Many homeowners are unfamiliar with their septic system. However, they are responsible for its maintenance and, if the system is well designed and maintained, it can effectively treat and filter household wastewater for several decades. Septic systems are found in over 20% of homes in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)1, and consist of the following elements:
Wastewater that leaves your home flows into the septic tank. This watertight compartment is connected to inlet pipes from your home and outlet pipes that lead to the drain field. Inside the tank, solids and liquids separate into three layers. A top layer is formed by floating solids that are lighter than water, a middle layer with partially clarified wastewater, and a bottom layer formed by solids heavier than water, which form a sludge.
The septic tank contains wastewater long enough for solids to settle out and for some solid materials to decompose. The tank has compartments and a T-shaped outlet so that sludge and scum are trapped inside. Screens may be used for this purpose as well. At times, a tank may need to be inspected and pumped. Risers are built into most new tanks, so maintenance can be performed by lifting the lids at the surface to locate, inspect, and service the tank.
View The Septic System Here
There are five common types of septic tanks, including:
- Concrete: Are extremely durable and can last a long time. However, cracked concrete can allow waste to escape and groundwater to intrude.
- Steel: Steel tanks often begin to rust after 25 years. Rust often forms on the roof of the tank, so it becomes too weak to support the ground above.
- Fiberglass: Is crack and rust resistant and much lighter than other types of tanks. While easier to install, a fiberglass tank is more prone to shifting in saturated soil.
- Plastic: Plastic septic tanks are lightweight and durable as well as easy to install. However, damage during installation is possible and, if improperly installed, the tank can float to the surface.
- Aerobic: Powered by electricity, an aerobic septic tank requires a smaller drain field but is suited for a smaller property. It can last for many years with frequent maintenance.
After exiting the tank, wastewater is discharged into a drain field within the ground soil. Partially treated water is pushed through this area when new wastewater enters the septic tank. Water exits into the soil via tiny holes in the outlet pipes. Too much liquid flow can overload the drain field, causing a flood. Sewage may then breach the surface or plumbing fixtures may back up. Many states require a reserve drain field in case the primary one fails.
Ground soil is an important part of your septic system. Wastewater percolates into the soil once it enters the drain field. The soil must be suited for wastewater treatment so it can remove harmful nutrients, bacteria, and viruses. If the soil in your area isn’t suited for a typical septic system, alternatives include systems that use sand, peat, or plastic media to treat wastewater. A variety of electrical or mechanical components, such as pumps and float switches, may be used, or a system may be engineered to use disinfection devices, aerators, or a local lagoon or wetland.
Why Have a Septic System?
A septic system is less expensive to install in rural areas where installing miles of sewer lines could be cost-prohibitive. Wastewater is treated and disposed of onsite. With routine maintenance, septic systems and their components can last longer than 40 years.
Contact Your Local Plumbing Service Provider
Express Septic Plumbing offers a complete set of septic system services in Idaho’s Treasure Valley. Our fleet of pump trucks and trained technicians enable us to provide high-quality service and comprehensive maintenance plans. We ensure your septic tank and components are in peak condition and can make any necessary repair. Well and water testing services are provided as well. To learn more or schedule service in the Boise area, call 208-398-0309 today.