What Is A Septic Tank?
The septic tank was patented in London around 1900. Websters Dictionary defines the septic tank as "a tank in which waste
matter is decomposed through bacterial action." The modern septic tank is a watertight box usually made of precast concrete, concrete blocks, or reinforced fiberglass.
The septic system is a small, on-site treatment and disposal system buried
in the ground. the septic system has two essential parts: (1) the septic tank and (2) the soil absorption area. When household waste enters the septic tank several things occur:
- Organic solid material floats to the surface and forms a layer of what
is commonly called "scum." Bacteria in the septic tank biologically convert this material to liquid.
- Inorganic or inert solid materials and the by-products of bacterial
digestions sink to the bottom of the tank and form a layer commonly known as "sludge."
- Only clear water should exist between the scum and sludge layers. It
is this clear water - and only this clear water - that should overflow into the soil absorption area.
Solid material overflowing into the soil absorption area should be avoided at
all costs. It is this solids overflow that clogs soil pores and causes system to fail. Two main factors cause solid material to build up enough to
overflow: (1) bacterial deficency, and (2) lack of sludge removal.
Bacteria MUST BE PRESENT in the septic tank to break down and digest the
organic solids. Normal household waste probides enough bacteria to digest the solids UNLESS any harm is done to the bacteria. Bacteria are very
sensitive to environmental changes. Check teh lables of products you normally use in home. Products carrying harsh warnings such as "HARMFUL OR FATAL IF SWALLOWED" will harm bacteria.
- Cleaning compunds
- Toilet cleaners
- Caustic drain openers
People rarely think of the effect of these products on the septic tank system when the products go down the drain. What kind
of effect to you think anti-septics have on your septic tank?
Bacteria must be present to digest the scum. If not digested, the scum will accumulate untill it overflows, clogging the soil
The sludge in the septic tank - inorganic and inert material - is not biodegradable and will not decompose. If not removed, the
sludge will accumulate until it eventually overflows, again clogging the soil absorption area.
How does it work?
A typical septic system has four main components: a pipe from the home, a
septic tank, a drainfield/leachfield, and the soil. Microbes in the soil digest or remove most contaminants from wastewater before it eventually reaches groundwater.
Pipe from the house:
All of your house hold wastewater exits your home through a pipe to
the septic tank.
The septic tank is buried, watertigh container typically made of
concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene. It holds the wastewater long enough to allow solids to settle out, forming sludge, and oil and grease to float to the surfance as scum. It also allows partial
decompositions of the solid materials. Compartments and a T-shaped outlet in the septic tank prevent the sludge and scum from leaving the tank and traveling into the leachfield/drainfield area.
The wastewater exits the septic tank and is discharged into the leachfield/drainfield for futher treatment by the soil. The partially
treated wastewater is pushed along into the leachfield/drainfield for further treatment everytime new wastewater enters the tank.
The most common leachfield/drainfield consists of a series of trenches
containing perforated pipe surrounded by septic rock or gravel, and covered with mesh and dirt. The effluent entering the leachfield/drainfield is partially absorbed into the soil and partially
evaporated. The leachfield/drainfield shoud not be driven on or covered by a driveway or patio.
If the leachfield/drainfield is overloaded 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.
Septic tank wastewater flows to the leachfield/drainfield, where it
percolates into the soil, which provides final teatment by removing harmful bacteria, viruses, and nutrients. Suitable soil is necessary for successful wastewater treatment.
Plumbing and waste system
If you are like most people, you may be unfamiliar with your septic tank system. This is undertandable. In urban and suburban
areas there are sewers to carry household waste to manicipal wastewater treatment facilities. In more rual areas, however,
septic tank systems provide the functions of both sewers and treatment facillites
All household waste is disposed of through the septic system. The proper operation of the septic system is essential to public
and private health, to propery values, and to the environment. To see if you know enough about your septic system, answer
the following questions. IF you cannot answer all the questions, your septic system could become a huge aggravation, public nuisance, health hazard and finacial burden.
- Do you know what a septic tank is and how it works?
- Do you know what kind of soil absorption area you have and how it works?
- Do you know what causes septic systems to fail?
- Do you know what it costs to replace a failed septic system?
- Do you know how to keep a septic system from failing?
- Do you know that failed and failing septic systems contribute to pollution?
These are very serious questions. The health of your family and the value of your propery rely heavily upon the answers to
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" was never more true then it is with septic tank care. A small commitment to
the care of your septic system will protect you indefinitely from the nightmare created by a failing system.