A reader asked us a question about worms and leaching fields, which are also called “leach drains” and “septic drain fields.” They take a few different forms, but basically a leaching field is an arrangement of perforated pipes that are designed to remove contaminants from the liquid that drains out of septic tanks. The reader is interested in buying worms, which are often called sewage worms or septic worms (more of this in a second), for his leaching field, but he can only find them for sale in the U.K., and he can’t get the worms shipped to the U.S. The reader was first of all wondering what kind of worms live in leaching fields, and he also wants to know if he can buy them in the U.S.
Upon looking into this matter, we quickly realized that the issue is quite complex. There are several different kinds of leeching fields, and as far as we can tell worms can be incorporated into these drainage systems in a few different ways. So, there isn’t just a “type of worm” that lives in leaching fields, as the reader’s question implies – the situation is a lot more complicated than that. Also, we should note that the people who are best qualified to answer our reader’s question will know a ton about leaching fields, and not necessarily a ton about worms. In other words, our reader’s question is more about leaching fields (and less about worms) than he perhaps realizes, and since our focus is obviously on worms, there are limitations to what we can say on this topic.
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Basically, it appears that worms can be used in leaching farms in two different ways. First, they can contribute to the structure of the drain system itself because of their burrowing habits. Endogeic worms create horizontal burrows, anecic worms create vertical burrows, and evidently both can help facilitate the drainage function toward which leaching fields are directed. As we explain in our guide to epigeic, endogeic, and anecic worms, these are also just different kinds of earthworms. So, these are not “leeching field worms,” but the regular earthworms that inhabit fields, leaching or otherwise, all over the world. Some specific species we have come across are Alabama Jumpers, an endogeic worm, and Lumbricus terrestris, a common type of nightcrawler that is often used for fishing. These and other species of earthworms can be bought all over the U.S. and online, but since they naturally live in soil, it may be unnecessary to purchase any.
The other function of worms is to break down some of the waste itself, and this is primarily the function of so-called sewage worms or septic worms (Tubifex tubifex). Earthworms, being detritivores, ultimately serve a role in the break down process that takes place in a leaching field, but it is the sewage worms that play the more direct role. These worms will naturally appear in heavily polluted bodies of water and in sewage systems, so they may become integrated into a septic system even if they aren’t specifically introduced. Like our reader, we have struggled to find a place to buy these worms in the U.S. Incorporating worms into waste management is far more common in the U.K. and Australia, and the companies we found that set up worm-centered systems or sell these worms are based in these countries.
Hopefully we have at least partially helped our reader, even if we weren’t able to answer every one of his questions. For more information, our reader might consider checking out this massive document about Septic Leach Field Rejuvenation, which is a continually updated Google Document that is open to the public. Near the end of the document is some good (if unorganized) information about the worms and leaching fields. Best of luck to our reader and his leaching field.
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