What does “full” septic tank mean?
- We often receive calls about “full” septic tanks. But what does full really mean? A septic tank should always be “filled” to its normal liquid level, or the bottom of the outlet pipe which carries effluent to the absorption area. This normal liquid level is usually between 8” to 12” from the top of the tank on average (see picture at right).
What is the liquid in a septic tank called?
Soil-based systems discharge the liquid (known as effluent ) from the septic tank into a series of perforated pipes buried in a leach field, chambers, or other special units designed to slowly release the effluent into the soil.
What are septic tanks filled with?
Every cesspool or septic tank which has been abandoned or has been discontinued otherwise from further use or to which no waste or soil pipe from a plumbing fixture is connected, shall have the sewage removed, a hole that punctures the bottom of the tank, and be completely filled with sand, gravel, concrete or other
What is backfilling a septic tank?
After a septic tank is set, it must be appropriately backfilled. Backfill with granular material to at least the midseam of the tank to be sure that the settling is limited. Flowable fill or native soil free of deleterious material may be used above the midseam.
What is septic liquid?
Detergents, bleaches, soaps and other household chemicals kill beneficial bacteria in your septic system. The regular use of this product will help maintain the bacterial balance the septic system requires. Septic Shock (liquid) is used when a system is clogged or under- performing.
What is the thickness of a septic tank?
The Construction The exterior walls of the septic tank are made of concrete, normally 4 inches thick. The concrete is either a minimum of 4,000 or 5,000 PSI concrete. A 1,200-gallon tank can weight as much as 8,000 pounds, so these are not items a homeowner can install on his own.
What are the signs that your septic tank is full?
Here are some of the most common warning signs that you have a full septic tank:
- Your Drains Are Taking Forever.
- Standing Water Over Your Septic Tank.
- Bad Smells Coming From Your Yard.
- You Hear Gurgling Water.
- You Have A Sewage Backup.
- How often should you empty your septic tank?
What are the 3 types of septic systems?
Types of Septic Systems
- Septic Tank.
- Conventional System.
- Chamber System.
- Drip Distribution System.
- Aerobic Treatment Unit.
- Mound Systems.
- Recirculating Sand Filter System.
- Evapotranspiration System.
What are the different types of septic tanks?
Septic Tank Types
- Concrete. Concrete septic tanks. These durable tanks will usually last for several decades.
- Steel. Steel septic tanks.
- Fiberglass. Fiberglass septic tanks.
- Plastic. Plastic septic tanks.
- Aerobic. Aerobic septic tanks.
Should old septic tanks be removed?
Septic tanks are decommissioned for safety reasons. If a tank is not going to be used any longer, the best decision is to render it inoperable. Tanks that were well constructed, as well as those that are surrounded by excellent soil for the drain field, can have a lifespan of 50 years.
How much soil should be on top of a septic tank?
the depth of soil backfill over the septic tank lid or septic tank riser lid, ranging from 0″ (which means you should see it) to just a few inches (which means grass may be dead in this area) to 6-12″ or even more.
How do you backfill a septic tank?
Backfill evenly all around tank using a sand / gravel mixture. b. Mound soil over septic tank in order to drain away from tank and allow for settling soil. 6” of native soil may be used for mounding.
Should bath water go into septic tank?
In MOST household septic systems, yes. Probably 98%+ of septic systems receive all of the waste water from the house – tub, shower, sinks, washing machine, dishwasher, etc.
What to put in septic tank to break down solids?
Yeast helps actively breaks down waste solids when added to your septic system. Flush ½ cup of dry baking yeast down the toilet, the first time. Add ¼ cup of instant yeast every 4 months, after the initial addition.
How long do septic tanks last?
A septic system’s lifespan should be anywhere from 15 to 40 years. How long the system lasts depends on a number of factors, including construction material, soil acidity, water table, maintenance practices, and several others.
Types of Septic Systems
Septic system design and size can differ significantly from one neighborhood to the next, as well as throughout the country, due to a variety of variables. Household size, soil type, slope of the site, lot size, closeness to sensitive water bodies, weather conditions, and even municipal ordinances are all considerations to take into consideration. The following are 10 of the most often encountered septic system configurations. It should be noted that this is not an exhaustive list; there are several additional types of septic systems.
- Septic Tank, Conventional System, Chamber System, Drip Distribution System, Aerobic Treatment Unit, Mound Systems, Recirculating Sand Filter System, Evapotranspiration System, Constructed Wetland System, Cluster / Community System, etc.
This tank is underground and waterproof, and it was designed and built specifically for receiving and partially treating raw home sanitary wastewater. Generally speaking, heavy materials settle at or near the bottom of the tank, whereas greases and lighter solids float to the surface. The sediments are retained in the tank, while the wastewater is sent to the drainfield for further treatment and dispersion once it has been treated.
Septic tanks and trench or bed subsurface wastewater infiltration systems are two types of decentralized wastewater treatment systems (drainfield). When it comes to single-family homes and small businesses, a traditional septic system is the most common type of system. For decades, people have used a gravel/stone drainfield as a method of water drainage. The term is derived from the process of constructing the drainfield. A short underground trench made of stone or gravel collects wastewater from the septic tank in this configuration, which is commonly used.
