How Do Septic Tanks Work?

How Do Septic Tanks Work?

Septic tanks are amazing feats of engineering. The tanks retain and process all the waste that leaves your home and makes it possible for communities without centralized sewer systems to live in all kinds of terrains, climates and parts of the world.

The septic tank was first conceived and created in 1860 by a French engineer named John Mouras. His original prototype used clay pipes that funneled wastewater from his home into a concrete tank located on his property. Mouras opened the tank a decade later and saw that it was almost completely free of solid waste. After applying for a patent in 1881, introduced the system in the United States in 1883.

Modern septic tank systems consist of a buried tank made of concrete, fiberglass or plastic material. This container holds collected wastewater from your home long enough for the solids to break down and collect at the bottom of the tank. There are three layers to a septic tank:

  • The top “scum” layer includes oil, grease and fats.

  • The bottom “sludge” layer consists of inorganic matter and the byproducts of bacterial digestion.

  • The liquid portion (called effluent) exits into the drainage field, a large area of underground gravel that facilitates absorption back into the soil. The aerobic bacteria in the soil naturally breaks down the harmful components of the wastewater and filters it back into groundwater.
  • Septic systems require regular pumping maintenance to remove the sludge and scum that collects inside the tank. The frequency of service depends on the size of tank and number of occupants in your household but we suggest pumping at least every three to five years. Though routine, this maintenance should be done by a professional, and can be very dangerous if you attempt to do it yourself. Failing septic systems can release untreated wastewater that contaminates nearby drinking water sources. Any contact with untreated waste can pose serious health risks. Avoid creating a septic tank failure by keeping non-decomposable objects like coffee grounds, facial tissues, cigarette butts, cooking fats and other waste out of household drains, toilets, or sinks.

    If you are experiencing problems with your septic tank, call or schedule an appointment online today with Cartwright’s.