Septic Tanks and Dead Sheep

A Dead Sheep

A Dead Sheep in a Tank

Despite being somewhat out of the way we still get a lot of passers-by here.  They were certainly notable by their absence during the last foot-and-mouth outbreak.  I enjoy talking to passers-by, they are an eclectic bunch and are a fantastic source of (often weird and wonderful) information.  If I bring up the subject of septic tanks, or if  on account of its whiffiness the septic tank works its way into the conversation anyway, I am quite often told that what I really need to do is sling a dead sheep in there.  It’s not that I doubt the scientific validity of this but I’ve checked the pantry and it just so happens I’m all out of dead sheep.  Now, short of running into our neighbour’s fields and worrying his sheep - (Willow, in defiance of centuries of Border Collie breeding, can’t even work up the enthusiasm to even slightly annoy one) – our dead-sheepless state is likely to remain the status quo. 

So what’s the deal with dead sheep and septic tanks?   When our waste leaves our house via the sinks, toilets, washing machine and pipes it finds its way to a holding tank.  Some interesting stuff is going on in here, the colony of bacteria in there is busy breaking down our undesirable human waste into more environmentally acceptable components, these mostly consist of gases, water and undigested solids.  The gases escape safely via a vent, ours appears to have two.  Baffles prevent the solid waste from passing out of the tank, these solids consist of scum which rises to the top (mostly from fats, degrease your pans well before washing) and ‘sludge’ (use your imagination please!) which sinks to the bottom.  The segregated liquids flow out of the tank into a smaller holding tank where it is distributed through perforated pipes before being delivered to the ‘soak-away’ a large area of soil that filters the liquid further still and eventually absorbs it.  We buried my last dog down here, the infamous Ricky Roo, I’m glad he’s making himself  useful! 

It is important to maintain a healthy level of bacteria in your tank, use of bleaches and other harsh household detergents will kill or weaken it, making your tank inefficient.  I think it is arguable that it is never desirable, whether you have a septic tank or not, to wage war on micro-life, we need each other!  This, of course, is where the dead sheep comes in, nothing like a decomposing corpse to add a useful dose of active bacteria.    

You’ll be glad to know (I was) that dead sheep are not really essential to the healthy functioning of the micro-bacteria in your septic tank.  Instead there are a number of less gruesome products you can feed to your septic tank, think of it as Yakult for toilets, that will add bacteria and enzymes to your tank for healthy functioning.  My favourite is ‘Drain Magic’  which is totally harmless to animal, plant and aquatic life, you feed it to all your outlets for a ten day period and thereafter to the last outlet to exit the house periodically, it’s available from



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