Septic systems are a common way to treat wastewater; they service more than 60 million people in the United States.

A septic system is made up of a septic tank and a drain field. The septic tank is where the wastewater from your house enters and the solids and liquids are separated. The liquids, or effluent, then flows out of the septic tank into the drainfield. The drainfield is made up of a series of piping that is buried in the ground. The effluent flows through the piping and into the soil. There, it is treated by natural processes and bacteria before flowing back into the groundwater.

A septic system needs to be properly maintained in order to work properly. If the septic tank is not cleaned regularly, or the drainfield is not kept clear of obstructions, the septic system will not work as well and could eventually fail.

This is how your system functions:

  1. All water runs out of your house from one main drainage pipe into a septic tank.
  2. The septic tank is a buried, water-tight container usually made of concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene. Its job is to hold the wastewater long enough to allow solids to settle down to the bottom forming sludge, while the oil and grease float to the top as scum.
  3. Compartments and T-shaped outlets prevent the sludge and scum from leaving the tank and traveling into the drain field.
  4. The liquid wastewater (effluent) then exits the tank into the drain field.
  5. The drain field is a shallow, covered excavation made in unsaturated soil. Pretreated wastewater is discharged through piping onto porous surfaces that allow wastewater to filter though the soil. The soil accepts, treats, and disperses wastewater as it percolates through the soil, ultimately discharging to groundwater.
  6. If the drain field is overloaded with too much liquid, it can flood, causing sewage to flow to the ground surface or create backups in toilets and sinks.
  7. Finally, the wastewater percolates into the soil, naturally removing harmful coliform bacteria, viruses and nutrients. Coliform bacteria is a group of bacteria predominantly inhabiting the intestines of humans or other warm-blooded animals. It is an indicator of human fecal contamination.


If you are having problems with your septic system, it is vital to have it looked at right away. The longer a system is not functioning correctly the more damage it may experience

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