Everything You Need To Know About Standard Residential Septic Systems

Posted on: 27 September 2019

If you're new to owning a home with a septic system, then it's necessary to clearly understand how it works and how you should care for it. Since standard residential septic systems are living filtration systems containing biodigesting bacteria that process solid materials, they need regular maintenance and cleaning to stay healthy. 

How the Wastewater Filtration Process Works 

When your home's wastewater first enters the septic tank, its heavier solid materials drop down to the bottom of the tank and any grease or oils present rise to the top. The oils and grease form the upper scum layer, and the heavy solids are digested by the bacteria inside of the tank and turned into sludge and various gasses. The water displaced in the tank will then flow down the leach lines to the drain field. 

From the moment you flush your toilet or wash a load of laundry, it takes your home's septic system about one day for the wastewater to be pre-treated and reach the drain field. It is here where the water undergoes its final filtration and is returned as clean water into the aquifer below.

How Solids are Removed From a Septic Tank

The only safe way to remove the solid scum layer in a septic tank is to have it manually pumped and the septic tank thoroughly cleaned out.

If you neglect to have the tank pumped for too long, then the solids from the scum layer will break off and flow down to the drain field. Once this happens, the drain field will be permanently damaged and will no longer function as designed. 

When a septic system's drain field stops properly filtering water, it places the surrounding groundwater at risk of contamination as well as creates a risk to humans and pets from surface contamination. In addition, you can expect repairs to cost you well into the four figures! For this reason, pumping and cleaning are mandatory.

The Major Threats to Your Septic Tank's Health

Since replacing a septic system is very costly, and not being able to flush the toilet for days is a miserable way for your family to exist, there are plenty of things you can do to prevent clogs and failures. The most important thing is to limit the harmful substances allowed to enter the tank in the first place. Some of the worst offenders include:

  • Fats, oils, and grease

  • Feminine hygiene products, "flushable" wipes, and dental floss

  • Chlorine bleach, drain cleaner, and other harsh cleaning chemicals

In addition to offending solid materials, septic systems can also be seriously and permanently damaged by putting too much water through them in too short of a time period. For this reason, you should always space out your family's laundry loads, showers, and dish washing so the tank has time to process the water currently in it before you introduce more.

Finally, it's very important to keep pharmaceutical drugs out of all septic systems. If you flush them down the toilet, they can leach into the groundwater and contaminate it.

You can always call a septic tank cleaning company like Koberlein Environmental Services to help keep your tank safe and functioning.