Septic systems are important because they safely treat and dispose of wastewater from homes and businesses in areas where sewer systems are not available. Septic systems work by using natural processes to break down and filter wastewater, so it can safely return to the groundwater system.
How Septic Systems Work
Septic systems work in two stages:
Septic tank: The septic tank is a large underground tank where wastewater is collected and treated. The wastewater separates into three layers: scum, effluent, and sludge. The scum layer is made up of oils, grease, and other solids that float on top of the water. The effluent layer is the liquid wastewater that flows out of the septic tank and into the drain field. The sludge layer is made up of heavier solids that sink to the bottom of the tank.
Drain field: The drain field is a series of perforated pipes buried in the ground. The effluent layer from the septic tank flows into the drain field, where it is filtered by the soil and absorbed by plants.
How Septic Systems Fail and the Environmental Impact
Septic systems can fail for a number of reasons, including:
Improper maintenance: Septic tanks need to be pumped regularly to remove sludge and scum. If they are not pumped regularly, the tank can overflow and contaminate the surrounding area.
Damage to the septic tank or drain field: Septic tanks and drain fields can be damaged by tree roots, heavy vehicles, and other factors. If the tank or drain field is damaged, wastewater can leak into the groundwater or surface water, contaminating the drinking water supply and harming the environment.
Excessive use of chemicals: Using too many harsh chemicals in your home can kill the beneficial bacteria in your septic tank, which can lead to system failure.
How to Prevent Septic Tank Failures
Here are some tips for preventing septic tank failures:
Have your septic tank pumped regularly by a qualified professional.
Do not flush non-biodegradable items down the toilet, such as feminine hygiene products, baby wipes, and dental floss.
Do not pour grease, oil, or fat down the drain.
Use environmentally friendly cleaning products whenever possible.
Septic systems are an important part of infrastructure in many areas. By properly maintaining your septic system, you can help protect your family's health and the environment.