HOMEOWNERS REFERENCE GUIDE
Your Septic System
The septic system is a compact wastewater treatment plant buried underground. It consists of a septic tank and a variety of effluent (water) leaching systems. The leaching systems vary in form from leach fields and leaching trenches to leaching pits. The sole purpose of the leaching system is the dispersal of household water back into the soil.
The septic tank is a watertight container in which waste matter is collected and decomposed through bacterial action. The tank is usually made of precast concrete, reinforced fiberglass or cement blocks.
1.Household water and waste enters the tank each time any facility is used.
2. Organic materials float on the surface and form a layer which is called "The Scum Cap". The bacteria in the tank biologically break down this organic matter into liquid.
3. Inorganic materials as well as the by-products of bacterial breakdown fall to the floor of the tank and form a layer called "Sludge".
4.Between these two distinct layers in the tank lies mostly clear water. In a properly maintained septic tank it is only this water that exits the tank and flows into your leaching system.
5.Solid materials overflowing into the leaching system should be avoided. Overflowing of solids into the leaching system results in contamination of leach area with solids, clogging of the leaching system, or total leach area failure.
6.Bacterial deficiency or lack of sludge and scum removal (regular maintenance pumping of the septic tank) are the primary causes of solids overflowing into the leaching system.
7. Remember that your septic tank is a watertight container. Organic matter that enters it and is subsequently broken down by bacterial action to sludge is not biodegradable and will not decompose any further than to the sludge stage. It cannot exit from the tank except via the outlet pipe to the leaching area. If this material is not removed through regular pumping it will accumulate and will overflow into the leaching system, causing clogging and leach failure.
Pictured here (below) is a Contaminated Septic Tank, illustrating that NO Clear Water is flowing to the leaching areas.
How Your Tank Works
Cesspools work in a similar manner to septic systems. Sewage water usually seeps through the open bottom and portholes in the sides of the walls.
Septic System Maintenance
Cesspools and septic systems have been known, with proper maintenance, to perform effectively for many years. The accumulated solids in the septic tank or cesspool should be pumped out to prolong the life of your system.
Your on-site disposal system is just as important to you as your furnace. A new system of any type, or repairs to the old one is costly. Cost variation is due to the type of failure, soil conditions, water table and lot size. Proper maintenance is the least expensive method.
Sludge and scum that accumulates in the tank must be removed! There is no additive that can be added to the tank to make it go away.
Pumping of the septic tank or cesspool should occur every 2 years for an average family of 4 persons.
Pumping of the septic tank or cesspool, if the system is ten years old or more, should occur every year. (Based on septic tank capacity of 1,000 gallons.)
Remember that even the best maintained system in the world cannot last forever. Like anything else, it will wear out over time, stop working properly and need to be repaired or replaced.
• DO NOT install garbage disposals, they are a leading factor of clogged systems.
• DO NOT put solids or sanitary napkins, paper towels, grease, hair, oil or coffee grounds down the drain.
• INSPECT OR PUMP OUT on-site systems annually. Do not wait until you have a problem.
• CONSERVE ON WATER: Excess water can create problems. Install water saving devices wherever possible.
• DO NOT put additives into your system, other than D.E.P. approved bacteria. Medicines, paint, paint thinner, disinfectants, pesticides and acids will only kill the bacteria, which is needed to decompose the organic matter.
• DO NOT use enzymes or acid for treating your septic tank or cesspool.
• DO NOT plant shrubs or trees with deep roots near your leaching area.
• DO NOT allow heavy equipment to drive over leaching area.
Reasonable Steps To Take To Prevent System Failure
If you don't know where your septic tank or cesspool is, you should find it. If it is more than a foot (12") deep you should install a riser to bring it to within a foot or less, or better yet, to grade. Mark the location and take two measurements from two separate permanent fixtures. Example: corners of the house, telephone pole, etc. Don't measure from shrubs, trees or swing sets, etc., these objects are not permanent.
Write these measurements down and keep them handy (tape them to the pipe downstairs or in a file). The worst time to try and find your septic tank is when it gives you trouble in the middle of winter. If the frost is deep in the ground it makes probing with a bar to locate impossible, as well as digging with a hand shovel to get to the tank's cover. When this happens, electronic locators to find the tank and jackhammers to break up earth as hard as concrete need to be used. This usually results in costs, more expensive than all of the other things , and is an inconvenience.
Helgerson Excavating can provide advice or service for all these situations as well as any repairs and all types of excavating work.
We mail service reminder cards. We are licensed and insured. We don't just pump out septic tanks, we provide solutions!
Our full time staffed office keeps track of all pumping records and disposal receipts. we have clean, state-of-the-art pumping equipment, a courteous professional staff and are equipped with 2 way radios, cell phones and 24/hour phone numbers.