A new study conducted through Virginia Tech will examine the effects water softeners might have on septic tanks, the Water Quality Association recently announced.

The investigation is being funded by WQRF (Water Quality Research Foundation), which also announced it is seeking funding for the project and other projects. The study is expected to be completed in summer 2012.

Dr. John Novak of Virginia Tech is heading up the research. Novak has earned awards and recognition for more than 30 years for his studies on wastewater treatment and other projects. The goals are to find out whether various water softener operation patterns might have a nega­tive effect on septic tank performance, and if so, to develop operating guidelines to minimize any problems.

The septic study is expected to cost $95,000. WQRF, a not-for-profit foundation, is seeking donors for the project and other initiatives. More information on donations can be obtained at WQRF@wqa.org or by calling WQA at 630-505-0160.

Studies have shown that in activated sludge systems, an imbalance of the cation ratio in wastewater can lead to poor flocculation. The imbalance is typically caused by excessive sodium and can lead to poor settling, which might ultimately clog outlet filters. Water softeners operated primarily for removal of calcium and magnesium produce a discharge that has a cation ratio that has been alleged to impact septic tank performance.