The problem with sand-based septic systems

Large sand filter septic system being installed at the site of a new home construction.

Sand has long been a staple in the on-site wastewater treatment industry. Whether for sand mounds or sand filters, it is an integral part of many conventional septic systems.

In Ontario alone, approximately 3.5 million tonnes of sand are extracted and used for on-site wastewater treatment each year.

That demand is mirrored across countless industries. We use sand to make concrete and glass. It is a key part of the chips in our mobile phones and computers. It is even in the toothpaste we use morning and night.

In fact, sand is such an indelible part of our lives that it is second only to water as the most consumed natural resource on the planet.

But there is a big problem with sand. It is no longer sustainable.
 

The environmental cost of sand

Large yellow excavator scooping sand out of a pit and loading it into a dump truck for shipping.

More than a third of the Earth’s surface is covered in desert, so it seems unlikely that sand could be an unsustainable resource. But a closer look tells a different story.

Desert sand is too fine and smooth for most industrial and construction purposes. Instead, the best sand for our needs comes from lakes, seashores, riverbeds, riverbanks, and floodplains. The number of these deposits are limited, and our reserves are shrinking fast.

Extraction rates now outpace natural replenishment rates. As high-quality sand becomes increasingly scarce – and expensive – the environmental impact of continued sand mining is clear:

  • inland and coastal erosion
  • more frequent and more intense flooding
  • watershed and marine current changes
  • lower water tables with greater concentrations of pollutants
  • poor air quality and noise pollution near extraction sites
     

The future of sand in wastewater treatment

Ecoflo biofilter septic system installed in a yard facing the sunset over the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, Canada.

The time has come to rethink how and where we use sand. For residential septic systems, that means choosing systems that use little to no sand for treatment or final dispersal.

Take our Ecoflo biofilter, for example. It treats wastewater with a 100% natural, compostable, and renewable coconut husk fragment filter. Sand is used only in the final dispersal area, and only when local regulations require it.

The beauty of Ecoflo is that it is a permanent solution. When its filtering medium no longer treats wastewater effectively – usually after 10 to 15 years of use – we replace it with a new one without ever having to relocate the system or damage the homeowner’s landscaping.

  • permanent septic solution
  • sustainable filtering medium
  • usually requires no sand
  • filtering medium protects the dispersal area
  • used filtering medium is compostable
     

Our solution is a stark contrast to traditional sand mounds and sand filters. As these systems treat wastewater, they accumulate sludge that leads to progressive system failure. They eventually clog, and when they do, the entire system must be dug up and replaced.
 

What else makes our Ecoflo biofilter the greenest alternative?

We proudly call our Ecoflo biofilter the most sustainable septic system available, and not just because it allows property owners and industry professionals to make intelligent use of our planet’s limited sand resources.

With its all-natural coconut husk filtering medium and energy-free treatment process, our green septic system has the lowest carbon footprint in the industry. From production and shipping to installation, maintenance, and usage, no other product can compare.

Learn more about Ecoflo