When it comes to maintaining a healthy Septic Tank system, I'm sure you've heard of persistent problems, treatments, and professional jargon!
If you are looking for a guide that can help you to learn about the septic tank and overcome septic tank problems, then you will love this article.
This article is all about the septic tank, its work process, problems, and frequently asked questions.
We have made an infographic about the cost of septic tank installation, emptying it and maintaining. We have attached the infographic at the end of this article.
What is a Septic Tank?
In simple language, this is a tank where our poop goes after we flush the toilet. Although it sounds easy enough to skip reading, it doesn't.
Google SERP definition of the septic tank,
Collins Dictionary defines Septic tank by,
Cambridge Dictionary definition is as follows,
Merriam Webstar Dictionary meaning of septic tank,
Table of Contents
How Does a Septic Tank Work?
Before we elaborate on the working process of a septic tank, you need to understand the structure of the tank.
Septic tank is a combination of two chambers separated by a wall. When you flush the toilet, the wastes flow through the pipe into the first chamber of the tank.
In that chamber, bacteria break down wastes into sludges and fumes. The gas exits the chamber with a pipe on top of the chamber and the wastewater flows to the second chamber.
In the second chamber, bacteria break down the remaining wastes flown with the water. After that, the water is filtered out to the central wastewater management system or a private wastewater management hub.
The whole process is automated and it does not need any human interactions.
The breakdown process is run by bacteria already grown in the tank or by septic tank treatments people pour into the toilet.
Types of the Septic Systems
All types of septic systems can be divided into two principal types, i.e.
- Conventional Septic system, and
- Alternative Systems
The conventional septic system consists of two different types.
- Gravity system, and
- Drip distribution system
The alternative septic system also has some divisions.
- Aerobic treatment unit
- Mound systems
- The recirculating sand filter system
Apart from the above mentioned systems, there are other systems like-
- The simple Septic tank system
- Evapotranspiration system
- Constructed wetland system
- Cluster/community system
- Chamber system
Let's dive into the types one by one.
1. Conventional Septic System
This system is popular among small families. The system is a combination of a septic tank and a sub-surface drain water line.
The tank treats the wastes and pipes the water to the drain field. Stone and soil mixture of the drain field cures the water and filter out it into the ground.
Stone, soil, sand, and other fiber material is used for making a good drain field that can cure the effluent water for long.
a. Gravity system
As the name indicates, the wastewater is cured and flowed into the ground without any machine. The water flows to the drain field from the tank and by gravitational force, the water is filtered through the drain field.
b. Drip Distribution system
The other name of this system is the 'Pressure distribution system'. In this septic system, the water flows through the pipe with the help of a motorized machine.
This technology is greatly helpful for busy septic systems. The machine distributes the water throughout the drain field at the same time which makes use of the entire drain field.
2. Alternative Septic systems
Systems that come under this head is not often used in home or businesses. These systems are for special circumstances.
a. Aerobic Treatment Unit (ATU)
The ATU system consists of a tank almost the same as the conventional system. One thing that differentiates this treatment unit is the Air pump.
Oxygen is pumped to the tank by the air pump to increase the growth of the decomposing bacteria. This system speeds up the breakdown process.
This expensive but well-balanced system is popular in places where sub-surface or surface water is too close to the home. To eliminate the risk of contaminating the surface or groundwater, this ATU system is well-appreciated all over the world.
b. Mound Systems
This system is also for the region where the groundwater level is high. It contains a conventional tank with a raised drain field.
The drain field is made on the ground with stone, soil, sand, and fiber materials.
Though this helps a lot to establish a septic system in a rough condition, the system needs a lot of space and expensive maintenance.
c. The Recirculating Sand Filter System
In this system, sand is used as a filter to treat the wastewater. The sand filter can be established under or above the ground level depending on the circumstances.
The effluent water is piped out to a reservoir from where a pump pushes the water to the recirculating sand filter to treat the water.
This expensive septic system is good for the regions where the groundwater table is high.
Apart from the types discussed above, some other types also deserve mentioning.
a. Evapotranspiration System
The system does not work without extreme sun heat. The system needs a unique type of drain field from where most of the water is evaporated into the air and the rest dissolves into the soil.
The design is very unique and helpful where you want to restrict the wastewater from reaching the groundwater fully.
b. Constructed Wetland System
In this treatment system, a wetland is used for filtering out the wastewater.
A constructed wetland is made in between the septic tank and the drain field. The wastewater flows through the wetland where microbes and different curing plants eliminates harmful nutrients from the water.
c. Community Septic System
The other name of this system is 'Cluster System'. Here, two or more homes use a common drain field for treating the wastewater.
Septic Tank Problems That Are Common in the USA
- Tree Roots
- Line or Tank Leak
- Vehicle Damage
- Ground Movement Damage
- Collapsed Separating Wall
So, we should now go into details one by one...
1. Clogs in The Pipe or Tank
If you are a homeowner for a long time, you certainly have faced a clogged tank problem. As septic tank pipes out grey water into the drain field, the solid wastes remain in the tank.
