If you live in a rural area or even a small suburb or town, you may be a part of the 25 percent of the population that uses a septic tank. Do you know what yours does and how to maintain it?

 What is a Septic Tank?

A septic tank is part of a septic system that is basically a small sewer treatment system for homes without a connection to sewage pipes that are provided by the government or private corporations in some suburbs and cities. A septic tank consists of a barrel that holds one to two thousand gallons of wastewater. It is connected to a wastewater pipe which transports water to a septic drain field, which then uses a microbial ecosystem to dispose of organic materials.

How does a Septic Tank work?

A septic tank usually contains two chambers. The waste water enters into the first chamber, where solids settle to the bottom and scum floats. The solids are anaerobically digested, and the liquid portion flows into the second chamber. More settling occurs here, and then the rest of the water drains into the septic drain field via the pipe. The waste is disposed of by the field’s ecosystem, and the water eventually returns back to the groundwater.

How do I maintain a Septic Tank?

Septic tanks eventually have to be emptied to discard any solids that are not digested. If this is not done, the tank can overflow into the septic drain field, which can cause major damage that requires expensive repairs. Each jurisdiction has its own rules as to how often a tank should be emptied, and much of it depends on how big or small the tank is compared to the size of the family using it. There are some things you can avoid to help your system function properly.

  • Don’t dump excessive amounts of oil and grease down your drains.
  • Don’t flush non-biodegradable items like feminine hygiene products or cigarette butts.
  • Garbage disposals are hard on septic systems, so you may want to consider compositing or otherwise discarding uneaten food before cleaning the dishes, or install a garbage disposal designed specifically to work with septic systems.
  • Use a toilet paper that is suitable for septic tanks.