All septic systems have the same goal, which is to break down and filter waste water so it can be reintroduced to the water table without causing contamination. There are several important components that are typically found in a septic system. With these components, all waste and organic matter is able to be broken down, and filtered out, leaving mostly effluent water traveling to the absorption area. There are several different types of septic systems, but the most common are a conventional system, or an elevated sand mound.
A conventional system is the most common type for pre-90s systems. There are several different varieties of a conventional system but they all consist of the same components. They all have a primary treatment tank, inlet and outlet baffles, drainage pipes connecting the home to the system and an absorption area.
You may not think about your drainage pipes when you picture a septic system, but they are a very important piece to the puzzle. Your drainage pipes move all waste from your appliances such as sinks, toilets and showers, to your septic treatment tank. Problems here can lead to clogged pipes, water leakage, sewer backup or a sewer smell.
The primary tank is the forefront of wastewater treatment, and is made up of multiple components. The purpose of the primary tank is to allow healthy bacteria to break down organic wastes. There will typically be three layers of waste within a septic tank.
The scum layer floats on the top. This layer is made up of paper, solids, fats and non organic matter. The bacteria breakdown this scum layer causing it to settle and becomes sludge.
The effluent water layer forms in the middle and is mostly liquid with some suspended solids. This is the water that get passed on to the next step of your septic system.
The sludge layer forms on the bottom of the treatment tank, and is the result of the break down of the scum layer. The sludge layer is made up of broken down waste, dead bacteria and other matter. Its highly important that this layer is removed at frequent intervals to prevent excess sludge from exiting the tank, and to create room for new, healthy bacteria to form.
The primary tank has a few highly important components that are crucial to your systems health.
The Inlet Baffle is the first component after the plumbing leading to the tank. The inlet baffles purple is to slow down the incoming flow of water, and direct it downwards into the water layer, allowing the solids to gently float back to the top.
The Outlet Baffle is highly important. The outlet baffle is located on the outlet side of the tank and is attached to the drain line leaving the tank. The outlet baffle has multiple purposes, it is in place to stop the scum layer from floating into the outlet line. It also collects effluent from the water layer of the tank, allowing mostly water to be sent on to the next step. Without an outlet baffle, excess solids are being allowed to pass on through the system.
The Manhole access is the main and usually largest port on a septic tank. It is very important that we have access to this in order to properly pump and inspect your tank components.
The Inspection port(s) are smaller accesses to a septic tank. They are typically located over the inlet and/or outlet baffle. They allow access direct to your inlet and outlet line and baffles.
The absorption area, or more commonly known as leech field or drain field is the next step after waste water is pre-treated in the primary tank. The primary goal of the absorption area is to distribute the wastewater evenly into the ground. From there the water is filtered down through the existing soil, cleaning it and making it safe to reenter the water table.
There are several different variences to an absorption are and you may find the following components.
All conventional systems have a distribution system. Older systems typically only had one single line made out of terrocotta drain tiles, or even cement pipe.
Secondary tanks or compartments are a standard in system installations now. The secondary tank or compartment gives another area for solids to settle out of the effluent water column. They are typically fitted with an inlet and outlet baffle. All systems built after the year 2000 are required to have an effluent filter.
A Effluent Filter is found in the outlet side of the second tank or compartment. The filter is used to catch small floating particles such as seeds, suspended solids, hair, and non organic materials. Effluent Filters need to be cleaned on a regular basis, usually starting at a three month interval and adjust accordingly.
- Effluent Filter Cleaning and Maintenance
It is highly important that you clean the effluent filter before it is needed. If a filter is left go to long between cleaning cycles, they can become clogged to the point that they let very little water pass through. This causes the water level to rise in your secondary and primary tank, and can cause issues within your house.
If the water level is higher than normal, never remove an effluent filter without having the tank pumped first. Doing so will allow a rush of water to flow out the outlet pipe, taking with it debris that may have fallen off the filter. This can also cause water to stir up excess solids in your pump tank, and then be pumped out to your absorption area.
If conditions are correct, use the following steps to successfully clean your filter.
- Carefully remove filter from its housing, the filter should easily slide out.
- rinse filter with clean water outside the tank, never rinse the filter off back into the tank.
- Carefully reinstall filter back into its housing.