Septic System Information
General Information About Septic Systems
In many small communities and rural areas, septic systems are a common method of waste disposal and treatment. Septic systems are common in these areas because they are the most cost effective and efficient waste treatment technology. If properly designed, installed and maintained, a septic system can service a home for up to 25 years. However, poorly designed, installed or unmaintained systems may be a hazard to the environment and public health through inadequately treated wastes.
Septic systems treat household wastes onsite using a series of natural processes. These natural processes occur in the different components of the septic system. The two major components of the septic system are the septic tank and the drainfield (which is also known as the leach feild or a weeping bed). Some sytems may include a distribution box between the septic tank and the drainfield. Distribution boxes are concrete or plastic structures that ensure effluent from the septic tank is evenly distributed to the drainfeild.
The septic tank is a watertight container that is either single or double chambered and buried beneath the ground. Most tanks are made of concrete, but fibreglass and plastic tanks are also available. Tanks come in a variety of sizes; most homes will have tanks sized between 500 and 2500 gallons. All tanks have an inlet, which is connected to the sewer pipe from the house, and an outlet, which is attached to the drain feild. At both the inlet and the outlet there is a 'Tee' of baffle, which keeps the waste flowing in the right direction. At the top of the tank there is an access port, which allows for top of the tank pumping. The access port should always be accessible, in case an emergency pump out is needed.
In the septic tank, the first stage of waste treatment occurs. When household waste enters the tank, the solid part of the waste separates from the liquid. The solids collect at the bottom forming a 'sludge' layer. On top the liquid, oil and grease collect and form the 'scum' layer. Bacteria in the tank then begin to naturally decompose the wastes in the sludge and scum layers. The wastewater that remains between the slude and scum later is greadually pushed out into the drain field for another stage of treatment.
The drainfield consists of a series of trenches, typically 1 to 3 feet below the surface. In each trench is a length of perforated pipe, surrounded by either gravel or coarse sand. The size of the drainfield is dependent on the expected wastewater flow and soil quality. Wastewater flows into the drainfield is a dependent on the expected wastewater flow and soil quality. Wastewater flows into the drain field and is distributed throughout the series of pipes. Slowly, the wastewater percolates out of the pupes into the gravel or sand liner and then the soil below. The liner and soil filter out nutrients, bacteria, metals and other chemicals from the waste water. The treated water continues to move through the soil to enter the groundwater supply.
Regular pumping of the septic tank keeps the system functioning properly and prevents soilds from entering and clogging the drain field. Septic tanks should be pumped every 3 to 5 years. Unpumped systems can allow excess nutrients and disease causing bacteria to move trhough the system and pollute groundwater. Signs of system failure include foul odour, soggy lawns, slow drains in the house and lush vegetation growth over the drainfield. If you see any of these signs, contact a septic professional to deal with the problem. Never try to inspect or repair a tank yourself, as the bacteria in the septic tank produce deadly gases.
Septic system maintenance, in addition to regular pumping includes conserving water and watching what goes into the septic system. Conserving water by fixing leaky taps and installing water-saving showerheads and faucets can reduce the total amount of waste water entering the system. This prevents the drainfield and septic tank from being overloaded. To maintain the environment within the tank and ensure that the sludge and scum layers do not accumulate to excess, care should be taken when disposing of household materials. Some materials, such as chemical cleaners, bleach, paint, cigarette butts, paper towels, kitty litter and coffee grinds, should never enter the septic system. Also, products advertisied as septic systme additives, enhancers, starters, or rejuvenators are not necessary to maintain a septic system.
Maintaining your septic system is important, not only for the environment and public health, but also for your pocket book! Replacements or repairs can be very csotly. The best wat to avoid unneccesary costs and extend the lifetime of your septic systme is to simply maintain it! As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Septic System Maintenance
Septic system maintenance is important: it helps to prevent system failure which is beneficial for the environment and your pocketbook! Failed systems are expensive to repair or replace and can have serious environmental consequences. A few simple maintenance steps can help your septic system function longer and safer.
1. Conserve Water
- Using water wisely prevents saturation of the soil in the drainfield
- Fix leaky faucets and running toilets
- Use washing machiens and dishwashers when there's enough for a full load
- Don't let the water run when washing hands or brushing teeth
- Avoid taking long showers
- Install water savings faucets and showerheards
- Reduce water use by toilets by installing a low flow toilet or a toliet dam
2. Be gentle to the drainfield!
- Space out water use over a few days. Don't do all the laundry in one day
- Divert roof drains, surface water and sump pumps away from the drainfield
- Don't plant anything but grass near your septic tank or drainfield. Roots can damage the pipes
- Don't let anyone drive anything over the drainfield - this includes snowmobiles and ATV's
- Don't build or plant any gardens or trees over the drainfield
3. Watch what you flush
- Some chemicals and household products can harm your septic system
- Avoid letting chemicals like paint, varnish, paint thinners, pesticides, nail polish remover, household cleaners and bleach go down drains or toilets.
- Don't flush; coffee grinds, dental floss, cigarette butts, kitty litter, sanitary napkins, condoms, antibacterial soap, paper towels or kitchen wastes
4. Pump it!
- Get your tank pumped every 3-5 years by a professional - this may be the most important part of maintaining your septic system.
21 Queen Street, P.O. Box 130, Ripley ON N0G 2R0