Septic systems are a very common way of performing plumbing functions in residential areas. Did you know that your septic system has bacteria in it? Do you know what function this bacteria plays or that it’s necessary for the functionality of your system? We’re answering all of the top septic system questions in this blog post so keep reading to learn more!
Q: What is a septic system?
According to the National Environmental Services Center, a septic system is a “highly efficient, self-contained, underground wastewater treatment system.” Essentially, they are a specific type of plumbing system that treats and disposes of wastewater onsite. This typically makes them more economical in rural areas.
Q: How does a septic system operate?
A septic system is typically comprised of two parts, the septic tank, and the drain field. The tank is a watertight box, usually made of concrete, with an inlet pipe and an outlet pipe. Wastewater flows from the home and through the inlet pipe into the tank and then through the outlet pipe.
The wastewater is treated in the tank naturally by utilizing time. After a while, the solids and liquids begin to separate; it ends up forming three layers in the tank, a top layer of scum (greases and oils), a middle layer of liquids, and a bottom layer of solids also known as sludge. Once the water has separated, it flows from the tank to the drain field.
Q: Why is there bacteria in a septic system?
Bacteria are naturally found in the wastewater within the septic tank, but these bacteria serve a purpose. In the tank, it is responsible for breaking down the sludge and scum as much as it can. The rest of the sludge and scum that cannot be broken down are left in the tank until they can be pumped out by a professional.
Q: What does the drain field do?
As we said before, the partially clarified wastewater that leaves the septic tank enters the drain field. The drain field is usually a series of trenches that are lined with gravel a few feet beneath the ground surface. The water slowly trickles through the drain field and the gravel and soil act as natural biological filters for the wastewater.
Q: How do I maintain my septic system?
Pumping your septic tank is one of the most important tasks when it comes to maintaining the unit. How often you need to pump depends on a number of factors including:
How many people live in your home
The amount of wastewater generated by your residents
The ratio of solids to wastewater
Additionally, while your drain field should not require maintenance, make sure never to plant trees or plants in the area because the roots can grow into the septic lines, breaking or clogging them.
Q: What should I not flush in my septic system?
Like a traditional plumbing system, there are really only two things that should ever go down your toilet: human waste, and toilet paper.
Some items that should never be flushed include:
- Coffee grounds
- Dental floss
- Disposable diapers
- Kitty litter
- Sanitary napkins
- Cigarette butts
- Fat, grease, or oil
- Paper towels
- Chemicals (these will contaminate the wastewater and kill the bacteria in your septic tank that help to purify the wastewater)
Interested in learning more? Contact your local plumber today!