How Does a Septic Tank Work? A Home Plumbing Guide

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Septic tank systems are living, breathing wastewater treatment centres found under your yard. They use a combination of technology and nature to transform waste from your bathroom and kitchen into waste that’s suitable to go back into the soil.

How does a septic tank work, and what do you have to do to keep it running? Here’s what you need to know.

How Does a Septic Tank Work? Waste to Water in 5 Steps

A conventional septic tank treats and transforms household wastewater into water that’s suitable to be slowly released into the soil.
Here’s how a septic tank works.

First, the water runs out of your house into the septic tank, which is a buried container in your yard.

Second, the water stays in the tank until the solids form sludge and the oil floats.

Third, the liquid wastewater (effluent) is ready to leave the tank. However, the compartments of the tank and the outlet prevent the oil scum and solid sludge from leaving the tank. The effluent alone leaves the tank and goes into the drain field, which is a shallow, covered space in unsaturated soil.
Fourth, when the effluent goes into the soil of the drain field, the soil treats it naturally. As it goes back into the soil, it removes harmful viruses and bacteria, particularly the coliform bacteria.

What Do You Have to Do to Help the Septic Tank?

Septic systems are largely self-efficient. A well-designed system lasts for decades, but only if you provide the required maintenance.
One of your responsibilities as a homeowner is septic pumping. Septic pumping removes the oil and sludge from the tank to prevent it from building up and breaking the system. When there’s too much sludge, it can reduce your system’s ability to break down the waste naturally. What’s more, an overflowing system can leak out into the drain field.

It’s also important that you keep solids and trash out of your system. Septic systems are designed for human waste – not diapers, cigarette butts, or hygiene products.
It’s also important to avoid sending food waste into your system. When waste decomposes slowly, it can cause serious problems.

Finally, you need regular inspections of your system. Inspections check your tank, drain field, and the soil to ensure your system is working as intended and not damaging your groundwater. An inspector also looks for signs of damage from tree or shrub roots, which can clog your septic system and damage your drain field.

Remember, a backed up or broken septic system isn’t just an expensive bill. It can also do serious damage to your water and cause illness!

Do You Have a Septic System? You Need to Know How It Works

Septic systems are an amazing combination of nature and technology. And if you live in a rural area, they’re your ticket to good sanitation and protecting your local environment. That’s why it’s so important that you understand the dirty details of your septic system.

How does a septic tank work? It filters waste out of your water and then treats the remaining water to remove viruses and bacteria. If you don’t take care of it, it could contaminate your water and soil and leak all over your property.

Looking for more homeownership tips? Visit our DIY section for more handy articles.

Ref: THSI-1747

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