Houses without access to a sewer system frequently utilize a septic tank to treat and get rid of sewage. Septic systems use soil to purify wastewater from bathrooms, kitchens, washing machines, and other sources. An appropriately designed, installed, and well-maintained septic tank can offer years of reliable and cost-effective service.
Various septic systems are made to suit the specific soil conditions present on a given property. Although each septic tank is custom-designed for its respective property, most systems operate on the same fundamental principles.
Conventional septic system
The conventional septic system comprises a septic tank, drainfield and soil, all interconnected through pipes. The septic tank is rectangular container made of concrete which is underground. Its purpose is to treat the wastewater by storing it inside, allowing heavy solids to settle at the bottom and undergo partial decomposition by bacteria.
Lighter solids float and form a layer on top known as the scum layer. It is necessary to have the solids professionally pumped out of the septic tank every three to five years. The liquid portion of the septic tank, referred to as “effluent,” is devoid of solids but still contains contaminants and bacteria that can potentially cause diseases.
The effluent is directed into the distribution system, which consists of pipes placed over gravel trenches. The effluent can leave the system and enter the layer of gravel and soil below through pipes with small holes. This allows biological processes to take place, effectively cleansing the effluent before it reaches the groundwater.
When a septic tank functions correctly, it does not pollute or contaminate the groundwater.
Manage your system:
- Knowing the septic system’s location and keeping records is vital. Obtain the information from the health district and maintain a comprehensive record of repairs and maintenance for future homeowners.
- Inspect your system regularly.
- Regularly assess the septic tank’s solids and scum levels to determine if cleaning is needed. Additionally, inspect other components inside, like deflectors. Periodically check the drain field for odors, wet spots, or any lingering water accumulation.
- Save water.
- Conserving water at home prolongs septic field lifespan, reduces failure risk, and prevents expensive repairs.
To reduce water use:
- Install fixtures on faucets, showers, and toilets that use fewer gallons of water.
- Repair leaky faucets and toilets.
- Take a shower in less time or use less water.
- Use the dishwasher or washing machine only when they are at maximum capacity.
- Have a licensed professional remove solids from the septic tank every two to five years.
- Be diligent with your system. Regularly removing solids from the tank prevents failure.
How to care for your septic system
It is essential to clean the septic tank every 3 to 5 years to eliminate accumulated solids. Neglecting the system can lead to failure.
Keep your septic system healthy to:
- Minimize property value depreciation;
- Avoid costly repairs;
- Prevent health issues for your family and neighbors;
- Protect the environment, particularly groundwater, lakes, and rivers from degradation.
Indications of a failing septic system include:
- Presence of sewage or overly lush grass in the septic field area;
- Slow drainage or backing up of water in the bath;
- Unpleasant odors from sewage.
If you notice any of these signs, contact your health district for help. But here’s what to do if you want to prevent these problems.
Never let into your system:
- Sanitary napkins
- Coffee grounds
These things do not break down inside the septic tank.
Here are more tips:
- Don’t let harmful chemicals get into your septic system.
- Chemicals such as gasoline, oil, paint, pesticides, strippers, and antifreeze can damage the system and kill the beneficial bacteria that clean the wastewater.
- Keep water away from your septic system.
- Prevent runoff from roofs, sidewalks, and patios from reaching the septic tank and drain field. Shape the septic system floor with a slightly rounded slope to avoid stagnant water.
- Protect your system.
- Keep vehicles and animals out of the septic system area to prevent soil compression and pipe damage.
- Organize your system correctly.
- Grass is the best option to cover for your septic system. Avoid using impervious materials like concrete or plastic. They hinder evaporation and the oxygen supply in the soil. Planting trees near the system can lead to root blockage and pipe damage.
- Hire a licensed technician to repair your septic tank if necessary. Many problems can be solved with less money and effort if done correctly.
Additives for septic tanks
Numerous products, including chemicals, yeasts, bacteria, and enzymes, are available in the market, claiming to enhance septic system performance or minimize solids disposal. Only utilize these additives with the approval of the health department.
Certain additives can transport solids into the drain field, resulting in soil blockage and necessitating a new drain field installation. Products made from organic chemicals have the potential to contaminate groundwater.