Understanding How a Septic Tank Works

Dealing with sewage is a problem we all must face. The advent of indoor plumbing made it easier to get sewage out of a house, but it doesn't make it just disappear down a drain. Many homes rely on a septic tank to break down solid waste so that it can filter out through a leach field. If you don't understand how a septic tank works, you may inadvertently clog your system, which will lead to early failure and maybe even to high replacement costs.

The Anatomy of a Septic Tank

A septic tank is much more than an empty metal drum or concrete vault. You will have an inlet pipe and outlet pipe, but each will be housed in a baffle. This baffle is a metal or concrete wall that directs flow from the inlet pipe downward. The outlet baffle prevents scum floating on top of the water in the tank from flowing out into your leach field or dry well. Some tanks will have a third baffle in the middle of the tank that will prevent sludge from the bottom of the tank from building up or flowing to the outlet side of the tank. This will further prevent contamination of your leach field. Aside from these basic features, a septic tank should have access ports for cleaning and inspection. 

Understanding How a Septic Tank Works

When sewage settles into your tank, the solids should float on top of the water as scum. This scum should be trapped on top of the water between the inlet and outlet baffles. Bacteria will naturally form in your tank and will consume the solids. Whatever the bacteria doesn't consume will then settle to the bottom of your tank as sludge. Whatever waste remains in the water can then exit the tank as grey water and filter out through your leach field. A septic company will need to pump the sludge out of your tank from time to time, but this is the only maintenance you should need for a properly functioning system. 

Now that you understand how important bacteria is in breaking down solids, you should have an idea of how important it is not to kill the bacteria. Using antibacterial soap or flushing medications and cleaners down the drain can kill the bacteria in your tank and create clogs in your leach field, and once clogged, you typically have no choice but to replace your leach field. Furthermore, flushing anything your bacteria can't consume (paper products, feminine hygiene products, paint, oils, etc.) down your system will simply clog it. To keep your maintenance bills low, it is important to use your system only as intended—for breaking down solid human waste. For more information, talk to a professional like Chavis Enterprises LLC.