Septic Systems Explained
Keep Your Septic Safe and Keep Your Family Happy
Unless you are one of the 600 (or so) households in New England that have an incinerating toilet, you are either hooked up to a municipal sewer or have a septic system.
All of your home's wastewater exits the building through an underground pipe. This pipe either runs into a municipal sewer or it runs into a septic tank to be filtered and released back into the water table of your property. If the wastewater overwhelms your system or if the system isn't kept in good working order, the consequences could be devastating to your property and to the health of anyone on your property.
Getting to Know your Septic System
Septic Systems are commonly identified as more environmentally-friendly because they use the subsurface layers of soil and stone to run the water through and act as a natural filter. Septic systems are traditionally found in locations with larger lots. Houses will be connected to the septic tank which is connected to a drain field (commonly referred to as a “leach field”). Even though these components sit underground, septic systems take up quite a bit of space. The total size of the system depends on how much wastewater a house or building produces. A septic system generally looks like this:
The Septic Tank
The septic tank receives all the fluids and waste disposed of by the household drainage system. Wastewater is held in the septic tank until the “scum” rises to the top and the “sludge” falls to the bottom, like so:
The clarified liquid in the middle then runs out of a pipe to the drain field where it is redistributed through perforated pipes into layers of gravel and soil. These layers act as natural filters to clean the fluid before it diffuses into the ground and returns to the water table.
The sludge and the scum sit in the tank until the natural bacteria found in wastewater helps to break it down. Scum and sludge that doesn’t break down properly needs to be vacuumed and transported out by a contractor with a septic truck. Tanks need regular emptying and cleaning to be sure that proper separation of scum, clarified liquid, and sludge is occurring.
Maintaining the wastewater disposal system on your property is imperative to ensure the health and welfare of those on the premises. A properly installed and maintained system is an effective means of separating solid waste and removing pathogens. Any clogs or damage to the integrity of a septic system can be disastrous. The results can include the release of waste and pathogens into your property’s water table or even having it discharge on the surface or return through the building’s plumbing system.
Diagnosing Septic Failure
To identify septic system failures needing immediate attention, please look out for warning signs like:
- slow draining sinks and toilets
- over-saturated ground over the septic system
- sulfuric odors in your house and around the yard.
The West Virginia University National Small Flows Clearinghouse published a terrific journal for public education on proper septic system operation, maintenance, and repair. Please find the Fall 1995 Pipeline issue here for more information on septic systems.
Call Us for Help!
If you encounter any problems, you should contact a local health department official for testing and assessment. If you need to have work completed on your septic system and you’re in the Southern New Hampshire area, give us a call at North Atlantic Excavation. We will be happy to repair or replace your septic system and explain what repairs we can provide to keep you, your family, and your neighbors safe.
Keeping our customers safe and happy is NAX’s first priority.
For a free consultation with one of our expert septic system installers, please click on our logo below.