If you have a new septic system and you don't know how it works, you could be setting yourself up for disaster. Septic tanks are a lot different than having your home connected to the municipal sewer system. For one thing, with a septic system, all the sewage is held in a containment tank in your yard. For another, you're responsible for the maintenance of your septic system. Without proper care, your septic system will fail, which can result in raw sewage backing up into your home. To help you understand your septic system, here's what you need to know about what goes on inside the tank.
When waste is flushed out of your home, it passes through the drain pipes and lands in your septic tank. This includes all waste from toilets, sinks, tubs, and washing machines. Heavy waste, such as fecal matter and food, will drop to the bottom of the tank where bacteria will begin working to decompose it properly. Your septic tank will use natural bacteria to decompose all the matter that is deposited on the bottom layer. The matter that remains after decomposition turns to sludge and will form a thick layer at the bottom of your tank.
As waste is decomposed, your tank will develop a second layer. This layer—the middle—is comprised primarily of waste water and small particles of debris that have floated up from the bottom sludge layer. This is the liquid that will eventually be filtered off towards your seepage field.
The third layer of waste inside your septic tank is the top layer. This is the layer that will contain everything that can't be processed on the other two layers. The top layer contains things like soap scum, cooking oils, fats, and other substances that couldn't be decomposed properly. This is the layer that can cause you the most problems, especially if it moves through to the seepage field.
Once your liquid waste leaves the septic tank, it flows through to your seepage field. This is the area where all liquid waste goes so that it can be absorbed into the soil. If your seepage field becomes contaminated with oils and other substances, the liquid can't be absorbed properly. When that happens, your entire septic system may fail. To help avoid costly problems, it's best to limit the amount of fats, oils, and chemicals that pass through your septic system.
If this is your first septic system, the information provided here will help you understand how the system works. To keep your septic system working properly, you should have it serviced and receive septic tank cleaning about once every three to five years.