A septic tank is used to treat wastewater coming from a home or business. This nifty diagram can show you some of the mechanics of how the septic system works. The inlet pipe collects all of the waste into the tank, and over time the liquid and solid waste will separate inside of the tank. At the same time the outlet pipe (also sometimes called the drain field), will push any cleaned water that goes through this process into a perforated pipe where the water seeps out evenly into the soil surrounding the pipe.
Wastewater inside of the tank will eventually separate into three distinct layers. The first, called scum, is oils and grease that floats at the top. The middle is the wastewater and wastewater particles themselves. The bottom is sludge, which consists of any waste particles heavier than water. The bacteria from the wastewater collects inside the tank, which then eats at and decomposes any solid waste in the wastewater. Once the bacteria break down the solids the remaining liquids are separated to be sent to the distribution system.
Advantages of Using a Septic Tank
If you have the choice, using a septic tank over a shared sewer system brings with it many advantages. Below are just some of the benefits a septic tank provides:
Water Bills: In most places, you will end up paying for using the local sewers as a part of your utilities bill. If you have your own septic tank, you will likely not pay any water bills to your local government. While septic tanks may seem costly at first, the money saved on water bills adds up fast. It is also more cost effective to install a septic tank than it is to install new pipes connected to the sewer system.
Low Maintenance: You will not need to personally do much to maintain the septic tank. Any inspection or maintenance should always be done by a professional because the fumes when opening the tank can be quite dangerous. Thankfully, this routine maintenance doesn’t need to happen very often. It is usually recommended to pump the tank every 3 to 5 years.
Durability: Most septic tanks can last anywhere from 20 to 40 years, meaning you will need to replace them very rarely (whereas you would likely have to replace sewage pipes much more often).
Along with the personal benefits septic tanks provide, septic tanks also have a lot of benefits to the environment according to the EPA:
Public Health: A sewage system runs the risk of disease transmission through contaminated drinking water, surface water, or water beds. A septic tank has less problems with leakage, and the water that goes out through the perforated pipes is already preprocessed to get rid of the worst contaminants.
Environment: Septic tanks remove pathogens from surface water, recharges local aquifers, and replenishes groundwater.
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