Effluent filters through the stone and is further cleaned by microorganisms once it reaches the soil below the gravel/stone trench, which is located below the trench.
Gravelless drainfields have been regularly utilized in various states for more than 30 years and have evolved into a standard technology that has mostly replaced gravel systems. Various configurations are possible, including open-bottom chambers, pipe that has been clothed, and synthetic materials such as expanded polystyrene media. Gravelless systems can be constructed entirely of recycled materials, resulting in considerable reductions in carbon dioxide emissions during their lifetime. The chamber system is a type of gravelless system that can be used as an example.
The key advantage of the chamber system is the enhanced simplicity with which it can be delivered and built.
This sort of system is made up of a number of chambers that are connected to one another.
Wastewater is transported from the septic tank to the chambers through pipes. The wastewater comes into touch with the earth when it is contained within the chambers. The wastewater is treated by microbes that live on or near the soil.
Drip Distribution System
Since the 1980s, gravelless drainfields have been widely employed in several states, becoming a standard technique that has mostly replaced gravel systems. Various configurations are possible, including open-bottom chambers, pipe that has been clothed, and synthetic materials like expanded polystyrene media. A large reduction in carbon footprint may be achieved by manufacturing gravelless systems from recycled materials. The chamber system is an illustration of a gravelless system. As an alternative to the gravel/stone system, a chamber system can be used instead.
These systems are also well suited to areas with high groundwater tables, where the volume of influent to the septic system is variable (e.g., at a vacation home or seasonal inn), in areas with a scarcity of gravel, and in areas where other technologies, such as plastic chambers, are widely available.
A thick layer of earth covers the ground surrounding and above the chambers.
The wastewater comes into touch with the soil as it is being processed via the chambers.
Aerobic Treatment Unit
Aerobic Treatment Units (ATUs) are small-scale wastewater treatment facilities that employ many of the same procedures as a municipal sewage plant. An aerobic system adds oxygen to the treatment tank using a pump. When there is an increase in oxygen in the system, there is an increase in natural bacterial activity, which then offers extra treatment for nutrients in the effluent. It is possible that certain aerobic systems may additionally include a pretreatment tank as well as a final treatment tank that will include disinfection in order to further lower pathogen levels.
ATUs should be maintained on a regular basis during their service life.
Unlike a municipal sewage plant, Aerobic Treatment Units (ATUs) employ many of the same procedures as that facility. When oxygen is introduced into the treatment tank, the system is known as an aerobic system. Due to the increased natural bacterial activity inside the system, the system is able to provide extra treatment for nutrients in the effluent as a result. It is possible that certain aerobic systems will additionally include a pretreatment tank as well as a final treatment tank that will include disinfection in order to further lower the pathogen levels.
ATUs should be subjected to routine life-cycle maintenance.
Recirculating Sand Filter System
Sand filter systems can be built either above or below ground, depending on the use. The effluent is discharged from the septic tank into a pump compartment. Afterwards, it is pushed into the sand filter. The sand filter is often made of PVC or a concrete box that is filled with a sand-like substance. The effluent is pushed through the pipes at the top of the filter under low pressure to the drain. As the effluent exits the pipelines, it is treated as it passes through the sand filtering system.
However, sand filters are more costly than a standard septic system because they provide a higher level of nutrient treatment and are thus better suited for areas with high water tables or that are adjacent to bodies of water.
Evaporative cooling systems feature drainfields that are one-of-a-kind. It is necessary to line the drainfield at the base of the evapotranspiration system with a waterproof material. Following the entry of the effluent into the drainfield, it evaporates into the atmosphere. At the same time, the sewage never filters into the soil and never enters groundwater, unlike other septic system designs. It is only in particular climatic circumstances that evapotranspiration systems are effective. The environment must be desert, with plenty of heat and sunshine, and no precipitation.
Constructed Wetland System
Construction of a manufactured wetland is intended to simulate the treatment processes that occur in natural wetland areas. Wastewater goes from the septic tank and into the wetland cell, where it is treated. Afterwards, the wastewater goes into the media, where it is cleaned by microorganisms, plants, and other media that eliminate pathogens and nutrients. Typically, a wetland cell is constructed with an impermeable liner, gravel and sand fill, and the necessary wetland plants, all of which must be capable of withstanding the constant saturation of the surrounding environment.
As wastewater travels through the wetland, it may escape the wetland and flow onto a drainfield, where it will undergo more wastewater treatment before being absorbed into the soil by bacteria.
Cluster / Community System
In certain cases, a decentralized wastewater treatment system is owned by a group of people and is responsible for collecting wastewater from two or more residences or buildings and transporting it to a treatment and dispersal system placed on a suitable location near the dwellings or buildings. Cluster systems are widespread in settings like rural subdivisions, where they may be found in large numbers.
Septic Tank Pumping
Septic tanks are used in the vast majority of on-lot sewage systems nowadays. The subject of how frequently a septic tank should be pumped has been a source of contention for several decades. For example, there are some homeowners who say they have never drained their septic tank and that it “appears” to be in fine working condition.
