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Septic Tank Basics

Septic tanks are a necessity for many who live in rural areas, and newly developed areas that don't yet have sewer systems in place. This article will attempt to inform you of the basics to give you a better understanding of what they are and what is required to maintain them.

A septic tank is a concrete, plastic, or fiberglass tank placed under ground with lines running from the septic tank that are called leach lines, these lines take away the excess water and deposit it under ground to drain thru the rocks and other under ground material to future purify the waste water once it leaves the tank. The septic tank will have more than one chamber. The first chamber is larger than the second, and it is where most of the solids known as sludge, settle. The second somewhat smaller chamber is where the waste water is further purified. A septic tank is used in areas where no city sewers are available. They are used the same as a sewer system to dispose of waste water from bathrooms, showers and all other drains in the home. Anaerobic bacterial digestive activity on the sludge breaks it down; once this happens the sludge becomes stabilized and does not rot anymore. The somewhat purified water then moves to the second chamber. The digestion and settlement of the organic matter continues. The time in the second chamber is less than the first. This is where the waste water leaves the tank and is directed to the drain fields where any impurities that remain get decomposed naturally.

Some septic systems use a pump to help move the water depending on the way the land lays around the septic tank. After several years, in most cases 3 to 5, the septic tank will have to be pumped to remove any sludge remaining so there is enough space to allow the digestive system to work as designed. The waste water that is pumped from the tank is released into waste treatment plants or sludge drying beds.

Maintenance of a septic system is very important and is not that hard to understand. If a system fails, the tank is most times not the problem. Usually the drain lines become plugged because the soil gets full of solids and the water does not move through it. This can be from several reasons; the tank could need to be pumped or many times the problem could be lint from a washing machine. This happens occasionally, and can be a real headache trying to correct. Most lint does not settle to the tank bottom and remains in suspension to be carried out into the drain field where over time will clog the soil. However, there is a solution. An inline filter may be used to capture lint and other items. Then only filter replacement is required to get your system back into operation. Many times a large family will do several loads of laundry in a short period of time and flood the standard septic system. The solution here is to spread out the washing with only one or two loads a day.

There are other things to consider in the maintenance of a septic tank system. Dispose chemicals and other liquid materials properly. Gasoline, paint thinners, motor oil, varnish, and other chemicals that contain active substances can ruin your septic tank walls and can cause hazard to groundwater as well. Make sure you dispose them properly and away from your septic tank system. Also, grease can easily clog in your septic tank so make sure you steer away from disposing them in your toilet. Differentiate the toilet from garbage cans. Cigarette butts and filters facial tissues, paper towels, coffee grounds, sanitary napkins, disposable diapers, tampons, cat litter, and other solid waste must be disposed in your garbage bins and not on your toilet. They clog to your septic tank easily.

Be smart and responsible when maintaining your septic system. The septic system is one very important operation and you do not want it to fail.

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