The concept of plumbing dates back to the ancient Romans, who coated their pipes with lead, whose atomic symbol, Pb, comes from the Latin name for lead. Hence, the modern term “plumbers.” Most American houses and buildings today are connected to public utilities that are much more advanced than anything the Romans had, leading to sewage treatment plants. But around 25% of American households are too remote to make use of this, so these rural homes instead make use of septic systems. These septic systems are self-contained systems that can dispose of waste water and purify it enough to safely return it to the natural world. Thus, septic tanks and their connected filters and pipes should be well cared for, and septic tank pumping or septic services may be needed. A responsible homeowner can keep their septic systems running for many years without undue trouble, and septic tank treatment may be just a phone call away.
How a Septic Tank System Works
Someone who just bought a rural house with connected septic systems may want to soon learn exactly how septic systems work, and what sort of hardware they feature. To begin with, all dirty water pipes in the house will flush waste water down to the septic tank, a large underground storage tank that might hold hundreds of gallons of content. These tanks may vary in size, but ultimately, they will perform the same job. Inside, these tanks feature bacteria colonies that break down solids in the water, allowing solids to settle to the tank’s bottom in a thick sludge while fats and oils float to the top. This takes a few days, and after that, the relatively clean water in between will pass through a filter grate and deeper into the system.
Now, the water may leach out of the system’s pipes through holes and nozzles just below the earth’s surface, and here, loose gravel, soil, and bacteria will further purify and filter the water as it re-enters the natural system. The are where this is done is known as the leach field or drainage field. The process is now complete, and good maintenance and cleaning will ensure that it always works this way.
Cleaning and Repairing Septic Systems
What might go wrong with a septic system, and how often will it need cleaning? Every few years, the septic tank itself needs to be cleaned out, since the sludge inside cannot escape on its own and will continue to build up. So, septic pump services may be called upon, and a crew will arrive with a truck mounted with a tank and pumping equipment. Crews will unearth the tank’s hatch and open it, and once the truck’s hose is attached, the machines will pump out all sludge to leave an empty tank. A homeowner may use a measuring stick known as a “sludge judge” to determine how full the tank is. A tank may need cleaning if it is one third to one half full of sludge.
Meanwhile, the tank’s filter may be damaged or clogged, but a clogged filter shouldn’t be simply removed to allow water to pass through, or the water will be too dirty as it gets further into the system. Instead, that grate should be repaired or cleaned off, then replaced properly. And if the septic tank itself is very old and leaking, experts may be called upon to unearth it and remove it, then install a new tank. The replacement tank might even be larger than the old one.
Another issue may be the drainage pipes, which may get clogged with grime and filth over time. This may restrict water passage or even block it, so professionals may be called upon to dig up those pipes, then scour them clean with pressurized water to blast out all contaminants. Finally, the homeowner may keep the system safe by avoiding flushing away items that don’t break down easily, such as tobacco, baby diapers, or moisturized hand towels. What is more, the homeowner should ensure that no one drives a vehicle across the leach field, since a vehicle’s weight will compress the soil and gravel too much and block water flow. Signs or fences may mark the drainage field for convenience.