The beginner’s guide to septic tanks

A septic tank is a watertight container used to store wastewater until it can be disposed of. Wastewater passes into the septic tank, where bacteria in the tank naturally break down some of the organic matter. After solids have settled to the bottom, scum floats to the top while clear liquid flows out an outlet pipe and into a drain field.

There are two types of septics tanks-tile field or mound system. Tiled field systems are more common in the southern states, while mound systems are popular with homes built on a solid rock like granite.

Septic tanks vary greatly in size depending on how many people live in the home and what kind of appliances they use. Wastewater typically only takes an hour or two to make its way through the tank; consequently, large tanks may require pumping several times a year. However, a septic system can last for decades if properly maintained.



An anaerobic treatment unit is one type of septic tank that is designed to treat wastewater using an air injection pump and biological media that provide bacteria that break down waste faster than without the pump, reducing the need for frequent removal of settling sludge at the bottom of the tank. However, these units typically require more maintenance than a conventional septic tank due to the additional pump and media in which bacteria live.

Septic tanks should be pumped out every 1 to 5 years, depending on size and usage. The frequency is determined by soil type, wastewater loadings, and tank size. It is usually best to pump septic tanks after a heavy use weekend or holiday. Septic systems need regular inspection to ensure that they are working properly.

Where a building has a septic tank but no soakaway, it may be necessary to install one if the demand upon the system is such that it does not drain away fast enough through the septic tank itself. In this case, there may be evidence of recurrent flooding at low points in the yard, perhaps with damaged or dead vegetation. Some public health authorities maintain that private sewerage systems should only be installed to provide adequate treatment. Otherwise, the wastewater may have to go through screens or grit chambers if it is suspected that solids are increasing in the system.



What do septic tanks do?

Septic tanks are designed to provide storage of raw sewage until aerobic bacteria decompose the sludge and scum layer naturally. This provides time for the tank to settle out so that after four hours, about 75 percent of the water can then flow into drain lines at a velocity slow enough not to overwhelm them.

Suppose plumbing fixtures release too much solid material into the system, either directly or indirectly, by repeatedly running water slowly down drains. In that case, the system will eventually fail because solids are no longer allowed adequate time to settle out before liquids are removed. The primary components of a septic system are the tank, the distribution box, risers or soakage pits, drain field and leach lines, and various specialized components.



How do septic tanks work?

Ordinarily, the tank is buried so that the inlet and outlet are not above ground level. This helps keep insects out of the tank, which prevents them from traveling back to the soil absorption system where they will breed and cause problems with clogging or complete failure of leach lines because these organisms can survive in anaerobic conditions for short periods of time.

In some areas, however, a sewage treatment plant must be located high enough on a hillside to ensure gravity flow over a distance of several hundred feet. Since moving sewage uphill is impractical, pump chambers, can be employed if needed at each end of the the lined. A small electric pump lifts raw sewage from the septic tank into the leach field.

Aerobic conditions are maintained in a sewage treatment system by allowing air to circulate throughout the tank, which is accomplished through the proper design of its inlet and outlet structures.

Another method of aerobic sewage treatment is known as “forced aeration.” It employs both an agitator and blower/pump assembly to force air up through the sewage at high velocity. This process must be carefully designed since too much agitation creates excessive frothing, hiding solids and rendering them more apt to break loose from their moorings for easier removal on later maintenance trips.

Two types of forced-aeration systems are available: “continuous” type, which constantly introduces air to the tank, and “batch-type,” which is used in areas where “sewage treatment plants” must be kept small because of space limitations.

Since many septic tanks are located on property lines or near wells, it is essential that the system piping either be located above ground level or provide tight joints to prevent harmful liquids from leaking out into the soil surrounding the tank.

This leakage may contaminate groundwater and cause infants’ nitrate poisoning if ingested by babies fed with bottled water. It can also render land unbuildable for some time since waste cannot dry up quickly enough to permit new structures to be built adjacent to a contaminated site.



Aerobic sewage treatment requires sufficient working space within the septic tank so that maintenance personnel will be able to reach all surfaces of the chamber with mechanical rakes and hoes.

Aerobic treatment generally is more efficient than microscopic organisms’ decomposition processes because these organisms can readily compete with disease-causing bacteria for their food supply.

Why are septic tanks important?

Septic systems are an alternative to public sewage treatment facilities which may be too costly or far away. They also eliminate the pollution of local water with waste. Septic tanks provide a high level of treatment but do not remove organic solids and some dissolved substances.

