How does a septic system work?

Photo Apr 05, 3 10 33 PM

A septic system is designed to capture, store, and eliminate the waste products that leave a house through the drain pipes.  If your home is not serviced by a utility company that allows waste to enter a pipe and then move it on to a wastewater treatment plant, then you have your own waste removal plant in the form of a septic system.

A septic system on a private residence consists of a pipe connected to your home that slopes toward a septic tank, that holds the waste in suspension to allow the solids in the water to sink to the bottom as sludge, and grease and oil float to the surface as scum.  Most tanks have a tee-shaped device at the outlet with a screen that prevents the sludge and scum from leaving the tank and going into the drain field. The drain field is designed to accept the water from the septic tank and to percolate it through soil that acts like a filter to prevent harmful bacteria, viruses, and nutrients from entering the ecosystem. In effect, the septic system is an ecosystem in its own right. While the waste is in the septic tank waiting to be pushed along by more incoming waste it is being consumed by microbes that ingest the waste thus reducing the number of solids put into a drain field, thus extending the life of your drain field, and at the same time keeping our environment safe.  In some cases, the water table is too high and a raised drain field needs to be installed which requires a pump to pump out of the septic tank and into the field. The pump is controlled by a float switch and usually has a warning signal in the form of an audible alarm and a flashing light.

Like anything else, a septic system needs to be maintained and protected. The septic tank should be pumped out every 3-5 years depending on the size of the tank and the number of people utilizing it. Pumping out a tank can be costly ranging from about $250.00-$350.00 depending on the size; however, this is cheaper than the several thousand dollars required to replace a drain field.

            Ways to prolong the life of your septic system

1-repair any leaking faucets or toilets so no unnecessary water is introduced into the drain field.

2-Try to limit the amount of water used at one time for example doing one load of laundry a day is better than doing seven loads of laundry in one night.

3-Avoid putting harsh chemicals into your systems such as acids, or paint, or paint thinners, as these products can inhibit the ability of the waste consuming microbes to consume the solids.

4-If not already in place install high-efficiency toilets that use only 1.6 gallons to flush as opposed to the 3.5-5 gallons required by less efficient models.

5-Do does not plant trees or shrubs on your drain field as the roots can damage the field.

6-Do does not drive or park on your drain field as this can crush your lateral lines and or compact the soil so it does not allow the water to percolate as it should.

7-use your garbage disposal wisely do not put coffee grounds or eggshells in the disposal, also avoid putting fats and oils down the drain.

8-Do not put large amounts of water into your tank all at once for instance do not drain a hot tub into the tank as it will push the solids into the drain field and will plug it up.

9-Be cautious about drain cleaning chemicals use only environmentally friendly products such as a product called BIO-ONE. (link to Bio-One’s Website here)This product introduces friendly bacteria into the system which helps to eliminate greasy slime build-up. This can be used on a regular basis as a preventative measure or in the event of a clogged line.

10 Never use your toilet as a trash can and avoid flushing anything that is not typical for a toilet. For example, do not flush kitty litter, paper towels, feminine hygiene products, cigarette butts, disposable diapers, or even dental floss.

Remember your septic system serves a noble purpose if it stops working we are quickly aware of the consequences. With proper care and maintenance, it can serve your needs for a long time.