While trying to establish a standard pumping strategy, authorities have taken a more conservative approach and have declared that all septic tanks should be pump out every two to three years.
How a Septic Tank Works
Box 1.Can you tell me how much solid trash you generate? The average adult consumes around one quart of food every day. The body removes just a very little percentage of this meal and utilizes it to provide energy for the body’s functions. The remaining portion is discharged into the waste water system. This translates into around 90 gallons of solid waste being discharged into the septic tank per adult each year. Based on the assumption that the anaerobic bacteria in the septic tank reduce the waste volume by around 60%, this indicates that each adult contributes approximately 60 gallons of solids to their septic tank each year.
- Consequently, it will take around 5 years for one adult to completely fill a 1,000-gallon septic tank with sludge and scum, which is approximately 300 gallons.
- It is simple to infer that a septic tank should be pumped every two to three years after accounting for adults who work outside the home for a third of the time and children who attend school after making these modifications to the study.
- Single chamber septic tanks were the most common type of septic tank until recently.
- Septic tanks are designed to aid the removal of particles that are heavier than water by encouraging these heavy particles to settle to the tank bottom, resulting in the formation of the sludge layer.
- It is also designed to keep particles that are lighter than water by encouraging these lighter particles to float to the surface and be maintained in the tank, resulting in a layer of scum on the surface of the tank.
In part, this is due to the fact that the temperature of the septic tank is equal to that of the soil surrounding it, and the anaerobic bacteria require higher temperatures in order to effectively decompose organic material in wastewater and thus reduce the biological oxygen demand (BOD) of the wastewater.
- Holding on to the heavy (settleable) and lighter (floatable) particles allows the septic tank to gently fill with solids from the bottom up as well as from the top down.
- Septic tanks with an exit filter will catch and decrease the flow of solids into the absorption area when the tank is properly designed and installed.
- As a result, it is critical that every septic tank be pumped on a regular basis to eliminate the organic particles that have been collected and partially digested.
- Small amounts of the particles kept in the tank degrade, but the vast majority of the solids stay and build up in the tank.
- Under no circumstances should you enter a septic tank.
- With continued usage of the on-lot wastewater disposal system, an accumulation of sludge and scum builds up in the septic tank.
- As the amount of sludge and scum in the tank fills up, wastewater is maintained in the tank for a shorter period of time, and the solids removal process becomes less efficient as a result.
It is necessary to pump the tank on a regular basis in order to avoid this. Asseptage is the term used to describe the substance injected. Cross-sectional view of a two-chamber septic tank (Figure 1).
|Number of bedrooms in the home||Estimated daily flow (gallons/day)||Minimum septic tank size (gallons)|
How Frequent should a Septic Tank be Pumped?
Pumping frequency is determined by a number of parameters, including:
- The capacity of the septic tank
- The amount of wastewater that is put to the septic tank each day (see Table 1)
- The amount of solids in a wastewater stream is measured. In this regard, it should be noted that there are various different types of particles that are regularly dumped into a septic system. This group of solids includes (1) biodegradable “organic” solids such as feces (see Box 1), (2) slowly biodegradable “organic” solids such as toilet paper and cellulosic compounds, which take a long time to biodegrade in the septic tank, and (3) non-biodegradable solids such as kitty litter, plastics, and other non-biodegradable materials, which do not biodegrade and quickly fill the septic tank It is possible to significantly reduce the quantity of slowly biodegradable organics and non-biodegradable trash that is introduced to your septic tank by reducing the amount of organic waste that is added to the tank.
Another factor that influences how soon a septic tank will fill with solids is one’s way of living. In terms of septic tank function, the two most essential aspects of one’s lifestyle are as follows: Homes with expanding families, having children ranging in age from tiny children to adolescents, often consume more water and deposit more sediments into the septic tank than other types of households. Empty nesters, and especially the elderly, on the other hand, have a tendency to consume significantly less water and to deposit significantly less solid waste in septic tanks.
- The particles in a septic tank tend to be taken away from the tank to the soil absorption region, as previously indicated.
- As additional materials collect in the absorption region, these sediments begin to choke the soil, preventing wastewater from being able to fully absorb.
- In most cases, the removal of these biomats is both expensive and time-consuming.
- Pumping the wastewater that has accumulated in the soil absorption area is required for the removal of the biomat.
- The biomat normally decomposes within a few days after the absorption area has been completely dewatered and has been aerated.
Is It Time To Pump Your Septic Tank?
So, how does one go about determining how frequently a septic tank needs be cleaned? We are aware that residences who dispose of huge volumes of non-biodegradable and slowly biodegradable organic waste into their septic tank require more frequent pumping. It is also known that prior to the time at which the collected solids have accumulated to the point that they are being taken with the tank effluent to the absorption region, the septic tank should be pump out. When it comes to determining when (and how frequently) to pump your septic tank, there are two generally safe ways to use.
The alternative method is to open the access port to the first chamber (as shown in Figure 1) once a year and insert a long pole to the bottom of the tank and then pull it out of the tank.
If the sludge has accumulated to more than one-third of the tank’s total depth, it is time to have it drained out completely. The majority of households will benefit from having their tanks drained every two or three years instead.
