Whether you are a budding homeowner starting out in your first home or an established property owner, the workings of various household systems can sometimes be a mystery. One of these, perhaps overlooked until it causes a problem, is septic tank plumbing. With this article, we delve into how septic tanks and the corresponding plumbing work, so you will become a more informed property owner.

Septic Systems Overview

If you are thinking something along the lines of -- what on earth is a septic system? -- here is the quick breakdown: A septic system provides a way for wastewater from your house to be cleaned and returned to the environment. See Dan's Plumbing's Post on Their Partnership with Beyond Blue and note that regular maintenance can help prevent costly problems!

System Component: The Tank

In most cases, the first part of a septic tank plumbing system is the tank itself. This underground component stores everything that goes down your drains before it's treated.

System Component: The Pipes

The second part of your septic tank plumbing system involves the pipes used to transport waste materials. These pipes lead directly from your house and into the septic tank.

System Component: The Distribution Box

After preliminary treatment in the tank, wastewater passes through into a distribution box. As part of this system your distribution box helps evenly distribute wastewater into your drain field.

Separation Process: Heavy Solids

The separation of waste material begins once matter enters the tank. Heavy solids that cannot be broken down settle at the bottom, forming what is known as sludge.

Separation Process: Light Solids

Light solids, such as fats and oils, rise to the top of the tank creating a scum layer. In between these two layers exists a relatively clear zone of liquid.

Biological Treatment: Bacteria at Work

This clear zone full of wastewater in the tank is subject to a natural process called biological treatment. Bacteria present in the wastewater starts to break down solid waste materials, turning them into liquids or gasses.

Anaerobic Digestion Process

The process where bacteria break down these solids without the presence of oxygen is referred to as anaerobic digestion. This reaction creates gasses that are vented out of your septic system.

Flowing Through to the Drain Field

The now mostly-clear water moves from the tank into the distribution box, which sends it evenly across the drain field. This area is designed to allow this water to trickle down through several layers of soil for further treatment.

Natural Filtering and Cleaning

As liquid trickles down through the soil layers in your drain field, a natural kind of filtering occurs. This cleanses the water before it re-enters your local ecosystem, specifically the groundwater supply.

Maintaining Your Septic System

The health of your septic system depends on regular maintenance. Included in this is pumping the tank every 3-5 years -- this removes the remaining solids that weren't broken down by bacteria.

Avoiding System Misuse

Being aware of what you put into our septic system can lengthen its lifespan and prevent expensive repairs. This includes limiting heavy oils, non-biodegradable products and certain chemicals.

Professional Plumbing Services

Despite your best efforts to maintain and monitor your septic system, professional services may occasionally be necessary. Regular inspections by a licensed plumber can ensure minor issues are corrected before becoming major problems.

A Worthwhile Investment

Remember that learning about how your septic tank plumbing works is not merely interesting, it's also a wise investment in long-term property maintenance. After all, by gaining this knowledge and putting it to good use, you can help head off any significant septic problems before they develop into expensive repairs.

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