What Is a Septic System?

15/10/2013 15:20

A septic system for a home or office is a self-contained, highly efficient wastewater treatment system that works underground. When properly installed, the system is designed to treat and dispose of all wastewater inside the household. These systems work as a valuable wastewater solution in rural areas, where homes are spaced widely apart on large lots. They are relatively inexpensive to both install and maintain.


The system is comprised of two essential components the tank and the drain field. The tank of the septic system needs to be a watertight box usually manufactured out of fiberglass or concrete. It will have both an inlet and outlet drainpipe.


To work effectively, the wastewater will automatically flow from the house through a sewer pipe into the septic tank. The tank contains bacteria that will naturally treat the wastewater. The water is held in the tank long enough to separate all the liquids and solids.


Three unique layers of solids and liquids form inside the tank. This includes the layer of scum containing solids that are lighter than the wastewater, such as oils and grease. The heavier solids settle to the bottom and form a dense layer of sludge. The wastewater in the middle clarifies and makes its way out to the leach field or drain field.


When the solids make their way to the bottom of the tank, bacteria will begin breaking them down. Any scum or sludge that does not break down is retained inside the tank until it is pumped out at a later date.


The clarified liquids follow gravity and flow out of the tank through a distribution device or directly into the drainfield. The distribution device is a manifold that evenly distributes all of the available wastewater equally across the drain field. Once the wastewater reaches the drain field it escapes through drain tiles or perforated pipes that run along trenches. The water slowly trickles out of the system into soil and gravel that work as a biological filter before it trickles back into the water table.


Septic system owners need to keep the tank properly maintained. This often requires routine pumping of the solids. The efficiency of the unit is often highly dependent on the number of individuals using the system in the household. In addition, using the food disposal in the home can significantly increase the amount of solids require pumping.