The Pumping Process
Contractors who specialize in septic tank pumping and hauling may pump your septic tank. It is a good idea to be present to check that everything is completed correctly. For the material to be extracted from the tank, it is necessary to break up the scum layer, and the sludge layer must be combined with the liquid section of the tank. In most cases, this is accomplished by alternately pumping liquid out of the tank and re-injecting it into the bottom of the tank. Not the little intake or outlet inspection openings situated above each baffle, but the two huge central access ports (manholes) are required for pumping the septic tank.
- It is not suggested to use additives in septic tanks to minimize the volume of sludge or as a substitute for pumping in order to achieve these goals.
- When you have your septic tank pumped, you should consider taking an additional step to ensure that your septic system continues to perform correctly for a long time.
- This inspector can tell you whether or not your septic tank needs to be repaired, as well as whether or not other components of your sewage system require upkeep.
- Mark the position of the tank as well, so that it may be found simply in the future for pumping.
Schedule Septic Tank Pumping
Homeowners should develop the practice of getting their septic tanks drained on a regular basis. As long as you are able and willing to schedule regular septic tank pumping (every two or three years, for example), it may be feasible to improve the overall performance of your complete on-lot wastewater disposal system. According to research conducted at Penn State, your soil absorption system will benefit from frequent resting periods (a period during which no wastewater is added to the absorption area).
In other words, the whole system, particularly the soil absorption region, will have the opportunity to dry up, and any organic waste (biomat) that may have formed in the soil absorption area will degrade swiftly in the absence of water.
A septic tank is simply one component of a complete on-site wastewater treatment system. Its purpose is to remove solids from the effluent prior to it reaching the soil absorption region, to allow for the digestion of a part of those solids, and to store the remainder of the solids in a holding tank. It is not necessary to use biological or chemical additions to enhance or speed the breakdown process.
Grinders contribute to the solids load on the system by reducing the size of garbage. Solids must be removed on a regular basis in order to prevent them from accessing the soil absorption zone. Every two to three years, you should have your septic tank drained and examined by a professional.
For additional assistance contact
Your local Sewage Enforcement Officer or Extension Educator can help you with these issues. A contact for the Pennsylvania Association of Sewage Enforcement Officers (PASEO) is as follows:4902 Carlisle Pike,268Mechanicsburg, PA 17050 Phone: 717-761-8648 Email: [email protected] Philadelphia, PA 18016 717-763-7762 [email protected] Pennsylvania Septage Management Association (PSMA)P.O. Box 144 Bethlehem, PA 18016 717-763-7762
How Does a Septic Tank Work?
Mr. Fix-It-Up-For-The-Family You may save a lot of money if you understand how a sewage treatment system works—and what can go wrong—so that you can handle your own septic system maintenance.
How does a septic tank work?
Pumping the tank on a regular basis eliminates sludge and scum, which helps to keep a septic system in good working order. It is possible for a well-designed and well built septic system to last for decades, or it might collapse in a matter of years. It is entirely up to you as long as you can answer the question of how do septic tanks function. Healthy septic systems are very inexpensive to maintain, but digging up and replacing a septic system that has completely collapsed may easily cost tens of thousands in labor and material costs.
It’s critical to understand how a septic tank works in order to maintain one.
Let’s take a look below ground and observe what happens in a properly operating septic system, shall we?
Understand that a septic system is a cafeteria for bacteria
Bacteria are responsible for the proper operation of a septic system. They decompose garbage, resulting in water that is clean enough to safely trickle down into the earth’s surface. The entire system is set up to keep bacteria healthy and busy at all times. Some of them reside in the tank, but the majority of them are found in the drain field. 1. The septic tank is the final destination for all waste. 2. The majority of the tank is filled with watery waste, referred to as “effluent.” Anaerobic bacteria begin to break down the organic matter in the effluent as soon as it enters the system.
- A layer of sludge settles to the bottom of the container.
- Scum is mostly constituted of fats, greases, and oils, among other substances.
- Grease and oils float to the surface of the water.
- (5) A filter stops the majority of particles from reaching the exit pipe.
- The effluent is discharged into the drain field.
- Effluent is allowed to leak into the surrounding gravel because of holes in the drain septic field pipe.
When gravel is used to surround pipes, water can run into the soil and oxygen can reach germs. The garbage is completely decomposed by aerobic bacteria found in gravel and dirt. 9. Potable water seeps into the groundwater and aquifer system from the surface.
Septic Tank Clean Out: Don’t abuse the system
Septic systems that have been correctly planned and constructed require just occasional ‘pumping’ to remove the sludge and scum that has built up inside the tank. However, if you don’t understand how a septic tank works, you may unintentionally hurt or even destroy the system.