When the tank is full of those solid wastes, you should see sewage back up in your toilet. An awkward and yak situation!
With septic tank treatment packages, you can ensure a healthy breakdown of solid wastes. But you need to empty your septic tank periodically over 5 to 10 years depending on use and septic condition.
2. Nearby Tree Roots
Yes, tree roots can cause serious problems for your septic tank system. If you place your septic tank near a big tree, its always growing root can cause your septic tank to break or leak.
So, when making a septic tank, be prepared for such circumstances unless you have an entirely treeless backyard.
3. Line or Tank Leak
One of the most common problems is the 'leaked septic tank'. A leak can occur without any warning. So, you have to always be prepared for small leaks in the pipeline or tank.
To reduce the risk, you should use high-quality material in the toilet pipe and the tank.
4. Damage Caused by Vehicle
Septic tank or the pipeline can be damaged if you place the tank or the pipe under the road. People often overlook the risk and make their way to the garage above the drain field pipeline.
Doing this can cause the damaged pipeline over time resulting in an expensive repair.
5. Ground Movement Damage
Of all the problems, this is the one that is not man-made. You can't control the ground movement and if it happens, the pressure from the ground can severely damage your tank.
This happens when an earthquake hits or for heavy rainfall. To protect your sewage tank from damaging for such natural events, you can use flexible materials like plastic in the outer part of the tank. In an earthquake, the flexible part can absorb most of the cyclic load preventing the inner part from breaking or leaking.
6. Collapsed Separating Wall
The role of the separating wall at the center of the tank is significant. Without this, the septic tank won't work properly. Since the septic tank is a house of toxic and acidic gas and waste materials, the center wall must have protection against those.
If you use a weak material for separation, it will eventually collapse and cost you a lot to repair.
How Often Do You Need to Empty a Septic Tank?
Generally, you need to empty the tank once every 5 to 7 years. However, the timing depends upon the usage of the tank and the number of people using it. And, the environment inside the tank also plays a significant role in it.
For example, If only a person lives in your house, then the frequency of emptying the tank can be 10 to 15 years.
On the other hand, increasing the user to 10 people can cause the tank to be filled quicker than the general. So, in such circumstances, you need to empty the tank in a year or two.
Apart from the usage, the maintenance of the septic tank also plays a role in the filling time. Ensuring a healthy septic environment can play a vital role in the 'tank emptying frequency'.
You can keep your tank healthy by limiting the use of chemical substances or pouring treatment packages into the toilet.
What Are the Symptoms of a Full Septic Tank?
Since there is no hard and fast timing for emptying a septic tank, you need to empty the tank by observing the symptoms of a full septic tank.
The symptoms are-
1. Slow Drain
A slow drain can be caused by many things like a clog in the pipe, damaged pipe. But a full septic tank also causes a slow drain.
If you are having some issues with water draining and the septic tank has also not been emptied for a while, then this can be the most evident cause of the slow drain problem.
2. Pooling Water without Rain
If you see pooling water on the lawn without any rain, first check your water tank. If you do not find anything to bother about in the water tank, then it can be the septic tank.
3. Bad Odor
If there is a foul odor around your septic tank, then it needs your attention. Either it is full or clogged. Either way, you should pump the wastes out of it and treat the tank with high-quality organic treatment.
4. Sewage Backup
This is the most 'Yakky' symptoms of a full septic tank. No one wants to see sewage backup!
If you see it, this is surely for the septic tank issue. Either your tank is full or clogged. And you need to call a plumber to fix it.
5. Green Lawn above Septic Tank
Green grass is not always good. When you see a sudden growth of green grass around the surface on the top, then it can be the overflow of the wastewater which triggered the growth.
How Much Does it Cost to Empty a Septic Tank?
Since the cost depends on the tank size, region and the reputation of the companies, it is hard to estimate any certain amount.
But according to Home Guide, The national average cost for pumping septic tanks is USD 375, having a minimum cost of 250 USD for a 750-gallon tank and a maximum of $895 for a 1250-gallon tank.
How Much Does it Cost to install a 1000 Gallon Septic Tank?
In the United States, the national average cost for a septic tank installation is around $6000. But the cost varies depending on the size, material, type and the design of the septic system.
If you are looking for the price of a 1000 gallon septic tank, it can cost you from $2000 to $5000. Please keep in mind that a 1000 gallon tank is convenient for tiny families. If you are of a large family, try spending a bit more to install a larger tank. So that you need not pump the tank frequently.
You can use the cost estimation calculator from Home Advisor to get an idea. The calculator shows the average septic tank installation cost in your city along with the Minimum and Maximum range.
Septic Tank Installation Cost Infographic
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Waste management through the septic tank and sewer system are almost similar but they have different pros and cons.
A sewer system is where a central waste management plant is made with which all the homes of the area are connected.
Here, you do not need to install a septic tank, rather all the waste management hassle are on the sewer management.
They collect waste from your house through the pipe and handle it in their central filtration system.
Being connected with public utility sewer costs a certain monthly bill. But it gives you a convenient life without worrying about septic system failure when connected with a public utility sewer system.