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Commonly Used Septic System Terminology
Septic systems are small scale sewage treatment systems that process and pump solid and liquid waste into a drain field, wherein the processed waste water is reintroduced into the ecosystem. In districts where homes were built with no connection to municipal sewer pipelines, individual septic systems must be used. Numerous factors can cause a septic system to cease functioning. The dumping of fats and cooking oils into the system can block inlet drains; the use of garbage disposals can overload the tank; heavy rainfall can prevent the drain field from operating properly. Here are a few terms to remember in order to understand your septic system:

Septic Tank: A small sewage treatment system. Waste enters the tank, and as it travels through the chambers, solids and liquids are separated. The liquid then is passed thorough the outlet and into a drain field.

Sand Filter: A water purification system that operates either by the introduction of flocculent chemicals or the non-pressurized, non-chemical process of allowing water to seep slowly through a biological layer of protozoa, bacteria and fungi.

Anaerobic Filter: A water treatment filter that uses anaerobic microorganisms break down biodegradable materials without oxygen.

Aeration: The circulation, mixing or dissolution of air through a liquid substance such as water. It is used to increase the oxygen content of water.

Leach Field: A system that removes contaminated materials from the liquid that flows from a septic tank. The system consists of a series of trenches in which the organic matter in the waste materials is broken down by a microbial ecosystem.

Cesspool: Also known as a cesspit, a cesspool is a covered waterproof receptacle used for holding human waste. Cesspools are antiquated versions of the modern sewage system.

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If you buy a house in a rural area, chances are it comes with a septic tank system. Sometimes these systems are called different things, such as on-site systems, individual sewer disposal system and on-site waste water treatment system, but they are all septic systems and all your responsibility. If something goes wrong with your septic tank system, it is your job to fix it. So below are some common questions for septic tank systems.

  • How does it work?
    Basically, a septic tank is installed in the backyard below ground. All waste water flows into the tank, where it is pumped into the drainfield. There the waste water is treated by microbes in the soil.

  • Why should I maintain my system?
    For two reasons. The first is saving money. Failure to maintain your system could lead you to costly repairs, replacements and installation costs. While it is possible to save money buying replacements from a wholesaler, even wholesalers are more expensive than not having to buy the part at all. The second reason is to protect your health and the environment. For example, a drainfield that is seeping sewage material onto the ground is a danger both to your family and the surrounding environment.

  • How do I maintain the system?
    You should have your system inspected every three years. This includes pumping, which removes the built up sludge from the septic tank. Also, use your water efficiently and watch what goes down your drains. Don't dispose of grease and oils in the drains, as this will break down your septic system. Finally, remember your drainfield is part of your system too. Don't plant trees or plants over it and keep other drainage systems away from the drainfield.