- Drains are used to dispose of waste that decomposes slowly (or not at all). Cigarette butts, diapers, and coffee grounds are all known to cause issues. Garbage disposers, if utilized excessively, can introduce an excessive amount of solid waste into the system. Lint from synthetic fibers is emitted from washing machine lint traps. This substance is not degraded by bacteria in the tank and drain septic field. Bacteria are killed by chemicals found in the home, such as disinfecting cleansers and antibacterial soaps. The majority of systems are capable of withstanding limited usage of these goods, but the less you use them, the better. When a large amount of wastewater is produced in a short period of time, the tank is flushed away too quickly. When there is too much sludge, bacteria’s capacity to break down waste is reduced. Sludge can also overflow into the drain field if there is too much of it. Sludge or scum obstructs the flow of water via a pipe. It is possible for tree and shrub roots to obstruct and cause harm to a drain field. Compacted soil and gravel prevent wastewater from seeping into the ground and deprive germs of oxygen. Most of the time, this is caused by vehicles driving or parking on the drain field.
Get your tank pumped…
Your tank must be emptied on a regular basis by a professional. Pumping eliminates the accumulation of sludge and scum that has accumulated in the tank, which has caused the bacterial action to be slowed. If you have a large tank, it may be necessary to pump it once a year; but, depending on the size of your tank and the quantity of waste you send through the system, you may go two or three years between pumpings. Inquire with your inspector about an approximate guideline for how frequently your tank should be pumped.
…but don’t hire a pumper until you need it
Inspections and pumping should be performed on a regular basis. However, if you’re not afraid of getting your hands dirty, you may verify the sludge level yourself with a gadget known as The Sludge Judge. It ranges in price from $100 to $125 and is commonly accessible on the internet. Once you’ve verified that your tank is one-third full with sludge, you should contact a professional to come out and pump it out completely.
Install an effluent filter in your septic system
Garbage from your home accumulates into three distinct strata. The septic filter is responsible for preventing blockage of the drain field pipes.
Septic tank filter close-up
The septic tank filter is responsible for capturing suspended particles that may otherwise block the drain field pipes. Obtain an effluent filter for your tank from your contractor and place it on the outflow pipe of your tank. (It will most likely cost between $50 and $100, plus labor.) This device, which helps to prevent sediments from entering the drain field, will need to be cleaned out on a regular basis by a contractor to maintain its effectiveness.
Solution for a clogged septic system
If your septic system becomes clogged and you find yourself having to clean the filter on a regular basis, you might be tempted to simply remove the filter altogether. Hold on to it. Solids, wastewater, and scum are separated into three levels in septic tanks, which allows them to function properly (see illustration above). Solids sink to the bottom of the container, where microbes breakdown them. The scum, which is made up of trash that is lighter than water, rises to the surface. In the drainage field, the middle layer of effluent leaves the tank and goes through an underground network of perforated pipes to the drainage field.
- Keep the effluent filter in place since it is required by your state’s health law.
- Waste particles might flow through the filter and clog the perforated pipes if the filter is not used.
- Your filter, on the other hand, should not require cleaning every six months.
- A good chance is high that you’re flushing filter-clogging things down the toilet, such as grease, fat, or food scraps.
- A garbage disposal will not be able to break down food particles sufficiently to allow them to flow through the septic tank filtration system.
- Plastic items, disposable diapers, paper towels, nonbiodegradable goods, and tobacco products will clog the system if they are flushed through it.
For additional information on what should and should not be flushed down the toilet, contact your local health authority. More information on removing lint from your laundry may be found here.
Get an inspection
Following a comprehensive first check performed by an expert, regular inspections will cost less than $100 each inspection for the next year. Your professional will be able to inform you how often you should get your system inspected as well as how a septic tank functions. As straightforward as a septic system appears, determining its overall condition necessitates the services of a professional. There are a plethora of contractors who would gladly pump the sludge out of your tank, but many, in my experience, are unable to explain how a septic system works or how it should be maintained.
A certification scheme for septic contractors has been established in certain states; check with your state’s Secretary of State’s office to see whether yours is one of them.
Also, a qualified inspector will be able to tell you whether or not your tank is large enough to accommodate your household’s needs, as well as the maximum amount of water that can be passed through it in a single day.
As you learn more about how a septic tank works, your professional should be able to tell you whether or not your system will benefit from this treatment.
Alternatives to a new drain field
If an examination or a sewage backup indicate that your drain field is in need of replacement, the only option is to replace it completely. As a result, it’s important to talk with a contractor about other possibilities before proceeding with the project.
- Pipes should be cleaned. A rotating pressure washer, used by a contractor, may be used to clean out the drain septic field pipes. The cost of “jetting” the pipes is generally around $200. Chemicals should be used to clean the system. A commercial solution (not a home-made one) that enhances the quantity of oxygen in the drain field should be discussed with your contractor before installing your new system. Septic-Scrub is a product that I suggest. A normal treatment will cost between $500 and $1,000. Make the soil more pliable. The practice of “terra-lifting,” which involves pumping high-pressure air into several spots surrounding the drain field, is authorized in some regions. Some contractors use it to shatter compacted dirt around the pipes. Depending on the circumstances, this might cost less than $1,000 or as much as $4,000 or more.
Protect your drain septic field from lint
When this device is in place, it inhibits lint from entering the system, especially synthetic fibers that bacteria are unable to digest. One of these filters, which I’ve designed and termed theSeptic Protector, was invented by me. An additional filter is included in the price of around $150 plus delivery. Learn more about how to filter out laundry lint in this article.
