So you fulfilled your dream of owning a country property where there is room to grow and you can enjoy the peace and quiet. More than likely, you have purchased a home that has a septic system. Buried in your yard and built to last, your home septic system may never have crossed your mind. But out of sight and out of mind, it still performs a vital task. So, how does my septic system work?
It’s simple: a tank, a network of pipes and billions of microscopic organisms. Yet it’s received every flush, every shower, and whatever else anyone who’s lived in your house has ever poured down the drain. Your septic system treats tonnes of organic waste each season. The tank treats sewage by letting the heavy solid material settle and allowing time for lighter “scum” to float to the top. This partly treated liquid then flows into perforated pipes, called the leaching bed, where it filters into the ground and is further treated. Helpful bacteria and other soil organisms do the bulk of the work.
Over time, your septic tank will accumulate solid material which must be pumped out. Allowed to accumulate, this sludge may reach the outlet level and begin flowing into the leaching bed. There, it can plug the pipes or the bed. Many septic systems are subject to increased usage, especially when additions are added to an existing home. The new volumes of water can strain the septic system to the point that it eventually gives up and stops working. What happens next? Well, a clogged septic system can be hazardous to the environment and your wallet. It can degrade water supplies and reduce your property value. The required repairs can be messy, often involving excavation and replacement of the whole drainage field. Frequently, the local building department will require replacement of the entire system and any damaged landscaping.
So what are some signs of a failing system? The grass over the system may become unusually green and spongy to walk on. Toilets, showers and sinks may take longer to drain, and may even start backing up. Occasional sewage odours may become noticeable, often after a rainfall. Sometimes, homeowners discover grey or black liquids surfacing in their yards or backing up through fixtures into the house. Whatever the warning sign, call in the experts at Hunter Plumbing, Heating & Excavating Inc. fast! We provide on-call emergency service 24/7 and can help repair your septic system problems by recommending the best solution. A call now, can save big bucks later.
Knowing what can happen, how can we help prevent these issues and keep our septic system running properly? Remember, if in doubt, don’t throw it out! Septic systems thrive on wastewater, but certain chemicals can cause major indigestion. Flushing even small amounts of paints, solvents, thinners, nail polish removers and other common household compounds (or pouring them down the drain) can poison the organisms that break down organic material. Laundry bleaches, toilet bowl cleaners and caustic drain openers can also slow the treatment process, allowing sewage to pass through without proper treatment.
Septic systems cannot digest oils, grease and fat. Poured down the sink or toilet, they congeal in pipes sometimes plugging them. Grease can also combine with detergents and flow into the drainage field where it may clog the soils. Fats can form in the top of the tank, and interfere with the biological activities taking place. All oily waste should go out with the garbage only.
Using your septic system to dispose of garbage is another no-no. In sink garbage disposals or garburators are unwelcome strains on the system. Disposable diapers, tampons and their holders, condoms, wrappers and many other kinds of refuse can plug and impair septic systems. Basically, if something doesn’t break down naturally, don’t flush it into your septic tank.
So there you have it, now you are an expert on your septic system and how to use it properly. Just remember it you do start to notice warning signs that your system may need attention, do not hesitate to call in a professional like Hunter Plumbing for our opinion and advice. A new septic system can prove very costly indeed.