be able to provide you with guidance regarding the best approach to meet the needs of your specific property. Prior to providing a STEP pump the Town will require you to sign a permanent access easement to allow the Town permission to access your STEP system for maintenance and inspections.
What If I Don’t Want To Use A Town Provided STEP Pump & Want To Purchase My Own?
The Town is offering STEP pumps free of charge to those users who require them and the Town highly encourages all users to take advantage of this offer. The Town will establish a list of acceptable STEP pumps for use. The Town will require all systems to use approved pumps to allow for uniformity in the system to streamline the maintenance and inspection which is provided by the Town. The Town wants to avoid the use of many different manufacturers of STEP pumps throughout the Town. This helps streamline maintenance and inspection work which results in a savings to you as the user.
How Do I Know If There Is A Problem With My STEP Pumping System?
Your STEP pumping system is equipped with an Alarm Level float. This float is connected to an alarm light located on a control box near your septic tank. Under normal operating conditions the alarm light will be off. If a fault or problem occurs with your STEP pumping system the red alarm light will be triggered by the backup float. In the event that this occurs call the Town wastewater department. Do not attempt to service the pump yourself or enter the septic tank.
Each STEP system will be configured so as to provide you with an emergency reserve storage volume. In the event that the red alarm light is triggered there will be additional storage volume in the septic tank. It is especially important to conserve water during an emergency condition such as this to maximize the emergency storage volume.
What Are The Best Ways To Protect My Investment In The Town’s System?
The following is a listing of the top DO’s and DON’T’S for use of the Town’s sewer system:
- DON’T use your connection to the sewer system for disposal of trash and other foreign materials. Please flush responsibly.
- DON’T dispose of chemicals, flammable materials or other hazardous liquids in your system.
- DO conserve water
- For STEP users DO call the Town of Oxford Wastewater Department if you see your control panel alarm light illuminated
- For STEP users, DO allow the Town of Oxford Wastewater Department to conduct periodic preventative maintenance on your system.
Will My STEP System Cause Odors?
Your STEP system will function almost identically to your existing septic system. Under normal operating conditions there should not be any noticeable odor generation. During maintenance activities when the cover is removed you may sense odors. These odors are only temporary and will go away following completion of maintenance.
The main difference between a STEP system and your existing septic tank is that the STEP system will have a rise and fall of liquid level in the septic tank due to the pumping cycles. As the liquid level rises in the septic tank the air above the liquid may be pushed up and out of the system. Typically STEP tanks are equipped with an air release vent to allow this air to be displaced in a controlled location. The vent is equipped with an economical carbon filter attachment to mitigate any odor generation from the day-to-day operations. The vent and filter system can be configured in many ways and there are even decorative low profile options available to minimize visual impacts of the vent piping system.
What Are The Next Steps In The Process?
Sewer Use Ordinance: The Town has established the Sewer Use Ordinance and the Town will establish User Fees for the different types of users in Town.
Installation To Connect To System: There are Local Contractors who can install the sewer system components on your property and connect to the Town’s lateral at the ROW. The contractors must install using the pre-approved installation methods which are established in the Sewer Use Ordinance.
STEP User Access Easement: For all STEP users, the Town will work in partnership with you to setup a permanent access easement to your STEP system to allow the Town to perform maintenance, periodic septic tank pumping and installations.
Payment & Financing of Installation: The Town has options for payment and financing for the installation and connection of your system.