How Septic Systems Work and What it Means for You
Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about their plumbing system. But if you have recently moved to a home with a septic system, it’s a good idea to learn the basics of how your new system operates so that you can help prevent problems and protect your financial investment. Read on to learn more about the different parts of a septic system and how they work.
Self-contained septic systems consist of a few basic parts: the tank, pipes, and drain field.
The tank is where your waste is routed by pipes coming from the house. The tank is buried in the ground and is usually made from sturdy material like fiberglass, concrete, or polyethylene. Wastewater runs into the tank where it is stored so that materials in the waste can separate.
As things separate in the tank, heavier, solid waste falls to the bottom while lighter, liquid waste floats to the top. The solid waste forms a sludge on the bottom while liquids (commonly called effluent) are removed through pipes. The sludge will eventually need to be removed from the tank by a pumping service. How often sludge removal is necessary depends on usage and the tank size.
Your septic system will generally have one main drain pipe that carries waste from the house to the tank. On the other end of the tank, a T-shaped pipe provides an outlet for liquid wastewater to exit the tank and flow into pipes leading away from it. Modern septic tanks often also include a filter in this outlet to prevent sludge from getting into the pipes.
The main header pipe takes effluent out of the tank and into lateral pipes that disperse it into the drain field. These pipes are perforated and laid into rock beds or chambers so that water can seep into the ground harmlessly.
A footer pipe then connects them at the far end to close the system. Clogged pipes are one of the primary challenges, so you should be on the lookout for signs of clogs both inside the house and in the drain field.
The Drain Field
The last part of the septic tank system is a large drain field made up of soil that accept and absorb the water. The natural filtering process removes harmful ingredients like coliform bacteria. This naturally treated wastewater will filter into the normal groundwater system.
The drain field needs space to do its job, so you should avoid placing heavy outdoor items — like parking spaces, outdoor buildings, and above-ground pools on top of the field. Too much water could become a problem, too, so don’t allow extra rainwater to pool unnecessarily on the field. Watch for erosion issues on or around the drain field.
When you understand how your septic tank system works, you can see that it has some unique challenges that other plumbing systems do not. At its heart, a septic system is a simple concept. But this also means that it may have some inherent weaknesses. Sludge may get into the pipes, tanks can become too full, and pipes could become damaged by underground landscaping.
Septic tanks may also be more sensitive to clogs, so you should discuss what should or shouldn’t be flushed into the system. Talk to a professional septic tank service about common sources of clogs in your area.
For more help keeping your septic system in good shape, call the septic experts at Rob’s Septic Tanks, Inc. We’re experienced with residential and commercial septic tank services, and we look forward to hearing from you and providing you with septic tank solutions.