Some people may be reluctant to buy a home that uses a septic system, which is an onsite system to manage household waste. A septic system processes liquid and solid wastes that come from sinks and toilets, using the laws of nature to eliminate harmful bacteria in household effluent. In this case, it’s very important to learn how to take care of a septic system.
You may be intimidated by the upkeep of a septic system if your house is not hooked up to a municipal water system. There are horror stories about septic system failures. Properly maintaining the individual components of the system through the years would’ve likely prevented these nightmares.
Your Septic System
A conventional septic system consists of two main parts: a septic tank and a septic drain field. The tank is a watertight holding tank, usually with an average capacity of about 1,000 gallons. It is often buried underground near the house. Solid wastes are separated in the tank and settle to the bottom to form a layer of sludge. Liquids, on the other hand, exit near the top of the tank and flow out to the drain field, which is located downhill and away from the house.
Regular maintenance of the tank, which involves a professional pumping company emptying out the solids when they reach between 30% and 50% of total capacity, ensures that the tank will remain in good health. Watch what you flush or put down drains: No caustic substances or chemicals should be put into a septic system. In general, any solid matter besides human waste will shorten a septic tank’s lifespan.
The septic drain field disburses wastewater via perforated pipes, which lie in gravel-lined trenches. They are usually two to three feet deep. The pipes are located over a wide area, so that the soil can easily absorb the effluent. The natural components of soil neutralize bacteria before they reach groundwater or nearby rivers and lakes. The ideal soil is aerobic, meaning it contains a good amount of cleansing oxygen.
Good drainage and proper soil are critical elements in the efficient functioning of a septic drain field. However, sometimes the soil develops a condition called “hardpan.” When sodium combines with the soil to produce hardened calcium carbonate deposits, hardpan is created. Over time, hardpan can form an impenetrable barrier. It prevents the soil from doing its job of absorbing and cleaning harmful bacteria.
Keeping the septic drain field in good shape means reducing the amount of sodium. Foods and laundry products contain sodium, for example. Moreover, do not plant long-rooted plants, shrubs or trees over the leach field. Their roots may infiltrate the perforated pipes in the field. Above all, practice water conservation techniques. Excessive water usage can drive solids from a septic tank into the distribution box and ultimately, into the drain field.