By law, most homes with private sewage disposal systems must use these aerobic septic tank treatments, which can then go into leach fields where aerobic conditions promote natural breakdown processes by aerobic bacteria. These bacteria also aid digestion within the tank itself. However, no system is perfect; even though these decomposition processes are highly advanced compared to what occurs in nature, they still produce some solid particles along with the liquid effluent (wastewater).



These effluents have to be disposed of, and where this is done varies by region. Some countries have many septic tanks, while others just a few, but each country has different standards of operation and maintenance.

What They Cost To Install

The costs of installing a home septic system depend on how large it is — the larger the household, the more room there will be for multiple users to flush things that shouldn’t go down drains. Another big factor in cost is whether or not your property already has an existing “soakaway bed” – basically just a hole with gravel put in around it – which you can use instead of installing an entirely new one. If you do have one, though, it may need enlarging before they let you install your new septic system.

However, if that doesn’t apply to you and the area is not too hilly (to avoid having to build up a mound of earth around the new soakaway pit), then installation should be between $10,000 and $15,000.



How Long Do They Last?

Septic tanks and soakaways have a lifespan of between 10 and 20 years, but this will depend on the foundations, the household’s water consumption, and how often you use chemical cleaners. There are signs that it needs emptying before it actually gives out – if effluent regularly backs up into your home or drains slowly. You should aim to empty or clean your septic tank every three to five years, but of course, this depends on how many people are in your household and what you flush down the drains. A system that’s not working properly could easily fill up within 12 months if it’s being used by a family of four or more.

Septic tanks can fail for lots of reasons, including an obstructed leach field (where the liquid is supposed to go after treatment) or because the tank has cracked. Major repairs on older tanks often require cutting out sections and replacing them with new ones – something that costs around $3,500 per linear foot ($7,800 per 10-foot section).

However, before you call someone out for that kind of money, you should find out if they’re simply going to clean your septic tank; cleaning costs between $300 and $400, but if they try to sell you an entirely new tank, then that could be a sign that they’re trying to rip you off. So always ask first!



What Do People Use Them For?

Septic systems are used both for sewage treatment and recycling greywater. Greywater is the wastewater produced by baths, showers, hand basins, and washing machines which can be recycled or reused to flush toilets. Using this system reduces the demand for public sewerage treatment works which means less wastewater has to be treated before its disposed back into rivers or seas.

Septic tanks are used by many people who live in areas where there is no access to public sewerage systems because these septic tanks offer a cheaper and more eco-friendly method of wastewater treatment.

What do they look like?

Septic systems vary greatly in appearance but most often are large concrete or watertight plastic boxes buried underground near homes.

Sometimes they are just open ditches lined with rocks that collect liquids flowing from wastewater pipes connected to homes. Many people refer to them as “cesspools.”How big are they?

Septic tanks come in many sizes, varying from 20 gallons to 400 gallons. Generally speaking, if you live alone, you can use a 20-gallon septic tank,, but the tank or waterless system should be about 40 or 60 gallons for more than one person.

Before buying a home, it is important to inquire about the septic system because most lenders want assurance that all wastewater treatment issues will be resolved before the sale goes through. While building a new home, consider having an onsite wastewater treatment facility like a septic tank installed during construction; otherwise, you might need to install an additional tank later, which can get very expensive. A properly designed and maintained septic system can last for decades with few or no problems; however, when they break down,, homeowners should hire professional technicians for repairs because it requires special skills and equipment to avoid further damage.



Conclusion. 

A septic tank is an excavation that is usually constructed in areas where the soil depth is adequate to accommodate the volume of wastewater generated by a household or business.

A septic system employs two basic units; the septic tank and the drain field (or leach field). Solid wastes are deposited in the primary chamber of the septic tank, where they are stabilized by biological decomposition through bacterial action while liquid effluent flows out into the distribution or secondary chamber from where it is discharged through distribution pipes to an absorption area. The distribution area can be at ground level (typically around ponds, streams, lakes, etc.) or underground (in which case it is referred to as a leach field).

Overall, this method offers several benefits but obviously does not suit everyone due to some disadvantages that need to be kept in mind when deciding on whether you want one installed.

Deciding on having a septic system installed can be an important and major decision in your life, whether you are building a home or buying one. By knowing the pros and cons of having this type of system, you will make an informed choice.

This article offers pros and cons for each aspect of septic systems so that you can come up with your own conclusion based on facts rather than hearsay. There are many advantages to using this method, but there are also some disadvantages that may be cause for concern. Some of these large concerns might not become apparent until after the installation has been completed. At the same time, others could appear right away, which is why it is vital to consider both sides before making a final determination regarding ownership.

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