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Septic Tank Care Starts With Water Use

by Septic1

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Septic tank systems treat then dispose waste water from a household. A properly maintained septic system could last for many years. Most homes have a standard septic tank that can hold 1200- 1500 gallons. It is important to know what size septic tank your home has because 75% of all drainfield failures occur due to overloading the system with water. Proper septic tank care starts with water usage and waste disposal habits.

The purpose of a septic tank is to slow down the flow of waste water enough so that solids can settle to the bottom of the tank. In the septic tank waste separates into 3 layers :

Top layer: Scum layer that consists of material lighter than water , like grease,

Middle: Effluent, liquid waste. Outlet and inlet baffles are located in the middle of the tank (where the effluent is) so that the top and bottom layers accumulate in the tank while the effluent is pushed out of the tank into the drainfield.

Bottom: Sludge layer, a build up of solid waste. Bacteria in the septic tank decomposes and turns 50% of the solids into liquids and gas.

The real treatment of waste water occurs in the soil beneath the leach field. The effluent passes through the holes in perforated pipes, and trickles down to the gravel and then soil, bacteria in the soil absorbs and filters out pathogens, viruses and other chemicals. Soil in the drainfield, has to absorb all the water used in the home, so that it can be properly treated before it reaches the ground water.

Excessive water usage can cause a malfunction of the septic system. A large amount of water entering a septic tank in a short amount of time can reduce the settling of solids in the tank or disturb settled materials. When there is too much water in the tank, the effluent passes through too quickly and the water is not treated adequately. This may cause solids to enter the drainfield, which can cause perforated pipes and the drainfield to get clogged .

A water overload means the drainfield is flooded with more water than it can effectively absorb, reducing the system's ability to drain and filter sewage before it reaches ground water. When the drainfield cannot absorb anymore water, odors and surface water will build up over the drainfield. Because effluent from the septic tank contains dangerous pathogens and pollutants, the risk of surface water that can contaminate ground water or nearby wells and bodies of water is especially increased. It is important to limit the amount of water that goes into the septic system because fixing or replacing a drainfield can cost up to $25,000 as well as cause serious health and environmental problems due to untreated sewage.

Using a septic tank treatment product monthly will ensure that bacteria in the septic system decompose and liquefy solid wastes in the drains, tank and drainfield. It is also important to limit the amount of water that goes into the septic system so that it can effectively treat waste water. Your septic tank can only handle so much water at a time, so that solids can properly settle before effluent is discharged into the drainfield. Here are some ways to avoid excessive water usage:

Typical water use is 50 gallons of water per day , per person

Repair leaky toilets, faucets, or plumbing fixtures

Use low flow faucets or high efficiency toilets, shower heads, and other plumbing equipment

Use water saving appliances ( washing machine, dishwasher, etc)

Take showers instead of baths and avoid letting faucets run unnecessarily

When you wash your car do as needed, use a bucket to save water, make sure runoff flows away from drainfield, make sure you do not park on drainfield (to avoid the soil from compacting)

Do not over water your lawn

Divert rain water from drainfield. When the drainfield is saturated, it will not absorb and neutralize liquid waste.

If your washing machine drains into your septic system, consider installing a gray water line that will does not drain into the septic but to another part of the yard, away from the drainfield.

Do not do all your laundry in one day, to avoid overloading your septic system. Do one or two loads per day through out the week to allow time for the septic to recover.

Make sure you choose the right load size when doing laundry. You should try to wash a full load. But if you wash a small load set the machine accordingly as to not waste water.

Only run the dishwasher when it is full


Limiting the amount of water that goes into your septic system and using a septic tank treatment monthly can prolong the life of your septic system. Excessive water usage can cause major back ups and clogs especially to the drainfield. Regularly using a septic tank treatment will help to eliminate and prevent back-ups, clogs, odors, surface water, and drainfield problems. Sewage contains disease-causing pathogens and environmental pollutants that can pose serious health and safety problem, that is why septic tank care is an important part of healthy living.

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