Most rural homes will use a septic tank system combined with a drainfield or leachfield. It is often placed in the backyard and can provide years of effective sewage disposal. A septic system is designed to have as little maintenance as possible and can function by itself. They usually contain a tank, a distribution box and a drainfield or leachfield.
When sewage leaves the home, it first goes into the septic tank. The tank is constructed out of concrete, fiberglass or plastic and is made to be watertight. There is a small riser built into the top of the tank so it can be pumped out. The septic tank should be pumped out regularly to avoid septic system problems. It also has an inlet pipe that allows the sewage to enter. The outlet pipe is located at the opposite end of the tank and allows the sewage to exit. Scum will float to the top and the sludge will settle to the bottom. The middle layer of sewage is what will exit the tank and enter the drainfield.
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The scum and the sludge is eliminated by digestion. Bacteria will break down the solids and turn them into liquids. The liquids will exit into the drainfield. Unfortuantly, some substances will not be digested and must be pumped out. There are bacteria shock treatments that may work to help break down these solids. It will allow you to go longer between pumping the tank.
Before the waste can enter the leachfield, it must travel through the distribution box. This box will hold the overflow waste. The distribution box is made of concrete and is also watertight. The waste will eventually leave the box and head into the leachfield which is a series of perforated pipes laid into the ground. There is a layer of stones or rocks underneath the pipes to filter the waste as it drains into the soil and into the groundwater system. By this time, the waste will have transformed into clean water.
Septic systems are built to handle a lot of sewage, however, they must be regularly maintained so they can function properly. It is important to monitor the scum and sludge so you know exactly when it needs to be pump. Septic tanks should be pumped yearly to avoid buildup and flooding. By performing regular maintenance, your septic system components will work for many years to come.