How A Septic System Works
A typical sewage system consists of two major parts, a septic tank and a leaching bed. Septic tanks generally have two chambers and are often constructed of concrete, steel, fiberglass or polyethylene. The purpose of the septic tank is to separate solids from liquids in the wastewater stream and begin the process of breaking down contaminants. So
lids settle at the bottom of the tank as the fat, oil and grease rises to the top.
Wastewater from the septic tank then flows to the leaching bed through a distribution box or header pipe. Leaching beds (sometimes called tile beds, disposal areas or absorption areas) consist of underground perforated pipe or clay tiles, which evenly distribute wastewater over natural soil or imported material. The purpose of the leaching bed is to further treat the wastewater and remove impurities such as suspended solids, organics and bacteria. The leaching bed disposes of the filtered wastewater into the natural soil and, ultimately into the ground water table.
How Will I Know If I Have A Problem With My Septic System
Some of the warning signs that your septic system may require attention include the following:
- The ground around the septic tank or over the leaching bed may be soggy or spongy to walk on.
- Toilets, showers and sinks may back up or may take longer than usual to drain.
- Occasional sewage odors may become more noticeable, particularly after a rainfall.
- Gray or black liquids may be surfacing in your yard or backing up through fixtures into the house.
- E. coli or fecal coliform indicator bacteria may be found in nearby well water or in a surface ditch close to the leaching bed.
- Activated alarm signals (lights or bells) on special treatment units.
- Unusually green or thick grass growing in or around the leaching bed area.
- The water level in the septic tank is higher than the outlet pipe which indicates that the water is ponding in the distribution lines.
If you notice a problem with your system, it is important that you take action immediately to protect your health and the environment. Contact Allto Construction to advise you on how to proceed at 519-941-6402 or 800-265-3348.
- Do familiarize yourself with the location of your system.
- Do keep an as built system diagram in a safe place for reference.
- Do have your effluent filter cleaned once or twice a year. Most homeowners rely on the maintenance provider to do this job since it can be messy if not done properly.
- Do divert surface water away from your septic tank(s) and leaching bed.
- Do get your septic tank pumped out every three to five years or when 1/3 of the tank volume is filled with solids.
- Ensure your system is inspected as per the Ontario Building Code.
- Do repair leaky plumbing fixtures.
- Do conserve water to reduce the amount of waste water that must be treated.
- Do replace old toilets with low-flow models.
- Do keep lint out of your septic system by cleaning the lint filter on your washing machine.
- Do keep the tank access lid secure at all times.
- Do keep accurate records of septic system maintenance and service calls.
- Don't flush hazardous chemicals such as bleech, antibacteria's or paint into the system.
- Don't flush cigarette butts, coffee grinds, cooking grease, sanitary products or condoms into the system.
- Don't use a garbage disposal or garburators.
- Don't plant trees or shrubs too close to the system or leaching bed.
- Don't dig without knowing the location of your septic system.
- Don't drive over your tank or leaching bed.
- Don't enter a septic tank - gases and lack of oxygen can be fatal.
- Don't connect rain gutters, storm drains or allow surface water to drain into the sewage system or on top of the tank(s) or bed.
- Don't leave interior faucets dripping or leaking during the winter - protect waterlines during cold spells and insulate your plumbing.
- Don't connect water softeners to your system as the salt content can destroy the required bacteria and can overload the system when backwashing.
- Don't park on the septic bed or drive traffic over it.
- Don’t purchase products that claim to “clean up your septic tank”. Most of these products just breakdown your solids and send them to your disposal bed. Exactly where you don’t want them!