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Septic Tank & Drain Field Info

Scematic of a Drain Field for Septic Tank


Septic Tank

Septic Tank Schematic showing Sewage from house to Leachfield


How Septic Systems Work
Inspect and Pump Frequently
Septic System Do's and Don'ts

How Septic Systems Work

Households that are not served by public sewers usually depend on septic systems to treat and dispose of wastewater. If cared for properly, a well designed, installed, and maintained system will provide years of reliable, low- cost service.

There are many different types of septic systems that fit a wide range of soil and site conditions. The following will help you understand the main components of a standard (gravity fed) septic system and how to keep it operating safely at the lowest possible cost.

A standard septic tank system has three main parts:

  • The Septic Tank — A septic tank's purpose is to separate solids from the wastewater, store and partially decompose as much solid material as possible, while allowing the liquid (or effluent) to go to the drainfield.
  • The Drainfield — After solids settle in the septic tank, the liquid wastewater (or effluent) is discharged to the drainfield, also known as an absorption or leach field.
  • The Soil — The soil below the drainfield provides the final treatment and disposal of the septic tank effluent. After the wastewater has passed into the soil, organisms in the soil treat the effluent before it percolates downward and outward, eventually entering ground or surface water. The type of soil also impacts the effectiveness of the drainfield; for instance, clay soils may be too tight to allow much wastewater to pass through and gravelly soil may be too coarse to provide much treatment.

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Inspect and Pump Frequently

The most important step to maintaining your septic tank is to remove sludge and scum build-up before it washes into the drain field. How often your tank needs pumping depends on the size of the tank, the number of people in your household, the volume of water used, and amount of solids (from humans, garbage disposals, and any other wastes) entering the system. Generally, tanks should be pumped every 3 to 5 years.

Signs Of A Failing System:
Like an automobile, septic systems are designed to provide long-term, effective treatment of household waste when operated and maintained properly. However, most systems that fail prematurely are due to improper maintenance.

A failing system can become a source of pollution and public health concern, causing property damage, ground and surface water pollution (such as well water—both yours and your neighbors). Plus, if you sell your home, your septic system must be in good working order. Therefore, it makes good sense to understand and care for your septic system.

  • Odors, surfacing sewage, wet spots, or lush vegetation growth in the drainfield area
  • Plumbing or septic tank backups (often a black liquid with a disagreeable odor)
  • Slow draining fixtures
  • Gurgling sounds in the plumbing system

Drain Field

Drain Field Schematic showing septic tank, interlocking chambers and sidewall louvers

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Septic System Do's

1. Inspect your septic tank annually.

2. Use less water

  • Limit the use of large water guzzling appliances, such as dishwashers and washing machines.
  • Use water-saving bathroom and kitchen fixtures (such as faucets, showerheads, and toilets).
  • Spread laundry over the entire week and avoid partial loads.
  • Fix all faucet and toilet leaks promptly.

3. Direct water from downspouts and roofs away from the drainfield.

4. Keep cars and trucks off the septic tank and drainfield area

Septic System Don’ts

1. Don't flush solid wastes into the septic system. These include: Diaper, Cigarette butts, Coffee grounds, Feminine products (Tampons), Needles or syringes, Grease, Oil, and medication. Don't flush anything except toilet paper into your septic system.

2. Don't use a garbage disposal

3. Don't put strong chemicals, such as cleaning products, down the drain

4. Don't construct patios or carports over the drainfield

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