How a Septic Tank Works

How a Septic Tank Works

Have you ever wondered how septic tanks manage to retain and process all the waste that leaves your home? Using a combination of nature and technology, these amazing feats of engineering make it possible for communities without centralized sewer systems to live all over the world.

It all started in 1860 when a French engineer named John Mouras designed the first prototype of what would later be called a septic tank. Using clay pipes, he funneled wastewater from his home into a concrete tank. After nearly a decade of using the homemade system without issue, Mouras decided to open his tank to see if everything was still functioning. The tank was almost completely free of solid waste. Mouras knew his invention could help many so he 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. Any remaining oil and grease collects at the top of the tank. 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 do require regular pumping maintenance to remove the sludge and scum from within the tank. The frequency depends on the size of tank and number of occupants in your household but we suggest pumping at least every three to four years. 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 coffee grounds, facial tissues, cigarette butts, cooking fats, and other non-decomposable objects out of household drains, toilets, or sinks.

If you are experiencing problems with your septic tank, call or schedule an appointment online today with CityWIDE Plumbing.