Chamber Septic System

Every alternative septic system was created for a reason. Usually, because a conventional septic system was not suitable on a particular property for a variety of reasons from local building codes, local regulations, soil quality, location to water, high ground water etc. Chamber systems are not new, they have been a distribution system for wastewater effluent for around 30 years.

leach field chambers

How does a chamber system work?

The septic tank and d-box are the same or similar to a conventional septic system. The drain field is made up of a series of connected plastic or synthetic chambers. These are not actual chamber, rather half chambers (like a pipe cut in half) with the base open to the native soil allowing more microbes to work on treating the effluent. The sides of the lightweight polyethylene plastic unit contain perforated slits to allow more effluent to drain out into the surrounding soil. The area on top and to the side of the chambers is filled in with soil. The outlet pipe carries wastewater from the septic tank to the leach field chambers. The job of the chambers is to put the wastewater effluent in contact with the soil beneath the chambers and spill out the sides into the surrounding soil. The microbes in the soil complete the final stage of treating any harmful pathogens before the water reaches the groundwater.


Chamber septic system vs conventional

The major way that a chambered septic system differs from a conventional septic system is in the drain field. Both versions of septic systems are properly functioning systems with different use cases. Both the chamber system and conventional septic system have a septic tank flowing to distribution boxes. A traditional septic system will have a drain field consisting of gravel and sand-filled trenches with a network of perforated pipes or leach lines. Chamber systems have gravel-less drain fields. Instead, they are made from synthetic or plastic materials, often these materials are recycled.


Chamber system pros and cons

Pros or advantages:

  • Because chamber systems are made from a plastic or synthetic product, quality is much more standard. Compare this with gravel and the medium will vary from each quarry. You will usually get more consistent drainage with gravelless systems.

  • Chamber systems can usually offer a larger wastewater treatment volume than gravel filled leach fields.

  • Ease of installation - if you live a long way from a quarry you will save on installation costs as gravel and sand will not need to be trucked to your location. Chamber systems come in 4-5 yard lengths which are easy to handle for installation crews with no gravel needing to be put into trenches and no side access for large gravel trucks.

  • Unlike gravel, sand and soil drain fields, chamber systems are less likely to get compacted due to the structural element in the plastic chambers. While it is still not advisable to drive cars or heavy equipment over your septic tanks or drain field, they do have increased load bearing capability, therefore it should not compact as easily as a conventional drain field.


Cons or disadvantages:

  • If you live in a location that has an ample supply of gravel and sand, a chambered system is likely to be more expensive to install in this situation

  • If a perc test is not completed before installation or the soil type is not suitable for a chamber system (i.e. the soil has a high absorption rate or high percolation rate) then these systems may potentially pollute the water table.


How much does a septic system with chambers cost?

The cost will depend on where you are located and the amount of wastewater that needs to flow to the leach field. This is taken from the size of your septic tank (based on size of house, number of rooms etc). A big factor in the cost is site access for heavy equipment. If there is no side access to an existing house for larger heavy equipment, smaller equipment will be needed and that will add time and cost. If you are located close to a manufacturer or distributor of chamber systems then it could potentially cost less than a conventional septic system or gravel filled drain field. In general, it is faster to get the system installed than a gravel based trenched system.

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Frequently asked questions

What is an infiltrator chamber septic system?

The infiltrator is a brand of the chambered system made by Infiltrator Water Technologies manufactured in the US in Old Saybrook, CT. Many septic tank installers rate Infiltrator Water Technologies as the market leader in US-produced septic tanks and injection moulded high density polyethylene chamber drain fields. Read this article on the common infiltrator septic system problems.


How easy is it to inspect your septic chambers?

A septic inspection is often easier than a gravel trenched drain field if inspection ports or venting ports have been installed with the system.


How do chamber systems compare to mound systems?

Both systems are regarded to treat wastewater to a higher degree than conventional leach fields which is good for a high water table. The mound system is not a gravelless system compared to chambered units. A big benefit to drain chambers or arc chambers is you do not have a large mound in your back yard which many people don't find aesthetically pleasing. To read more on mound systems see this page.


Do they need to be gravity fed from septic tank or pumped?

These septic systems are gravity fed from the septic tank which is a bonus as there is not the extra expense of a pump and power to the septic tank or distribution box. It also means that if you lose power or your septic tank is not a properly functioning system, you will not have your septic tank backing up quickly like with mound systems.


How effective are they for wastewater treatment?

Chambered draining systems are very effective for wastewater treatment as they have a large surface area. They are also ideal for this in properties that have varied usage in their distribution system like a holiday property or seasonal property. They also have good storage capacity due to the slits in the side of the infiltrator chambers.


Are they considered aerobic systems?

If the septic leaching chamber is vented this will increase the oxygen accessing the trench and will lead to more aerobic systems which is a benefit to treating the wastewater in the drainfield. Also due to the large surface area in the plastic chambers, there is generally more access to oxygen than in a drainfield trench with smaller perforated pipes.


Does this system require effluent filters?

Effluent filters are added to the outlet pipe inside a septic tank. They reduce the amount of scum, solids or sludge that enter the drain field. It is always a good idea to fit filters for a conventional leachfield system challenge is the small perforated holes that can become easily blocked. You don't have this problem infact chambers have increased effluent dispersal performance due to the large surface area and slits in the sides of the pipe.

Pictures of a Chamber System

pictures of chamber septic system
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