In 1942, our
family built an adobe home on adobe soil. By 1952, when I was attending
the University of Arizona, Tucson, my father contacted the soils lab
there to discuss the causes for the ongoing drainage problems encountered
in our septic system soils. He received a short lesson on soils and
new understanding about the anaerobic-aerobic interface which occurs
when septage hits well aerated soils. After some research, he hit
on pumice as a media for the drainfield, due to the porous nature
of the material. In short order, he was corresponding with the best
soil scientists in the nation- most of whom were specialists in agriculture.
In the early 1950's FHA and other lending agencies set out to ascertain
the "average" life expectancy of septic systems to help
in determining the length of mortgages which would be granted for
homes without sewer connections.
University of California, set up a research area in Richmond California,
where detailed studies were to be carried out. This was named the
Sanitary Engineering Research Lab (SERL). Among the original team
were such illustrious names as McGauhey, Winneberger and Pomeroy
who are still regarded as the leading lights of waste- water research.
soon determined that septic system or domestic wastewater contains
high levels of sodium from cleaning compounds, soaps (detergents)
and cooking. As any soil scientist worth his salt will tell you,
sodiums can cause clays to bind. These gentlemen realized the implications
for long-term failure of drainfield soils, as well.
Clays are, in
fact, important constituents of soils in the cleanup process...as
they are more surface active than silts or sands. This information
is repeatedly noted in the series of reports from SERL. Later, in
the 1960's and 1970's, Coulter and Bendixen (from Cincinnati) carried
the message to large audiences of health specialists.
visited the SEL facility in 1952, and was encouraged to field test
his concepts in a wide variety of situations. He patented a distribution
system over the pumice media and achieved success in virtually every
instance. His methods were applied in Western states, including
areas with marginal native soils and high sodium in the water supplies.
these "mechanical" methods to provide drainage, Horne
contacted Chevron Oil, which had just purchased a company called
California Spray Chemical for it assets. As luck would have it,
the lab facilities were located in Richmond, CA "next door"
to the SERL facility.
group was formed to develop a garden products section, which was
soon to the named ORTHO. Horne worked with this small group on a
soil amendment, which would release the sodium bound and restore
percolation in failing or marginal systems. With the support the
"ORTHO" product developers, he developed a soil amendment
product designed for homeowner application through the plumbing
to the tank and field. The product was trademarked SEPTIC SEEP,
and was supported by a series of articles in Sunset Magazine as
well as by features on septic system maintenance tips in literally
thousands of newspapers and Sunday supplements.
In May of 1953,
the ORTHO product line sprang into the market place, which was primarily
garden shops...with some emphasis on farm sales for their line of
pesticides. Unfortunately, plumbing shops were not on the call list
of the ORTHO representatives...but Chevron management soon turned
all marketing over to Horne's company, Airrigation Engineering.
crack sales force soon swept the market with their revolutionary
product line, which included specific gardening booklets for everything
from tomatoes to prize orchids.
had to be differentiated from the thousands of "tank additives"
which ranged from yeast to dried sewage sludge...many claiming "never
A series of
third party university and agency tests were performed with "hands
off" wastewater and soils scientists to determine the effectiveness
of the product in large (regional park, camps, complexes) and individual
systems California, Texas, and Arizona. Dosing was carefully monitored
to assure the proper ratio for tank and drainage flows.
Once these were
completed, the product was applied by about three dozen pumper operators
and field reports supplied on results. Someone felt that a "flocculant"
product, to help settle solids would be beneficial, but it was soon
evident that SEPTIC SEEP was achieving some "dramatic"
results with visible changes noted.
"professional" was a challenge but explaining the product
to the public in a retail setting was truly a daunting task. Then,
as now, the subject of sewage was deemed "improper" at
the dinner table and even as editorial context in home magazines.
Horne found himself championing the need for education and accurate
data to editors across the country.
One thing became
clear, however. Almost every order became a repeat order. We continue
to serve original clients, who have maintained "marginal"
systems in continuous service for up to 43 years!
The tank does
not fail. The soil fails. Keeping the soil aerated and percolating
requires understanding of the role of the system components and
the need for regular pumping to assure adequate retention time for
separation and settling of solids which will, otherwise, flow into
the field along with greases, scums, fibers, solids.
After 40 years,
1993 Chevron sold off its ORTHO division to Monsanto... which shortened
the line of products. SEPTIC SEEP was transferred to me, as heir,
under the new corporation "Drayner, Inc." With the help
of ORTHO's retiring production, labeling, manufacturing and advertising
experts, who knew and respected Fred Horne, SEPTIC SEEP continues
to perform as always.
library of technical information begun by Airrigation and ORTHO
continues to grow daily, thanks in large part to the resources of
the 90's and the work of people like Dr. Robert Patterson of the
University of New England, NSW, Australia, who has just completed
a minutely detailed ten year study of the effect of sodiums in household
products on wastewater absorption to soils...
speech at the ASTM conference in New Orleans is to be published
for distribution this June...and I will have the privilege of presenting
this work at the National Environmental Health Association Conference
on June 29th in Alexandria, Virginia.
While I realize
that many in this audience are engineers, I earnest request that
you become better acquainted with the biological, chemical and physical
aspects of soils which are, in most cases, the principle "cleaning"
mechanisms for domestic (on-site) wastewater disposal.
Please let me
hear from you all on this matter. After more than 40 years of continuous
"exposure" to world class experts in this field, I hope
I am competent to take on your questions and provide support for
your projects. I do not hold a formal degree but find that my "expertise"
on this subject has come to me by "osmosis"...