HOW DOES A SEPTIC SYSTEM WORK?
A septic system consists of two main parts: the septic tank and the drainfield.
The septic tank is a watertight box, usually made of fiberglass or concrete, with an inlet and an outlet pipe.
Wastewater flows from the home to the tank through the sewer pipe. The tank treats the wastewater naturally by holding it long enough for the solids and liquids to separate. Then, the wastewater forms three layers. Solids, lighter than water (such as greases and oils), float to the top forming a layer of scum. Heavier solids settle at the bottom forming a layer of sludge. This leaves a middle layer of partially clarified wastewater.
The layers of sludge and scum remain in the septic tank where bacteria found naturally in the wastewater work to break them down. Materials that cannot be broken down are retained in the septic tank until it is pumped.
This is why pumping septic tanks every three to five years is recommended by experts for a three-bedroom house with a 1,000-gallon tank. Smaller tanks should be pumped more often. Pumping helps eliminate the build-up of solids that can clog your leach field.
If you use a garbage disposal, have the tank pumped more frequently. Don’t use your toilet as a garbage can! If you put lots of stuff down the toilet, you will need to have the tank pumped more often.
Remember that your septic tank will work only if the bacteria in it are healthy and hungry. If they get sick or die, your septic tank will start sending un-digested waste out to the drain field which will quickly plug it up and cause an unhealthy and odorous condition.