Septic 101

How Your Septic System Works:

The septic system is made up of two main components: the septic tank and the soil absorption area. Each component provides a vital function in the operation of the system. Like most systems in the home, the septic system requires maintenance. Proper care of the septic system will result in many years of trouble-free use.

The Septic Tank:

All waste from the household plumbing waste system is discharged into the septic tank; a large water-tight tank usually made of concrete. The tank should be large enough to retain the waste for at least 2 days for treatment. Heavier-than- water solid material (sludge) sinks to the bottom of the tank. Lighter-than-water solid material (scum) floats on the surface of the tank. In between is clear water (effluent). Bacteria in the septic tank works to digest the solids. The effluent water is then discharged into the soil absorption area.

The Soil Absorption Area:

The partially treated wastewater from the septic tank is discharged into a soil absorption area. There are several different types of absorption areas, the most common being drain fields (leach fields), and cesspools (seepage pits). Drain fields are comprised of pipes laid in gravel-lined trenches. The pipes have holes in them to disburse the wastewater evenly into the trench. Cesspools are cylindrical structures made of concrete. They have open bottoms and holes in the sidewalls, again for even disbursement of the wastewater.


What can go wrong?

If harsh home-care products are used (check product labels for harsh warnings: disinfectants, detergent, bleach, cleaning compounds, etc.) they will kill bacteria necessary for proper septic tank operation. Also, there is a certain amount of solid material that is in the septic tank that is not biodegradable by bacteria. A septic contractor must remove this material periodically. If not removed, this material will be discharged into the soil absorption area and will clog the drainage pores, causing backups and odors.

How to avoid backups:

Use septic-friendly home-care products, such as Eco-Me products available on this site. Apply a bacteria additive at least monthly to replace bacteria killed toxic (non-septic-friendly) home-care products. If drainage is sluggish, apply bacterial additive in shock dosage to eliminate clogging.

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