A septic system can provide decades of reliable service if it is well-designed and properly installed and maintained. To understand how your septic system works and what can go wrong, it helps to have a visual aide explain the process. Keeping a septic tank and its components in good shape can save tens of thousands in repairs and replacements. Here is an overview of how a typical septic system works in the average home.
A septic system is designed to break down waste with the help of bacteria. While bacteria thrive in the tank and drain field, the septic system leaves water clean enough to safely exist in the environment once it drains out. Achieving this involves the following step-by-step process:
A Visual Guide into How Your Septic System Works
- Household waste flows through pipes to the septic tank, which fills with effluent, or liquid waste. Organic material in the tank is broken down by anaerobic bacteria. The tank functions like a settling pond; heavy solids sink while softer, lighter materials float to the top.
- As inorganic solids and byproducts of bacterial digestion fall to the bottom, a layer of material floats to the top. Most solids are captured by a filter before liquid waste reaches the outlet pipe.
- The effluent flows out of the septic tank to the drain field. It passes through a distribution box into other pipes. Holes in drain field pipes allow effluent to seep into gravel and soil. Oxygen-rich water flows into the soil to feed aerobic bacteria that continue to decompose the waste.
- Water that has been treated is released into the groundwater and aquifer.
How to Keep Your Septic System in Good Shape
Misusing a septic system can damage or even destroy it. A well designed and installed system may only need to be pumped occasionally. It’s important to realize the system is designed to filter wastewater. Any other waste that you flush or wash down drains, such as coffee grounds, diapers, or cigarette butts, can enter the system as well and cause numerous problems. Solid waste from garbage disposals and lint from fibers drained from washing machines can as well.
Household chemicals are a concern too. Antibacterial soaps can kill the helpful bacteria in your septic system, while disinfecting soaps can be detrimental to them as well. Most of the time, light use of these products doesn’t do much harm, but you should reduce how much you use them.
If too much wastewater enters the tank over a short period of time, it can flush out too quickly, while too much sludge can overwhelm the bacteria or cause an overflow in the drain field. Drainage holes in the pipe can become clogged. Drain fields can also be damaged by tree and shrub roots. Another issue is when the soil and gravel become compacted due to cars parked above the drain field. Compaction can block the seepage of effluent and starve bacteria of oxygen.
Contact Express Septic
Your septic system is vulnerable to many types of issues. There are also subtle signs that a failure may be imminent, such as gurgling sounds from exterior drains or slow drains in your home. You may notice foul odors from the tank, drain field, or even your drains. Sewage may back up into the house or flushing toilets may become difficult. If there is a blocked or broken pipe in the drain field, vegetation may become lush and full. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact Express Septic right away at 208-398-0309; we’re the best-ranked septic plumbing service in Idaho.