The septic system is the major sanitary system in your home which eliminates all the wastewater created from your household use, including toilets, showers, sinks, dishwasher, washing machine etc., and treats the wastewater to a safe level, and returns the treated liquid waste to the groundwater system. There are four main components in the septic system; a pipe from the house, a septic tank, a drain field, and the soil.
All of your household wastewater exits your home through a pipe to the septic tank. The typical pipes are made of cast iron with a 4-inch inside diameter. Although some newer systems use copper and plastic because the inside walls are smoother and they have better flow characteristics.
The Septic Tank
The septic tank is a watertight container usually of concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene materials, buried underground. It keeps the wastewater until solids settle out, forming sludge and oil and grease to float to the surface. These will form as scum. It will partially decompose the solid materials. A compartment with a T-shaped outlet in the septic tank blocks the sludge and scum from leaving the tank going into the drain field area. Sludge and scum need to be removed through periodic pumping of the septic tank, to prevent buildup. To keep your septic system in good working state, regular inspections and pumping are necessary.
The Drain field
The wastewater from the septic tank is released into the drain field for added treatment by the soil. Every time new wastewater enters the tank, the partially treated wastewater is pushed along into the drain field for further treatment. If the drain field is filled with too much liquid, it will flood, causing sewage to flow to the ground surface or create backups in plumbing fixtures and prevent treatment of all wastewater. Nowadays, a reserve drain field is required by many states to address this problem.
Wastewater from the septic tank finally flows to the drain field, where it percolates into the soil, which provides final treatment by eliminating harmful bacteria, viruses, and nutrients.
Right type of soil is necessary for successful wastewater treatment. Many areas do not have soils suitable for typical septic systems; this may need an alternative system. This alternative system is also needed in areas where the septic systems are too close to groundwater or surface waters.
As a homeowner you are responsible for maintaining your septic system. Maintaining your septic system protects your investment in your home. You should periodically inspect your system and pump out your septic tank. If your septic system is properly designed, constructed and maintained, your septic system can provide long-term, effective treatment of household wastewater. If your septic system is neglected for a long time and not maintained, it will eventually break down and you might need to replace it, costing you thousands of dollars. A faulty septic system can contaminate groundwater that might be a source of drinking water. If you are planning to sell your home, you must make sure that your septic system is in good working state.
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