What is a septic tank and how does it work?

A septic tank acts not only as a holding area for residential waste, but will also decompose the human and organic waste that enters it.  That waste can consist of “gray water” (detergent water), garbage disposal contents, and human waste.  Once the waste enters the tank via the property’s sewer service line, naturally residing bacteria within the tank will begin the biological digestion and decomposition process of the incoming waste.

Each time you run water, empty your sink, or flush your toilet, that water acts as a vehicle carrying any residing solid material to your septic tank.  The weighty materials will settle to the bottom of the tank, while any grease and lighter materials will rise to the surface of the water and form a thin “skin”.  The bacteria will decompose the contents into smaller particles which will eventually settle to the bottom of the tank.

How often should you have your tank professionally emptied?

How often a septic tank depends on many factors, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Number of Tanks in your system

  • Size of Tanks in your system

  • Number of people using the facility

  • Habits of residents

  • Residential vs. commercial property

  • Condition of your absorption area

  • Type of soil of your absorption area

  • Climate, Precipitation

  • Existence of Garbage disposals and water softeners

Busscher’s recommends pumping your tank every 3 year to 4 years, based on average household usage.  We can customize a service schedule for your property if we find the recommended frequency of pumping does not fit the profile of your property.

What could prevent a septic system from preforming sufficiently?

  1. Your existing absorption (Drain field) area is too small
  2. Pores in the solid bank of the absorption are have become blocked, due to not cleaning the tank at recommended intervals.
  3. An excessive amount of rain or surface flooding
  4. The build up of septic tank contents have sealed off the inlet to the septic tank

Your septic system is your responsibility!

Did you know that as a homeowner you’re responsible for maintaining your septic system? Did you know that maintaining your septic system protects your investment in your home? Did you know that you should periodically inspect and pump out your septic system?

If properly designed, constructed, and maintained, your septic system can provide long-term effective treatment of household wastewater. If your septic system isn’t maintained, you might need to replace it, costing you thousands of dollars. A malfunctioning system can contaminate groundwater that might be a source of drinking water. And if you sell your home, your septic system must be in good working order.

Protect Your Septic System

  • Inspect and Pump your tank every 3 years.

  • Use water efficiently.

  • Don’t dispose of household hazardous wastes in sinks or toilets.

  • Care for your drainfield. Avoid driving or parking vehicles on your drainfield. Plant only grass over and near your drainfield to avoid damage from roots.

A typical septic system has four main components:

  1. A Pipe From the House
  2. A Septic Tank (Or More)
  3. A Drainfield/Drainbed or Drywells
  4. Soil

Microbes in the soil digest or remove most contaminants from wastewater before it eventually reaches groundwater.

The septic tank is a buried, watertight container typically made of concrete, or plastic. It holds the wastewater long enough to allow solids to settle out (forming sludge) and oil and grease to float to the surface (as scum). It also allows partial decomposition of the solid materials. Compartments and a T-shaped outlet in the septic tank prevent sludge and scum from leaving the tank and traveling into the drainfield area. Filters are also recommended to keep solids from entering the drainfield.

The wastewater exits the septic tank and is discharged into the drainfield for further treatment by the soil.

Micro-organisms in the soil provide final treatment by removing harmful bacteria, viruses, and nutrients.

Pump Frequently

You should have your septic system inspected at least every 3 years by a professional and your tank pumped at the same time!

Use Water Efficiently

Average indoor water use in the typical single-family home is almost 70 gallons per person per day!  Dripping faucets can waste about 2,000 Gallons of water each year.  Leaky toilets can waste as much as 200 Gallons each day!  The more water a household conserves, the less water enters the septic system.

  1. Fill the bathtub with only as much water as you need
  2. Turn off faucets while shaving or brushing your teeth
  3. Run the dishwasher and clothes washer only when they are full
  4. Use toilets to flush sanitary waste only
  5. Make sure all faucets are completely turned off when not in use
  6. Maintain your plumbing to eliminate leaks
  7. Install aerators in the faucets in your kitchen and bathroom
  8. Replace old dishwashers, toilets, and clothes washers with new, high-efficiency models.

Flush Responsibly

Dental floss, feminie hygiene products, condoms, diapers, cotton swabs, cigarette butts, coffee grounds, cat litter, paper towels, and other kitchen and bathroom items can clog and potentially damage septic system components.  Flushing household chemicals, gasoline, oil, pesticides, antifreeze, and paint can stress or destroy the biological treatment taking place in the system or might contaminate surface waters and groundwater.

A key reason to maintain your septic system is to save money!  Failing septic systems are expensive to repair or replace, and poor maintenance is often the culprit.  Having your septic system inspected and pumped every 3 years is a bargain when you consider the cost of replacing the entire system.  An unusable septic system or one in disrepair will lower your property’s value and could pose a legal liability.

Other good reasons for safe treatment of sewage include preventing the spread of infection and disease and protecting water resources.  Typical pollutants in household wastewater are nitrogen, phosphorus, and disease-causing bacteria and viruses.  Nitrogen and phosphorus are aquatic plant nutrients that can cause unsightly algae blooms.  Excessive nitrate-nitrogen in drinking water can cause pregnancy complications, as well as methemoglobinemia (A.K.A. Blue Baby syndrome) in infancy.  Pathogens can cause communicable disease through direct or indirect body contact or ingestion of contaminated water or shellfish.  If a septic system is working properly, it will effectively remove most of these pollutants.

How to treat your drainfield

  • Plant only grass over and near your septic system.  Roots from nearby trees or shrubs might clog and damage the drainfield.
  • Don’t drive or park vehicles on any part of your septic system.  Doing so can compact the soil in your drainfield or damage the pipes, tank or other septic system components.
  • Keep roof drains, basement sump pump drains, and other rainwater or surface water drainage system away from the drainfield.  Flooding the drainfield with excessive water slows down or stops treatment processes and can cause plumbing fixtures to backup.