Liquid waste disposal can be done through public sewers and utilities (most common in cities and other urban areas), but in rural communities such as small towns and farms, houses are more likely to be connected to a septic system, which can be thought of as a personal sewer that makes use of the land itself as part of the “sewer”. Having such a system means caring for it when needed, and performing any necessary maintenance or cleaning to keep the septic disposal system working its best. A clogged drain or other septic problems can hamper the whole process, so plumbing repair may be needed, and there are some professionals who specialize in working with septic disposal systems. Flushing the toilet is just the start; caring for a septic disposal system involves multiple steps for maintenance and vigilance.
How the Septic Disposal System Works
When a home has a septic disposal system in place, all plumbing from the home, such as from the toilets, sinks, and bathtubs, connect via pipes to the rest of the septic facilities. First, the dirty water will reach the septic tank itself, where the water will sit. Fats and oils will float to the top, while the solids settle to the bottom and, over time, form a thick sludge that stays in the tank. Bacteria in the tank can break down solids in the water to form this sludge, which accumulates at the bottom of the tank as months pass. Next, the water flows through a drain (which as a screen to catch larger particles), and the water, or effluent, flows through several pipes that are spread across a field designated for this purpose, where dirt, rocks, gravel, and more bacteria are ready. The water leaks out of the pipes through holes and nozzles, and is purified as it passes through.
Problems can arise over time, and even without any breakdowns, the system will need cleaning, and its parts may need replacement over time anyway. For one thing, the septic tank itself will continue to build up sludge at the bottom, and once every six to 12 months, the sludge must be pumped out. One can use a “sludge judge”, or a rod meant to be lowered into the tank and the sludge’s level can be measured. This allows the homeowner to stay on top of the tank’s cleaning schedule. Once the tank is full enough, professionals can be called over, and they will use machines in their truck to pump it all out, leaving the tank ready for more dirty water.
Sometimes, however, the filters in the septic disposal system’s pipes and tanks will get clogged or break, and they must be replaced at once; if chunks of waste are able to flow where they don’t belong, they can clog other parts of the system, or the water that flows into the field will be too dirty to use again. Damaged or clogged screens must be replaced at once, and clogged screens should not be simply removed sow water may flow again. Also, care should be taken so that vehicles do not drive across the septic tank’s purification field, since this can compact the dirt and gravel and render it useless, clogging and backing up the entire system. And every once in a while, the septic tank itself will have to be dug up and replaced once it wears out, and professionals can help remove the old one and install a new tank.
Rural homeowners don’t have to be behind the times. They can easily make use of newer innovations in plumbing, which can save on the water bill and ease the strain on their septic system. After all, toilets make up 25 to 30% of a home’s water use, on average, so installing new, water-efficient toilets can save on the water bill, as can repairing any leaks. 90 gallons of water can be lost per day in a leaky house, so a plumbing company should be called over if major leaks are found in the home. Meanwhile, across the United States, over 27 million low-flow toilets have been installed, which collectively can save enormous amounts of water, easing strain on groundwater supplies and helping lessen clogs in sewer systems, both public and septic.