How Septic Systems Work

What is a septic system?

Septic Basics The idea that your home is on a septic system may be a scary one, but there is no need to panic. Septic systems are safe and most problems can be avoided with proper maintenance. It is important to be well informed and educated about your septic system and we hope you can find answers to your concerns here on our site. If you ever have any questions drop us a line anytime.

What is a septic tank?

Solid, watertight, buried tank made of concrete, plastic, fiberglass or metal. This tank has a way in (inlet), and a way out (outlet). Septic tanks should have one lid per compartment. Most tanks have (2) compartments. So, most residential tanks should have (2) lids about 5′ away from each other. A septic tank holds all the liquid waste from your home (toilets, sinks, kitchen, bathtubs, floor drains). The septic tank is the first step to the septic system. The septic tank serves the function of a filter, seperating solids from liquids. Although it is only “one” tank it is divided in two by a wall, called the baffle wall. All waste first enters the septic tank through the inlet tee into the primary chamber. All the heavy sludge and solids sink to the bottom of the tank while the grease and oil (from the kichen and bath soap) float to the top. The baffle wall will trap all the soilds and oils from entering the secondary, which in turn will make the secondary comparment mostly water. This water is refered to as effluent water. The secondary compartment of the tank is connected by a pipe to the next component of the septic system: THE DRAINFIELD.

What is a drainfield?

A drainfield is just as it sounds: A field to drain water. A drain field is an area of soil in your lawn dedicated to the discharge of all the excess water that is used in your home. Since the septic tank is only a filter it is not designed to hold much water. All the excess water is drained into the soil by means of a drainfield. Common drainfields are: Leach Lines, Seepage Pits, Leach Beds, Subsurface drip irrigation fields, Infiltrator Chambers. The drain field will drain all the water into the soil naturally. You do not have to worry to empty it out or find it unless your system begins to overflow or puddle at the surface, or you’re having a pool built at which you should make sure you dont build over your septic system. Watch out for signs of system failure such as puddling or overflowing. Septic tanks should never overflow they should only be pumped as regular maintenance every 2 years. If a system is overflowing then this usually means the system is starting to fail. All septic systems will fail eventually and will need to be replaced. Average system lifespan is 20 years.

What is a leach line?

Leach lines are another form of drainfield. They are constructed using 4″ perforated pipe which lays on a gravel bed 3′ wide. Lines can extend any length up to 100ft. Many times 100 feet of leach line is not enough to support the water usage in a home. In this case, various lines are installed. The lines are then connected together using a Distribution Box which allows the effluent water to be evenly distributed amongst many lines in one system. When a system has more than one line, the leach lines are refereed to as a leach field. An example of a leach line can be seen here. To maximize the life of a leach lines, it is important to regularly maintain your septic tank. Take a look at a leach line image above. The leach line is connected to the septic tank.

What is a seepage pit?

A seepage pit is no more than a drain. It is built the same way as a well. In fact, if you look into one it looks just like a well. Seepage pits typically are 5-7 ft in diameter, and depending on soil condition anywhere between 15-40 feet deep. The actual walls of the pit are only 4′ in diameter, and the surrounding area is filled with gravel. The gravel allows for better draining, and helps limit clogging due to excessive dirt contact with the walls. As seen above the pours in the pit allows the water to drain directly in the gravel, which then disperses and is filtered into the soil. With proper septic tank maintenance, pits can last up to 40-60 years. Typically, pits last about 15-20 years, but this is due to abuse and improper maintenance. Both compartments of the septic tanks must be pumped every 2-5 years to limit the amount of solids entering the seepage pit. This will ensure a long life for your septic system. Another good idea, is to add enzymes, or “Bacteria” which will break down the solids in the tank. The idea is to NOT let solids enter the pit, but it is normal to replace a seepage pit.
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