Don’t overload the septic system
Reduce the amount of water you use. The volume of water that flows into your tank, particularly over a short period of time, can be reduced to avoid untreated waste from being flushed into your drain field. Replace outdated toilets with low-flow ones, install low-flow showerheads, and, perhaps most importantly, wash laundry throughout the week rather than just on Saturday mornings to save water.
Meet the Expert
Septic systems, according to Jim vonMeier, are the solution to America’s water deficit because they supply cleaned water to depleted aquifers, according to vonMeier. He travels the country lobbying for septic systems, giving lectures, and giving testimony. For septic system inquiries, as well as information on the operation of the septic tank, contact him by email.
Septic System Owner’s Guide
What kind of computer system do you have? In North Carolina, there are many distinct types of septic systems in use, but the vast majority of the over 2 million systems in use throughout the state are minor variations of the typical septic system. This system includes a septic tank as well as a drainfield that is filled with gravel (usually two to six trenches). Since the mid- to late-1990s, classic gravel aggregate trenches have been phased out in favor of innovative gravel-less trench designs, which have become increasingly popular.
- Some of the most often used gravel-free trenches nowadays are either long and narrow, tunnel-shaped chambers in the trenche, or gravel replacements such as expanded polystyrene aggregate.
- A booklet from the Cooperative Extension Service, AG-439-13, Septic Systems and Their Maintenance, outlines the typical system, easy adjustments to it, and the most significant maintenance requirements.
- The application of these technologies is now widespread, whether in new housing projects or in the replacement or repair of malfunctioning septic systems in residences and businesses.
- In order to address this, state regulations provide specified maintenance requirements for a number of these more advanced technology.
- Furthermore, state regulations mandate that the health department examine these systems on a regular basis.
- Are you familiar with the location of your septic system and repair area?
- If you do not have a copy of your septic system permit or a soil evaluation document, contact your local health department.
This Septic System Owner’s Guidefile folder should contain the following items: It is normally possible to establish the location of a septic tank and drainfield by looking at a copy of the permit and consulting with a septic contractor, a consultant, or the local health department A “repair area or replacement area,” in which a second drainfield might be constructed if necessary, has been required on nearly all home sites approved since the early 1980s, according to state law.
It should be noted on your septic system permit that this repair area was designated by the health department when the site was allowed.
Some Important Facts to Understand About Your Septic System
- In what form of septic system do you have
- Where is it situated
- And where is the repair area situated? Is the septic system up and running? In the past, has it been kept up to date? What can you do on a day-to-day basis to ensure that your system continues to function properly? What kind of maintenance will be required in the future
On the grid labeledSeptic System Layout, draw a rough sketch of your home, septic system (including both the tank and drainfield), repair area, and any other essential features (such as your driveway). The distance between the home and the access port on the septic tank should be measured and recorded when having your septic tank drained. This will assist you in locating it again. You may also want to indicate the position of your tank as well as the limits of your drainfield in your yard. If you do not have a riser installed over the access port for your septic tank, you may want to consider having one put in.
- Even when properly maintained, septic tanks can contain harmful gases and pollutants, as well as bacteria and other germs that can cause major health problems if not addressed.
- Is your septic system in proper functioning order?
- Many individuals are unaware that untreated sewage that has accumulated on the surface of the ground might be a health threat.
- Before fixing a malfunctioning septic system, you must get a permit from the local health authority, according to state regulations.
- What kind of upkeep has been carried out?
- If you are purchasing an existing house, you should ask the seller a few critical questions, such as the following:
- What is the age of the system
- What is the location of the tank and drainfield (they may or may not be on the same property or even on the same parcel of land)
- When was the last time the tank was pumped
- What is the frequency with which it has been pushed
- Is it necessary to clean the “effluent filter” in the septic tank on a regular basis (effluent filters are required for systems established after 1999)
- Has there been any indication of a likely failure? In what location can I get a copy of the permit and documentation proving how effectively (or poorly) the system has been maintained
- Do you know whether any improvements have been made to the house that would necessitate expanding the capacity of the system? Is the system still operational, and if so, when and by whom was it repaired?
If the house has only recently been constructed, request that the septic system contractor give you with a “as built” schematic, which may include elements that were not included in the permit. If the house is equipped with a pump, request that the contractor and the local health agency supply specifics on how the pump was initially installed. In order to properly care for your septic system, you must manage it on a day-to-day basis as well as perform periodic maintenance and repairs. Layout of a septic system.
- However, the drainfield does not have an indefinite capacity. The average daily water use per person is 50 gallons. Even for brief periods of time, the soil drainfield has a maximum daily design capacity of 120 gallons per bedroom, which is routinely exceeded. Overloads can occur at any time of year, on a daily basis, or on weekends. Fix any leaky faucets or toilets you may have. Water conservation will help you get more use out of your system.
Keep waste disposal to sewage alone.
