A Homeowner’s Complete Guide To Understanding A Septic Tank System
A septic tank system, or an underground wastewater treatment system, is an onsite sewage facility often used in rural areas or on properties that do not have access to a municipal sewer system.
The purpose of any onsite wastewater system is to safety treat and dispose of all wastewater (sewage) produced by the household or business using a mixture of tech and natural processes.
According to the EPA, more than 20% of homes in the United States depend on a septic system or small community cluster system to treat their wastewater.
INTERESTING FACT: the term “septic” refers to the anaerobic bacterial environment that develops in the tank which decomposes the waste which flows into the tank.
The Benefits of a septic tank
Most often deciding to install a septic tank is less of a decision and more of a necessity for homes and business outside the area served by municipal water and sewer services. In these cases septic tank installation makes the most sense for handling wastewater.
In addition, using a septic tank system can be even more appealing than city water and sewer services when considering the monthly bills that come along with those services!
Most drawbacks of using a septic system can be eliminated when the process is well planned, designed, installed, and maintained. This is all the more reason to choose a reputable company that delivers quality workmanship on septic repair and septic installation jobs.
As a family, we’ve been installing, repairing and pumping septic systems since 1958 and have achieved a flawless reputation for more than two decades.
It’s important to learn how a septic system works to ensure that your system is properly cared for and maintained, and in turn, many common problems can be completely avoided.
How does a septic tank system work?
A septic system is a collection of living organisms that digest and treat household waste, separating scum, solids, and wastewater before it flows out for final purification. Treating wastewater starts in the septic tank: a large, underground, watertight container usually made of concrete, fiberglass, PVC, or plastic.
All the wastewater from your home (including gray water from sinks and bathtubs and black water from toilets) flows into the septic tank.
Here, harmful microorganisms and other materials are separated from the wastewater. Lighter solids such as grease rise to the top and form a layer of scum while heavier solids settle to the bottom where bacteria begin to break them down into sludge and gasses.
The water will then be sent through a series of perforated pipes laid in gravel filled trenches where the water (called effluent) will be released into the soil. Solids that do not decompose remain in the tank. These solids will need to be pumped out every 3-5 years or they will build up and eventually overflow. This will cause extensive damage to your property.
This entire process can take 24 to 48 hours.
How to care for your septic system
Here are a few simple ways you can take care of your septic system, avoid common issues, and maximize the time between pumping out the tank:
- Be aware of water use: the average family uses 70 gallons of water per person every day. Add in a leaky tap and you may be looking at up to 200 gallons of water wasted per day and this increases the load on your septic system.
- Dispose of waste properly: Ultimately anything that goes down your drains will end up in your septic system which will affect the health of your entire system.
A septic system is not meant for garbage so only flush human waste and toilet paper! Your septic system contains a collection of living organisms that digest and treat household waste. Pouring toxins down your drain can kill these organisms and harm your septic system.
Never ever flush (or pour down the rain) the following:
- Grease, oil, or chemicals (for example gas, oil, pesticides, antifreeze, paint or paint thinner)
- Wet wipes or paper towels
- Feminine hygiene products
- Cigarette butts
- Coffee grounds
- Cat litter
Maintain the Drain Field: the drain field is a necessary of a septic system. To keep the drain field functioning as it should follow this advice:
- Never park on your drain field.
- Plant trees away from the drain field as roots can interfere with your septic system.
- Ensure roof drains, sump pumps, and other rainwater drainage systems do not add additional water to the drain field which may disrupt the wastewater treatment process.
Septic tank maintenance
It is important to maintain your septic system as a well maintained pump can last for years.
Four major factors influence the frequency of septic pumping, including: the size of your household, the amount of wastewater created, the amount of solids in wastewater, and the size of the septic tank.
To give you a sense of the stress a septic tank system undergoes, the average family generates between 250 and 300 gallons of wastewater each day (that’s 85 000 gallons each year).
Even a system that has been installed well but not properly maintained can soon become a health hazard: and an expensive problem for a homeowner.
Visual Inspection (annually)
Part of proper maintenance begins with a visual inspection. At least once a year, inspect the tank yourself (Lentz Wastewater can assist with visual inspections; just contact us). Also, take a look at the drain field from time to time. If there is a problem with the drain field, the effluent will most likely rise to the surface in spots, instead of being spread out and absorbed into the ground. This will be obvious; the drain field will be wet on the surface, smell bad, and plant growth in the area will either be dead or flourishing.
Once solids have flowed into the drain field and caused damage, pumping the septic tank will not bring a failed drain field back to life.
The thought of a pump malfunction and wastewater backing up into the house is a scary one. However, in a situation where the pump stops working, the water level in the tank will rise up and flip a float inside the tank, which will sound an alarm.
This alarm should be seen as a welcome warning. If you hear the alarm, first switch it off and immediately stop using all water (including laundry, dishwashing, showers, and flushing the toilet).
The easiest cause of the problem is a tripped breaker so start in the breaker box and reset if necessary. If the pump turns on again then the alarm should stay off and your pump should be functioning correctly.
If not, simply give us a call. We are trained to diagnose sewer and septic pump problems and will work with you to create an affordable solution.
What are the signs of a septic system failure?
If you notice any of these warning signs us you may be facing a septic system failure:
- Bad odors around the drain field;
- Wet areas or excess plant growth in the drain field;
- Plumbing or septic tank backups;
- Gurgling sounds in the plumbing system;
- Slow draining from baths, showers, and sinks.
A failed septic tank system can cause ground and surface water pollution and may also damage your property. Call Lentz Wastewater Management immediately if you suspect a septic system tank failure.
Types of septic systems most commonly installed by Lentz Wastewater Management
We install the following types of septic systems at Lentz Wastewater:
- Conventional Gravity System
- Chamber System
- T&J Panel System
For more information please visit our Septic Installations page.
How much does a septic system cost to install?
One of the most common questions we receive is regarding the cost of a septic tank installation. The truth is: there isn’t a one-size-fits-all response.
Septic system installation in North Carolina requires a permit from the health department, and the septic permitting process varies from county to county. Your local environmental health department will be able to give more detailed information specific to your county and we use this to prepare a more accurate quote for our customers.
For more information on applying for a permit County including permit application and permit fees in Iredell County, Mecklenburg County, Catawba County, Alexander County, Rowan County, Alexander County, and Davie County please visit Lentz Wastewater Septic Permits page.
Some repairs may also require permit, for example:
- Septic system installation;
- Septic tank replacement;
- Drain line / Drain field relocation;
- Drain line / Drain field addition.
Most minor drain field repairs typically do not require a permit.
We offer septic repair and installation services within 50 miles of Statesville, Mooresville, Troutman, Huntersville, Cornelius, North Carolina.
If you have any additional questions about the installation of a septic tank system in North Carolina, contact us, we’d be happy to guide you through the process and make it as simple as possible. Your home and family depends on it!
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Lentz Wastewater Management
463 Lentz Rd
Statesville, NC 28625
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This is a great post detailing everything you need to know about having a septic tank. My family has one on some property they own. As you pointed out if you maintain your septic system then it can last for years, doing this will also save people money and unsavory issues in the long run.