New Methods for System Monitoring: Part 4

VeriComm enables users to view data related to the performance of the system, any alarm conditions and excessive use

New Methods for System Monitoring: Part 4

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This article is part of a series focusing on available technology to monitor septic system performance. As technology continues to evolve and costs come down, these tools will provide more in-depth information and should be considered by designers, regulators, installers and service providers. The fourth and final system we will investigate is Orenco Systems’ VCOM/VeriComm.

  •  VCOM: the standard telemetry enabled panel.
  •  VeriComm: the online monitoring program that connects to VCOM.

This system focuses on float sensors tied to water levels and pumps in decentralized systems. The sensors are typically located in septic, pump, and recirculation tanks and are connected to a telemetry-enabled panel. The panel is connected to an on-site phone line or high-speed internet connection. If there is an alert or alarm, the panel notifies the designated user immediately via an email-capable device such as a smartphone or computer. Adjustments to pumps in the system can be made remotely, without a site visit. If a site visit becomes necessary, the service provider will have a good idea of the needed repair before he arrives, based on feedback from the panel. The system can also make self-adjustments based on trend data. Data can also inform the designated user of excessive pump cycles/runtime due to excess water use. The web-based database stores operating data, alarm histories, site notes and system reports. These are viewable, printable and can be downloaded into other formats for spreadsheet analysis or word processing.

Case study

Seven years ago, a new septic system was installed with a recirculating pretreatment technology. The accompanying control panel was built to operate multiple floats and pumps in the recirculation and dosing tanks for timed-dose functions. After two years of normal operations, the panel began alerting the service provider of “high discharge pump time.” The figures show an extreme increase in flow from the discharge pump to the drainfield. The service provider then began to track this data through the winter months to determine if a service call was needed.

Concerned that an unexpected increase in water usage could hydraulically overload the small drainfield, the service provider used the panel’s logic to investigate the root cause. After surveying the homeowner’s usage habits and troubleshooting the discharge pump’s amperage draw and float operations, nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary. The next step was to perform a pump drawdown test to see if the pump was in need of replacement. As the panel indicated, the drawdown test revealed the pump was not able to distribute the clean effluent as originally designed, yet it was in good working condition. In the summer of 2014, a camera and jetting equipment were inserted into the drainfield laterals to inspect for debris or orifice plugging. As the picture shows, the system had massive root intrusion plugging up the orifices. After cleaning the laterals and removing the roots, the system was returned to normal operation.

The panel and system are also useful in identifying issues such as:

  • Tank leaks due to damage or improper installation.
  • A clogged filter.
  • Pump failure due to a damaged or worn out pump.
  • Float failure or a stuck float switch.
  • High water usage that exceeds the design parameters of the system.

Key features of the VCOM/VeriComm system:

  • The remote interface is accessible through any web browser.
  • It offers a large technical support network during design, installation and operation.
  • It notifies operators of alarms or alerts automatically.
  • It provides the operator with diagnostic information to make appropriate changes remotely.

VeriComm enables users to view data related to the performance of the system, any alarm conditions and excessive use. The system is an effective tool in the septic industry toolbox for monitoring system performance and preventing problems.

About the author
Sara Heger, Ph.D., is an engineer, researcher and instructor in the Onsite Sewage Treatment Program in the Water Resources Center at the University of Minnesota. She presents at many local and national training events regarding the design, installation, and management of septic systems and related research. Heger is education chair of the Minnesota Onsite Wastewater Association and the National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association, and she serves on the NSF International Committee on Wastewater Treatment Systems. Ask Heger questions about septic system maintenance and operation by sending an email to

This article is part of a series on monitoring technology:


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