- It is not acceptable to utilize your septic tank as a garbage can for items such as cigarette butts, tissues, feminine hygiene products, cotton swabs, cat litter, coffee grinds, or disposable diapers. Reduce the amount of time you use your garbage disposal. These contribute a significant amount of additional solids. It is not recommended to throw fat or cooking oil down the drain. You should avoid putting toxic chemicals into your system, such as solvents and oils. You should avoid using paint thinners and paint thinners that have been dumped. You should avoid disinfectants and pesticides. Conserve your funds. Most of the time, commercial septic tank additives are not required.
Ensure that the system is protected against physical harm (site maintenance).
- Maintain a layer of plants on the soil over the drainfield to prevent soil erosion from occurring. Don’t drive your car above the system’s limits. Try to avoid building over the system or in the repair area. The natural shape of the terrain immediately downslope of the system should be preserved, and this region should be protected against excavation (cutting and filling). Neither asphalt nor concrete should be used to cover the tank or drainfield.
All wastewater should be disposed of in a system that has been authorized.
- You shouldn’t install a separate pipe to transport washwater to a side ditch or into the woods. This is against the law
The house and the yard (site maintenance)
- Conserve and preserve the area where your septic tank and drainfield are located
- Trees that thrive in moist environments should be cut down and removed. Willows, elms, sweetgums, and certain maples are examples of such trees. Surface water should be diverted away from the tank and drainfield by landscaping the yard. Inspect the system to make sure that water from the roof, gutter, and foundation drains does not overflow
- It is recommended that if your system is located at the base of a slope, you build a french drain to channel subterranean water. Ensure that drainage ditches, subsurface tiles, and drainage outlets are kept in good condition so that water may readily flow from them.
Sewage treatment system (Septic tank)
- Tanks should be elevated if they are 6 inches or deeper below the surface. They offer quick and convenient access for solids measurement and pumping, as well as for cleaning the effluent filter. The rate at which sludge and scum build in the tank is measured. Make a note of this information and provide it to your expert pumper. Solids should be pushed out of the tank as necessary. Most septic tanks have two sections
- It is necessary to have them drained out. More information about pumping frequency can be found in the Cooperative Extension Service document AG-439-13, Septic Systems and Their Maintenance, which is available online. It is not necessary to wait till your drainfield collapses before having your tank pumped. By that time, the drainfield may have been completely destroyed. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to septic systems.
|Preventive Maintenance Record|
|Your Septic System Installer|
|Date System Installed:|
- If sewage is backing up into your toilets, tubs, or sinks, call a plumber. Slowly draining fittings, especially after it has rained
- Slow-draining fixtures A foul odor associated with damp soil or sewage dumped onto the ground or into neighboring ditches or wooded areas
- Please keep in mind that sewage from pump systems may rise to the surface of the ground when the pump is switched on and then disappear when the pump is turned off. This is still a failure of the system, and it must be fixed. a red light blinking or beeping in the home or in the yard, signaling that a pump is not functioning correctly or that the water level in a pump tank is excessive and on the verge of failing
- A rise in the number of diseases or illnesses related with swimming in nearby lakes or rivers
Regulations and safeguards are necessary.
- Any system that includes a pump should be operated by a state-certified subsurface system operator. In the case of low pressure pipe (LPP) systems erected or repaired after July 1, 1992, as well as underground drip irrigation systems, aerobic treatment units (ATUs), peat biofilters, sand biofilters, textile biofilters, and other sophisticated systems, a permit will be required by law. Those interested in obtaining a list of state-certified subsurface system operators should contact the North Carolina Water Pollution Control System Certification Commission at 919-707-9089. Between planned maintenance visits, check to see that the pump and electrical components are still in proper operating order. Germs found in sewage have the potential to cause disease. Never go into a septic tank unless absolutely necessary. Toxic and explosive gases are present in the tank, posing a threat. Tanks that are more than a decade old may collapse. Electrical controls provide a risk of electric shock and sparking. Children should not be able to open the septic tank lid, hence it should be secured. Do not attempt to repair a malfunctioning system on your own time. Obtain a repair permit and employ a contractor with extensive expertise
For further information about septic systems, speak with an Extension agent in your county or the local public health agency. This paper is an updated version of a previous publication. It is with gratitude that we acknowledge Tom Konsler (Orange County Health Department), Deanna Osmond, Mitch Woodward, and Grace Lawrence (North Carolina Cooperative Extension) for their contributions to the document’s peer review, as well as Debra Ireland for her work on the document’s graphic design, layout, and editing.
Discrimination and harassment are prohibited at North Carolina Cooperative Extension, regardless of age, color, handicap, family and marital status, gender identity, national origin, political opinions, racism, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, or veteran status.
Everything You Need to Know About Your Septic Tank
What is a septic tank, and how does it work? A septic tank is a water-tight container that is often constructed of concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene to prevent flooding (plastic). In fact, it is only one component of the entire septic system, which includes several other components such as a distribution box, pumps, float switches, aerators, filters, and other accessories. Septic systems are used to treat wastewater on-site in many rural and suburban areas that do not have access to centralized sewage systems.
The components of a conventional septic tank are depicted in the diagram below.
