Our small sewage treatment plant

by Mars
aerobic septic tank

The property we purchased came with a small sewage treatment plant that is capable of receiving wastewater from buildings not connected to mains drainage and processing it so that only a clean, clear effluent is discharged into the environment.

The Vortex Wastewater Treatment System (that’s its formal name) is an eco electric sewage treatment plant and has been designed to treat both solid and liquid components of waste coming from our house, which is cleverly accomplished by using a combination of coarse and fine air bubbles.

Important: You can see the tank in action in our video – naturally, the contents of a small sewage treatment plant may not be suitable for everyone, so we advise viewer discretion. We provide you with a heads up when we open the lid and show you the inside of the tank in case you want to skip that portion of the video. This happens at the 3 minute, 30 second mark.

Please watch the video below to get a quick overview of our small sewage treatment plant.

Vortex Wastewater Treatment System

Things we like about our small sewage treatment plant

  • It is odourless – when you open the lid it smells earthy (no nasty smell)
  • The processed effluent is very clean and clear
  • Low electricity consumption with low running costs

The Vortex is sold in the UK by WTE Ltd.

Fun (disgusting) facts about fatbergs

This has nothing to do with sewage treatment plants or septic tanks, but it does go to show what people flush and empty down their sinks.

Fatbergs (what a great name) are composed of excrement, wet wipes, sanitary products, drugs, contraceptives and other insoluble items, which are covered in, and bound together by, congealed fat, and are a direct consequence of people flushing whatever they want down toilets and pouring litres of various fats, lard and oils down their sinks.

Recently, South West Water in Sidmouth, Devon, discovered a 64-metre fatberg. We’ve been to Sidmouth and neighbouring towns and villages, and it goes to show that even sleepy country settings are not immune to lavatory horror stories that we thought were reserved exclusively for major cities.

Sidmouth’s berg, however, was no match for the Whitechapel beast – Fatty McFatberg – that weighed in at an astonishing 143 tonnes and measured 250 metres from end to end. It was reported that it took a crew of eight workers several weeks to break it down using power hoses. Disgusting.

But the undisputed champion is the phenom that was discovered close to the South Bank in central London in 2018, a 750-metre long giant. To put that in context, the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, is 828 metres high.


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Charlie Pincott 12 October 2020 - 19:24

Hi,liked your info on the Vortex STP. We had one installed for our new build but it’s not really worked that well from the start. The water going out to the river is never that clear so really want to get this sorted.
Ive followed the manufacturers instructions regarding the blower settings but the scum never seems to recycle and compared to yours the water in the treated part of the tank is very cloudy. Any tips on what’s the best detergents,dishwasher tablets etc to use would be much appreciated.

Mars 13 October 2020 - 15:53

Thank you for your comments and questions Charlie.

Regarding the scum/sludge, we discovered that when it’s ‘set’ and quite hard, and the sludge return cycle is on, it’s quite easy to get a long stick and a hose up, and mix the sludge up to make it runny. It then gets down the sludge return pipe quite easily and returns to the main tank. That’s one aspect. Once that’s done, it’s time to maintain it. We’ve started doing the following this year:

1. We are using Muck Munchers to keep the tank ticking over with good bacteria. This is working a treat, and we’re just waiting for our lab results to return. Our tank is looking super healthy now: https://myhomefarm.co.uk/improving-the-health-of-our-home-sewage-treatment-plant

2. We use septic tank friendly products for everything. For the laundry detergent we use Ecover. We’re trying to get cleaning products to test, but our new go-to dishwashing tablets this one from Smol – we’ve just purchased a year’s supply from them: https://myhomefarm.co.uk/small-environmentally-friendly-dishwashing-tablets

I hope that answers some of your questions – we have quite a few different cleaners that are set to be reviewed in the weeks ahead, and we’ll be posting them on our site.

Tom 4 November 2020 - 16:54

Hi Charlie,
It sounds like your system is set up incorrectly. Did you have a WTE trained engineer install it for you? There are three valves that need to be properly balanced while using a pressure gauge. Failure to balance the system correctly with a pressure gauge can result in improper operation.
if your settled sludge return is not working then it needs to be looked at quickly. Please contact WTE to find an engineer in your area.

Rosie 4 February 2021 - 13:33

Hi Charlie
I wonder how your Vortex is doing now?
I’m thinking of getting one but I’m concerned because it will be severely underloaded and that’s not a good thing.
There seems to be quite a bit of maintenance even when they are working properly.
Any comments or advice would be greatly appreciated.

Mars 4 February 2021 - 17:43

Would be good to get an update from Charlie.

I would say that our Vortex needs monitoring but not huge amounts of maintenance. We’ve discovered that when sludge/scum forms, taking a long stick and giving it a stir gets it back into aerobic chambers and in our case this typically occurs every 6-8 weeks.

For the blower, the gaskets in the pump break after a year and need replacing. They’re about £30 and take 30 mins to replace.

Not sure if that helps.

Rosie 6 February 2021 - 22:53

Thank you, that’s very helpful. It’s good to know what to expect!
We would need to get a 12 person Vortex even though there will only be 2 people using it. I think this will be quite a test for it. If anyone out there has experience of severely underloading a Vortex I’d be really glad to hear about it please.

Mars 7 February 2021 - 12:17

I don’t think the size will be an issue Rosie. We have a Vortex system for 16 people, and there are four using it (us and two neighbours). In a way, less is better because you’re reducing the amount of water you’re introducing into the system from baths, showers, washing up, etc. You’re also cooking for less people, so there’ll be less fats, oils and grease getting into the system. Less people also less means less medication, antibac, etc. And then you have the capacity for when visitors come to stay (in a post covid world). I don’t the 12 person system is going to be an issue, but have a chat with the guys at WTE (the manufacturers) – they’ve always been very honest and upfront.

As an aside, I checked our tank today, and it’s looking and running amazingly well. No crust or scum at all.

Rosie 7 February 2021 - 16:29

Thank you for your reassuring message!

tom 7 February 2021 - 13:26

Hi Rosie,

Which area of the country are you in?

WTE have installers that they can recommend, covering most of the UK

We’ve had a Vortex for some time and can’t fault it.

Rosie 7 February 2021 - 16:32

Hi Tom
That’s good to know, thank you. We’re in south Cumbria.

Neil 24 March 2021 - 21:58

Do you have to get a contractor to install it, or can you do it yourself?

Mars 25 March 2021 - 17:03

Wow, that’s a great question. We inherited it, and as far as I know the previous installed it themselves. I wouldn’t have the confidence to do it myself, but if you have the skills and knowledge (and follow the manual on how to set up the taps) then I think it may be possible to install it yourself.

Tom 25 March 2021 - 17:08

there is plenty that you can get wrong, and these installations come under building regulations control so it’s important to either use a contractor or be as competent as a contractor would be, as well as getting the installation signed off by your local authority or other building regulations approval body.
Contact WTE in Yorkshire or see their website for details of the vortex system that is installed at home farm :

Mars 26 March 2021 - 15:16

That’s very sensible advice Tom, and the guys at WTE are extremely helpful.


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