Cleaning Services

How Your Septic Tank Works

All the drains in your home converge into one main line that feeds into your septic tank.

The septic tank is a large, watertight container. Oil and grease float to the top as scum, while solid waste settles down to form sludge. Bacteria break down the sludge into liquid wastewater called effluent. Contact Septic Tank Armadale now!

The Tank

The septic tank is the foundation of any home’s wastewater system. This underground tank collects sewage waste from toilets, drains and washing machines. It also treats and discharges organic wastewater to a drainage field, which is usually a large open area in your backyard. This septic tank helps to remove and treat toxins from your household wastewater before discharging it back into the soil.

The tank’s first job is to retain solid waste, primarily feces and grease, while liquid wastewater exits through an outlet pipe. As the water enters the tank, an inlet baffle forces it downward to prevent it from skimming across the top of the septic tank and exiting untreated. This helps to maximize treatment efficiency by allowing the wastewater to settle and degrade anaerobically.

As the water flows into the tank, scum (mostly oil and grease) floats to the top, while solid waste sinks to the bottom of the tank as sludge. A dividing wall with openings at midway between the floor and roof of the tank separates these layers. Water that remains after scum and sludge have separated from the wastewater is called effluent, or “wastewater.” The water enters the second chamber of the septic tank, where it is further treated by bacteria.

After this bacterial process, the water enters the drain field, or leach field. It is then absorbed by the surrounding soil, which treats the remaining wastewater. If you notice that your septic tank is not functioning properly, you may have a clog in the vent pipe. This can cause wastewater to back up into your home and yard, resulting in a foul smell. If you notice this problem, call a professional for septic tank service immediately.

Some homeowners use a biological additive, which adds microorganisms to the septic tank. These microorganisms help to break down sludge and scum, reducing the amount of waste that enters the drain field. However, if you have an overflowing septic tank, the microorganisms won’t be able to keep up and your septic system will likely need to be repaired or replaced.

The Drain Field

When the septic tank is full of liquid waste, a pump sends it to the drain field (also called an absorption field). The soil here takes over the final treatment of wastewater. This happens through a combination of filtration, chemical reactions, and decomposition by soil microorganisms. The soil also helps absorb and retain water.

The drain field is usually a network of long underground perforated pipes or tiles that are laid in gravel-filled trenches. These pipes connect to the septic tank, and then wastewater seeps through the soil into the groundwater system. There are different types of drain fields; some use a grid of gravel-filled trenches, while others have one or more raised beds that have a drainage layer on top and a soil infiltration layer beneath it. Both are effective, and it is important to know which type of drainfield your septic system uses before you buy a home in a certain area.

A septic tank’s absorption field is designed to treat wastewater and allow it to move into the environment, so it needs to be free of clogs and other problems. To prevent these problems, minimize the use of the garbage disposal and don’t flush non-biodegradable items like plastics, disposable diapers, sanitary napkins, or tampon applicators. Avoid pouring fats, oils, and grease down drains, too, because they can solidify and clog drains and the septic tank itself.

The septic system should be built on level ground or with a slight downward slope to ensure that the wastewater is dispersed evenly and does not collect in one spot, which could damage the absorption field and cause problems in your home. Regular inspections and septic tank cleaning can help keep your septic system working well. If you notice a foul smell or standing water near the septic tank, call your septic service right away; this may indicate that there is a problem with the drain field. Water tests for nitrates and bacteria can also be helpful. These tests can indicate whether nutrient-rich septic system wastewater is entering nearby drinking water wells and other surface water bodies. Excess nutrients can cause algae blooms that use up oxygen, threatening aquatic life.

The Pump

A septic system can be a great option for De Soto homeowners. This alternative to sewers allows wastewater to be treated on the property where it is generated instead of being sent away to a central treatment plant for processing. A septic tank can be made from concrete block, brick or prefabricated tanks. It should be buried below ground level. It should also be protected by a concrete lid that is at least 1.2m (4 inches) above the surrounding soil level. This ensures the septic tank will not be flooded by surface water or ground water.

When the septic tank receives wastewater from toilets, sinks and drains it enters the first chamber where the solid waste separates from the liquid. Oils and grease float to the top of the tank creating a layer that is called scum. Bacteria in the septic tank work to break down this and other solids so they can be removed from the liquid waste that is known as effluent. The effluent then flows out of the tank through a pipe that is connected to a drain field, which is sometimes called a leach field.

The drain field is a series of pipes with holes in them, which are buried underground and connect to the septic tank. The wastewater leaves the septic tank through the pipes and is absorbed into the soil and grass above.

There are a number of things that can cause problems with septic systems such as leaks and clogs. If you notice sewage back up in your drains or in the home, it is important to call a plumber immediately. Other signs that the septic system isn’t functioning correctly include high ground water levels around the septic tank, and strong odors. These odors can be caused by a clog in the ventilation system or by an overflow from the tank.

Companies sell biological additives that they claim restore the bacteria in a septic tank. While these products can help if the septic tank is not operating properly, they are not necessary and can actually harm the septic tank’s operation. The additives disrupt the normal anaerobic process by introducing oxygen, which can lead to oxidation and corrosion of the tank’s internal structures.

The Absorption Field

Your septic system sends the wastewater from your house through pipes to a soil absorption field. The absorption field is made of a series of chambers surrounded by a bed of gravel and perforated pipe. The wastewater enters the chambers, where the microbes in the soil treat it. The treated effluent is then released into the groundwater supply.

If you have a newer system, a home inspection should include locating the septic tank and distribution box and the absorption field. The system should have at least a 4-inch diameter Schedule 40 PVC or cast-iron sewer pipe running from the house to the septic tank and then from the tank to the absorption field. This pipe should be buried at least 6 inches below ground surface.

The tank must be large enough to hold two days of sewage flow from the house, based on the number of bedrooms in the home. The tank also must be designed to allow the solids to settle down to the bottom forming sludge, and the oil and grease to float to the top as scum. Compartments and a T-shaped outlet prevent sludge and scum from leaving the tank through the inlet pipe into the absorption field.

In older systems, septic tank inlet and outlet pipes may be plugged with debris or clogged by the sludge layer. A pumping company can clean the tank and replace baffles or tees as needed. If a problem persists, the tank inlet or outlet pipe may be blocked by roots, or the pipes slopes and tank elevations are improper. An experienced septic system contractor can repair these problems.

During an annual maintenance visit, the technician can locate and repair these types of problems. The system can also be tested to determine if the soil absorption field is sized correctly for the household sewage load. This is done by digging four holes in the ground and measuring the soil’s percolation rate, which is given as minutes per inch (mpi). For a three-bedroom house, a good perc rating would be 47 mpi or higher.

You can help reduce the need for septic system service by conserving water with low-flush toilets, shower heads and faucet aerators. In addition, you can keep your septic system in tip-top shape by maintaining a regular pumping and cleaning schedule.