- The Tank: This is the water-tight tank into which wastewater from your house is sent once it has been collected. A hole, fracture, or any other structural damage should not be present. Access Ports: When a trained pumper comes to clean up your tank, they will utilize an access port. When it comes to tank cleaning, it is critical that the access port be large enough to allow the pumper to move the hose about within the tank properly. A common application for risers is to elevate septic tank access above ground level, eliminating the need to dig up your septic tank every time it has to be pumped. Last but not least, the access port should be securely secured with a child-resistant lid. It is vital for the protection of your family that septic tank lids are securely fastened with screws and that they are not cracked or damaged. Pipes for entering and exiting the septic tank: Wastewater from your house enters the septic tank through the intake pipe. After the particles have settled out, the effluent is discharged from the septic tank through the exit pipe and into the drainage field. There should be roughly 3 inches between the output pipe and the intake pipe. A baffle is fitted on the intake pipe within the tank, and it serves to keep the water out. It provides a variety of functions. Additionally, it helps to avoid the build-up of scum and its backup into the intake pipe It is also important for solids to settle in the tank that the input baffle be properly installed. When wastewater enters the septic tank, it should hit the entrance baffle, which will reduce the flow and prevent the tank from becoming agitated. This permits the contents of the septic tank to remain at rest, allowing the solids to sink to the bottom of the tank. The intake baffle can also prevent odorous odors from entering the sewage line and spreading throughout the home or business
- And It is even more crucial than the inlet baffle to have an exit baffle in place because it helps to prevent scum and other particles from flowing directly into the outflow pipe and eventually into the drain field. Gas Deflector/Effluent Filter: As gas bubbles climb to the top of a septic tank, they may bring sediments with them. This is why an effluent filter is used. A gas deflector prevents these solid-carrying gases from entering the output line by preventing them from entering. However, while not every septic tank is equipped with an effluent filter, it is strongly suggested as an additional safety to prevent particulates from entering your drain field.
Any of the above-mentioned components in your septic tank should be checked for damage or missing parts as soon as possible, and the problem should be resolved by a septic system specialist. What is the operation of a septic tank? Each and every drop of wastewater from your home is channeled via a main drainage pipe and into your septic tank. Solids are prevented from entering your drain field by using the septic tank, which is just a settling tank that serves as a filter. Ideally, the water should be kept in the tank for at least one day in order to enable time for the solids to settle.
- Heavy materials, such as dirt and digested waste, will sink to the bottom of the tank and form a sludge layer at the bottom of the tank.
- Effluent is the term used to describe the liquid that exists between the sludge and scum layers.
- It is critical that solids are given adequate time and space to settle before being used.
- In fact, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection mandates a minimum capacity of 900 gallons for any new septic tank installations in the state (the table below shows recommended septic tank capacities for different sized homes).
- Ideally, you should have your septic tank emptied every two to three years, according to the Pennsylvania Septage Management Association (PSMA).
- If a drain field has been ruined by a buildup of sediments, it might cost tens of thousands of dollars to rebuild it.
- It is crucial to understand that your septic tank must be completely filled with liquid in order to function effectively.
- The septic tank diagram shown above depicts the correct operating level of a septic tank in a residential setting.
- The result is that whenever more wastewater is added to the tank, an equal volume of effluent will be discharged from the tank and drain into the drain field.
- The opposite is true if the liquid level is higher than the outflow line, which may signal a blockage in a line downstream from the septic tank or in the drain field.
If you’re wondering if your septic tank is full, a skilled pumper will consider it “full” once solids have filled one-third of the tank’s capacity. This is the time of year when your septic tank will need to be pumped.
How Often Are Septic Tanks Emptied, and Where Do the Contents Go?
It’s safe to assume that wherever there are many individuals who run their houses’ waste systems through septic tanks, there will be a slew of local firms that specialize in eliminating the scum and sludge that collect in the tank over a long period of time. This is a crucial service because, if too much sludge accumulates over time, it can cause overflow, which is harmful to everyone involved. Septic pumping for commercial purposes typically consists of a pump truck emptying the sludge, effluent, and scum from the tank and leaving the tank empty and ready to be refilled with fresh sludge and water.
Prior to the passage of federal legislation prohibiting the disposal of sewage sludge, waste management businesses could simply bury it in landfills.
These locations still exist, however many of them are in the process of being cleaned up (clean-up).
In certain situations, the septic contents are transported to waste treatment plants where they are combined with the stew that has been pumped in from a municipal sewer system, or they are supplied to for-profit organizations that specialize in the treatment of septage.
Septage may also be placed at landfills that have been allowed.
Because of the difficulties associated with properly disposing of your septic tank’s contents, septage is sometimes employed in a different way: to grow food.
This application of septage has the potential to be contentious.
It is expected that, when properly applied to farmland with good soil and a low water table, the soil will work as a filter in the same way as a drain field in the rear of a home with a septic tank will act as a filter.
Historically, it has been recognized that methane, which is created as a waste product during the breakdown of sewage, may be utilized to generate energy.
In addition, because the power produced does not burn, there is little or no pollutants emitted.
One system, constructed south of Seattle, Washington, in 2004, has the capacity to generate enough electricity to power 1,000 houses.
Who would have thought that your feces could be so beneficial? More information about waste treatment may be found on the next page. The original publication date was July 29, 2008.