What is a septic system?
It is a type of onsite wastewater treatment system that is commonly used in rural areas without centralized sewer systems. They use a combination of nature and technology to treat wastewater and are more beneficial for the environment.
How does a septic system work?
A typical septic system consists of a septic tank and a drain field or soil absorption field. Septic tanks digest organic matter and separates floating matter (e.g., oils and grease) and solids from wastewater. Soil based systems discharge the liquid (Effluent) from tanks into perforated pipes buried in a leach field, chambers or special units. An alternative septic system uses pumps or gravity to help septic tank effluent trickle through sand, organic matter, constructed wetlands, or other media to remove or neutralize pollutants like disease-causing pathogens, nitrogen, phosphorus and other contaminants. Some alternative systems are designed to evaporate wastewater or disinfect it before it is discharges to the soil. (EPA)
How do I maintain my septic system?
There are some things you can do as a homeowner to ensure that you’re not putting unnecessary stress on your septic tank or system. Keeping your home’s plumbing and water-using appliances in good working order in the first step. Other helpful recommendations are:
♦ Keep "system obstructions" out - Trash like diapers, baby wipes, cigarettes, coffee grounds, fats, oils, grease, and feminine hygiene products should never be flushed or poured into toilet.
♦ Limit garbage disposal use - While some septic pros suggest that garbage disposals are a terrible idea if you have a septic tank, as long as you are careful, you can enjoy the convenience of these appliances in your kitchen sink. Following the manufacturer’s instructions for your disposal will protect it, you, and your septic system.
♦ Be water smart - Doing you best to curb excessive water use in your home will keep your septic system from being overloaded. Enrure that you water-using appliances, like washing machines and dishwashers are energy efficient. Also consider staggering your water use. For example, do not shower, do laundry and run the dishwasher all at the same time.
♦ Protect your drain field - Never dirve over your drain field or the area where your septic tank is buried underground. Additionally, be careful about plantings in your landscaping near your septic tank and system because roots can wreak havoc.
♦ Don't pour chemicals down the drain - Household chemicals, gasoline, motor oil, pesticides, antifreeze, paint and high amounts of anti-bacterial soaps and detergents are all considers "treatment killer," which harm the necessary baterial balance inside your septic tank. Never wash paint brushes or dump paint down any drains.
How long does a septic system last?
Septic systems can last anywhere from 15 - 40 years. There are a variety of factors that can lessen the life span of a septic tank such as the materials it is made of, the design, installation, maintenance of system, if damaged occurred from vehicles traffic, groundwater flooding, natural disasters, or clogging by roots. The best way to preserve the life of your septic tank is to have it regularly maintained and pumped every 3 - 5 years.
What is a leach field?
A leach (or drain) field is any method of leaking the discharge water from the septic tank into the ground. This discharge is from the final stage processing from the last outlet of the last septic tank (sometimes there is more than one tank). The most common leach field is the type where trenches are dug in the ground in a branching pattern, to allow the treated effluent water from the septic tank to be distributed and absorbed.
Gravel or stone form a bed in the trenches for the perforated pipes that connect to the septic tank. This is the most common way to leach the water, but not necessarily the best way. Pricing and the cost to the environment need to be considered.
Are all leach fields built the same way?
No. Depending on the percolation tests of the area, a determination is made on the best design for each specific location.