Septic system 101 — class is in session! Over the past 10 years we have more and more people moving to locations where their homes require their own wastewater treatment system. Though this isn’t typically the first thing new homeowners like to think about (where does the poo go? probably isn’t on your mind…) it is important to understand. Living on septic isn’t rocket science, but it is different than living in town on city sewer.
As I have stated before in previous posts/blogs/articles, so many people don’t really know how their wastewater systems work. Because they don’t know how they work, they don’t understand simple “dos” and “don’ts” of a septic system. I totally get it! Until I got brought into this business I never pondered what happened every time I flushed. I doubt you do either. However, when it comes to your own on-site wastewater system (i.e. septic systems) if you don’t ponder it just a little bit, it can lead to big, messy, gross, disgusting, expensive problem.
Have I enticed you enough thus far?
Great, let’s dig in!
Today, I’m going to write an overview of how a septic system functions. I mean, if you’re going to understand something you need to start with how it works, right? Right.
The diagram above is a basic description of what happens to all the wastewater in your home. I realize the picture just attaches to two toilets, but in your typical house, ALL the water used (dishwasher, washing machine, bathtub, shower, and the toilets) drains into a septic tank. Here the water has its first treatment. Any solids (toilet paper, poo, garbage disposal items, etc.) are broken down and their remains settle to the bottom of the tank. Bacteria does a lot of work in the tank as does anaerobic respiration. After a while, the water slowly drains to the leachfield/drainfield. This is where the soil does its final treatment of all the “ick” that comes out of the house.
It’s really pretty simple – out of the house — to the tank — slowly to the drainfield. But what else? Why could I have a mess someday? What could I do to screw up this process? How do I make sure my system always works properly?
Basic issues with septic systems that can lead to “messes” are as follows:
1) Too much water usage:
– When your system is installed, it is “sized” for your house. It’s not much different than knowing your own pants size. You know what fits and what doesn’t, right? Same is true with your home. If you are building a 4 bedroom house, it is assumed there is at least 1 person per bedroom using about 100 gallons of water a day. However, if 8 people move into this 4 bedroom house, you’re gonna have problems! It’s like trying trying to catch 20 gallons of water with a 5 gallon bucket, it just won’t work. Also, if there happens to be any water leaks in the house, the same scenario applies. Your system is sized for the number of bedrooms in your house. More water than that and you’ll see problems
2) Toilet paper/items flushed:
– You need to be very careful about what is flushed down the toilet. Items can get easily plugged or caught in the drain lines. Using cheap, single-ply toilet paper is key. Just because something says it is septic safe, doesn’t really mean it is. If water can’t break it into small pieces, don’t flush it. (Also note, all toilet papers claim to be septic safe but more expensive and quilted tend to give systems problems — the cheaper TP tends to break into tiny pieces quicker. Tiny pieces don’t clog sewer lines).
– Know where it is and leave it alone. Don’t drive over it, build over it, or plant anything more than grass on it. It needs to be free to evaporate water.
4) Pump tank regularly:
– Think about your septic tank like you do changing the oil on your car. It needs to be done regularly. The more people who live in the house, the more frequently you need to keep it pumped. (Industry standard is ever 3-5 years based on the number of people living in the home — the more people, the more frequently you should pump).
And that’s it for today. Wasn’t it fun? I know I always truly enjoy talking poo, hopefully in time, you will as well! See you next week!