A typical septic system has four main components: a pipe from the home, a septic tank, a drainfield and the soil. Microbes in the soil digest or remove most contaminants from wastewater before it eventually reaches groundwater.
Pipe from the home
All of your household wastewater exits your home through a pipe to the septic tank.
The septic tank is a buried, watertight container typically made of concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene. It holds the wastewater long enough to allow solids to settle out (forming sludge) and oil and grease to float to the surface (as scum). It also allows partial decomposition of the solid materials. Compartments and a T-shaped outlet in the septic tank prevent the sludge and scum from leaving the tank and traveling into the drainfield area. Screens are also recommended to keep solids from entering the drainfield.
Newer tanks generally have risers with lids at the ground surface to allow easy location, inspection, and pumping of the tank.
Septic system aliases:
- On-lot system
- Onsite system
- Individual sewage disposal system
- Onsite sewage disposal system
- Onsite wastewater treatment system
To prevent buildup, sludge and floating scum need to be removed through periodic pumping of the septic tank. Regular inspections and pumping are the best and cheapest way to keep your septic system in good working order.