What Is a Septic Tank?

Septic Tank Armadale is a buried, watertight container that holds all wastewater from a home. Wastewater separates into layers, with heavy solids sinking to the bottom and lighter fats, oils, and grease floating to the top. The liquid layer, called effluent, exits the tank to a drain field.

A well-maintained septic system can prevent foul odors, backups, and other issues that may threaten nearby drinking water wells and waterways. It can also save you money on sewer costs.

Keep your septic system healthy | Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

A septic tank is a large underground watertight container that holds household wastewater from toilets, showers, sinks, drains, and garbage disposals. Sewage waste flows into the tank through one main pipe from a home. Once inside, the waste separates into three layers: scum, sludge, and effluent. The weighty masses in the septic tank sink to the bottom, while lighter masses, such as oils and fats, rise to the top of the wastewater, where bacterial activity converts them into digested slime. The liquid sewage in the middle is effluent, which flows into the septic tank’s outlet pipe and a buried drain field.

The septic tank has inspection ports that allow workers to look at the tank’s interior without opening the cover. It also has a maintenance hole that helps someone climb on the tank to get inside and clean the lid or make repairs.

There are different types of septic systems, but most have a septic tank, a drainage field, and a pump. Some alternative systems use pumps to help the wastewater trickle through sand, organic matter, constructed wetlands, or other media that removes or neutralizes pollutants like disease-causing pathogens, nitrogen, and phosphorus before it is discharged into the soil.

It is important to remember that a septic system must be properly maintained. Improper maintenance can result in a failure of the system, which may lead to contamination of drinking water wells or local waterways with pathogenic bacteria or viruses and other contaminants that are harmful to humans, pets, livestock, and wildlife.

The septic tank must be pumped regularly to keep the sludge layer from getting too high and clogging the exit pipe. This can be done by a licensed septic contractor and is recommended every 3 to 5 years. A septic tank may need to be emptied more frequently based on the number of people living in the house and how much wastewater the septic system handles.

It is also important to not flush non-biodegradable materials down the toilet, such as cigarette butts, cotton swabs, menstrual hygiene products, and condoms which can cause the septic tank to fill quickly or even fail. Similarly, the addition of commercially available septic tank additives should be avoided because they can disrupt the system’s operation.

A septic tank is an underground watertight container, usually rectangular or round, made from concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene. All plumbing in a home flows to the septic tank, which holds the wastewater long enough for heavier solid waste to sink to the bottom and form sludge while oil and other lighter masses float to the top and create scum. Compartments and a T-shaped outlet prevent sludge and scum from leaving the tank and traveling into the drain field area, where they can clog pipes or damage leached soil. The liquid wastewater (effluent) exits the septic tank into a drain field.

The septic system relies on bacteria to break down organic waste and make the sewage liquid enough to seep through the soil and into groundwater. A healthy population of these anaerobic bacteria lives in the septic tank and digests the sludge, leaving only liquid wastewater that can safely percolate into the earth.

In a conventional septic system, the liquid waste (effluent) leaves the septic tank and travels through perforated pipes into a drain field, an area of buried soil that filters and treats the sewage. The microbes in the soil break down any remaining contaminants, including coliform bacteria, pathogens, and nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen. The treated wastewater then seeps into groundwater, a stream, river, lake, or ocean.

Other septic systems use an aerobic treatment unit (ATU) to break down the sewage further. ATUs use pumps and aerators to boost the activity of aerobic, oxygen-dependent bacteria in the septic tank. This process removes even more contaminants from the sewage, making it even safer for re-entry into rivers and lakes.

It’s important to minimize the amount of solid waste that goes into a septic tank and drain field, which reduces the frequency with which it needs to be pumped out. Using a garbage disposal unit, for example, increases the amount of solid waste that enters the septic tank and drain field and can increase the thickness of the sludge layer, which in turn can cause the septic tank to need to be pumped out more frequently.

Septic tanks are a popular solution for waste management in rural homes that aren’t connected to a municipal sewer system. These sealed containers store fecal waste from household plumbing and protect the environment by preventing contamination of soil and freshwater sources.

Unlike cesspools, septic tanks hold wastewater for adequate time to allow microorganisms to decompose solid waste and treat wastewater before it leaves your home. The tank is a watertight container made of concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene. Heavy solids sink to the bottom and form sludge, while fats and oils float to the top and decompose. Compartments and a T-shaped outlet prevent sludge and scum from exiting with the liquid wastewater. Effluent, also known as wastewater, then travels to the drain field, or leach field, to be absorbed by the surrounding soil and grass.

The septic tank is linked to the drain field by pipes that are buried underground. A septic tank needs a large area of land to function correctly, so keeping the drain field away from buildings, playgrounds, and parking areas is important. Covering the drain field with an impermeable surface will compromise the system and cause the wastewater to seep into the groundwater supply or contaminate freshwater sources.

A septic tank also provides an efficient alternative to sewage treatment plants for households not part of a public sewer system. A properly functioning septic system protects the health and safety of the household members by removing harmful bacteria from the wastewater before it is released into the environment.

A septic tank’s first chamber contains a decantation and sedimentation process that separates the fecal matter from the rest of the wastewater. The clarified effluent water enters a second chamber filtered by a filter bed, leachate collection, or sand beds before being pumped into the absorption field. While septic systems are a safe and effective alternative to sewage treatment plants, they still require regular maintenance. Homeowners must keep the area around their septic tanks and drain fields free of trees to prevent the roots from infiltrating the tank and pipes.

When a septic tank isn’t properly maintained, it can lead to expensive repairs and messy cleanups. It can also be a risk to children and pets because of its proximity to the ground. In addition, septic tanks require large drain fields that may not be suitable for densely built areas.

If you buy a house with a septic system, request documentation of the last septic tank inspection. This will give you valuable information about the tank and the condition of its surrounding soil. It will also help you determine whether the tank is big enough for your household and the age of the drain field.

The drain, absorption, or leach fields are where wastewater sieves through the soil. This is an important part of the septic tank because it protects the environment from harmful bacteria. However, excessive rain or snow melt can become waterlogged or clogged. In such cases, the septic tank will need to be pumped out.

Another disadvantage is the possibility of ruptured drainage pipes. These can happen for many reasons, including tree roots, digging accidents, and even earthquakes. When these pipes break, the wastewater seeps into the soil, causing it to turn mushy and emit a repulsive odor. Removing these damaged pipes immediately is essential to avoid costly repairs and mess.

It’s also possible to overload a septic tank by flushing too much water at one time or improperly directing waste from downspouts into the septic tank. This can cause a clog in the line or raise levels in the tank that aren’t normal. This can be prevented by reducing the amount of water used in the home, ensuring that all drains are directed away from the tank, and installing efficient showerheads and faucets.

Septic systems cut pollution by allowing for more natural waste disposal. By separating water from waste, the septic system allows the water to enter the environment in a more diluted form, benefiting plants and wildlife. In addition, septic systems can be more cost-effective than extensive sewer lines.

Micah Gray