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The septic tank or septic system is a very simple and commonly used method of handling residential waste. Approximately one-third of homes in the country use a septic system and when properly maintained, it can provide a trouble-free and reliable method that will last for years.

A septic system has two primary parts. The first is the septic tank and the second is the drainfield, also known as a leech field, or disposal field. The way it works is that the tank collects all the liquid and solid waste that comes from the home. At the bottom of the tank are solid waste sinks that help breakdown bacteria.

Then, any liquid waste will sit on top of the solid layer and when it reaches a certain level, it will flow out going through an outlet side on the tank. From there, the waste goes inside the drainfield. Then, on the top of the liquid layer within the tank is a very thin layer of scum that is typically grease and other types of material. Since this substance is light, it simply floats on top of the water.

The liquid waste, also called effluent, will enter into the drainfield and then flow through a series of perforated plastic pipes that have been set firmly in a layer of gravel. The effluent then filters down through that gravel bed, seeping into the soil just below. Over time, the waste is filtered and purified as it travels deeper into the ground.

If you take good care of your septic tank, it will last for as long as the home. Eventually, layers of solid waste will build up in the bottom portion of the tanks where the bacterial action is not enough to keep the tank from filling up. This usually occurs when then system if anywhere from three to five years and this is the time that the tanks has to be opened up and pumped out.

Pumping out the septic tank is not difficult but you will need to use special equipment to accomplish the task so you want a professional´┐Żs assistance. First, the professional will need to find the location of the tank. Typically, this is done by looking for a small mound of dirt in the yard, or an area that is greener than other locations since the nitrogen and soil nutrients of the effluent promotes healthy plant growth. When the tank is found, the soil will need to be removed so the top of the soil is exposed.

The door will be removed and a special truck that has a powerful suction ability will remove all the waste. Once the truck has finished pumping out all the waste, the professional will record the date and should note the location so if it ever needs to be pumped again, the next person will know exactly where to go.

To avoid having the expense of repairing a clogged drain or a drainfield that is malfunctioning, you need to keep the tank operating properly. In most cases, if you do run into these problems, the entire septic tank would have to be dup up and new pipes places. This would be a disastrous problem so to help, consider the following recommendations:
  • Keep the pumping of the tank on a regular schedule. Never allow the waste to fill the tank or to overflow, which would force the solid waste down into the drainfield.

  • To not ever flush anything harmful down the drain, which would include fruit and vegetable peelings, onionskins, fibrous vegetables such as celery, or eggshells

  • Never drive over the drain, compacting the soil and decreasing the drainage effectiveness

  • Do not put any type of grease down the drain, which can cause the effluent to fill into the drain line holes

  • Always think about planting any trees or large plants near the drainfield, as the roots can grow quickly and entangle with the pipes and lines.
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