A Brief Overview
In rural areas where there is no centralized sewer system, it is common to have an underground wastewater treatment structure called a Septic System. Septic Systems use a combination of nature and proven technology to treat all the wastewater from a household produced by toilets, showers, sinks and laundry washing machines.
Septic systems consist of a septic tank and a drain-field.
The septic tank intakes all the waste water from the house and separates the floating matter (oil, grease etc.) and solids from the waste water. The organic matter starts to break down naturally. From the septic tank, the liquid discharge known as effluent, then flows down to the drain-field. The drain-field is made up of a series of perforated pipes that are designed to slowly release the effluent into the soil for natural filtering.
Alternative systems use pumps or the force of gravity to help the septic tank effluent trickle down through sand, organic matter, constructed wetlands or some other specialized media to remove or neutralize contaminates like disease causing pathogens, nitrogen, phosphorus and other pollutants.
Step by Step
All the wastewater from your home ends up flowing through one main drainage pipe into your septic tank.
The septic Tank is underground, water-tight and usually made of concrete, fiberglass or polyethylene. It’s purpose is to hold wastewater long enough to allow solids to settle down to the bottom becoming sludge while oil, grease and other floatables float to the top and become scum. The septic tank is designed in such a way that it prevents sludge and scum from leaving the tank and going down to your drain field.
The liquid waste water (effluent) then exists the tank and goes to the drain field.
The Drain Field is a shallow, covered excavation made in unsaturated soil. The wastewater liquid, effluent is then slowly discharged through the drain fields perforated piping into the soil. As the wastewater percolates into the soil, it is naturally filtered. Harmful coliform bacteria, viruses and nutrients all get filtered out of the water by the time the water makes it back down to ground water level.
Septic System Failure Symptoms
A foul, sewage-like odor is not always the first sign of a failing or malfunctioning septic system. The following symptoms are strong signs that you need a septic professional to take a look at your system sooner than later:
- Bright green, spongy grass on or near the drain field – especially during dry weather.
- Wastewater backing up into household drains. (sinks, toilets, tubs etc..)
- Pooling water or muddy soil around your septic system (Tank and Drain Field) or in your basement.
- A strong odor around the septic tank and/or drain field.
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