How Do Septic Tanks Work?

How Do Septic Tanks Work?

You already know that when you flush the toilet, pour water in your sink or empty the tub the water goes somewhere. But have you ever stopped to think about where it goes or what happens to it? Large cities have equally large and complicated sewage or water treatment systems designed to salvage as much of the useable water from the waste as possible. If, however, you are like 25% of Canadians and you live in a smaller or rural community, you are more likely to have a septic system on your property than you are to share a sewer with neighbors.

What is a Septic System?

A private onsite septic system is designed to be functional and sanitary. It basically receives all the water waste that is expelled through your home’s plumbing and treats it to extract the useable water waste that can be absorbed by the soil on the property. In a nutshell, a septic tank separates solid waste from liquids. The solid waste is stored in the septic tank. Solid waste exists in two forms – a top layer of grease referred to as scum, and a bottom layer of solids more commonly known as sludge. In a septic tank, the liquids that are separated from solid waste are called effluent and they are dispersed throughout the soil on the property by a mechanism called a leaching system. The leaching system is a part of the septic system, which is often buried just a few feet away from the septic tank. The leaching system helps the effluent flow from the septic tank into the soil.

In a Nutshell?

A septic tank receives the wastewater that comes from regular use of household plumbing and treats it until it is at a safe environmental level. Then the septic ank returns the serviceable portion – known as the waste effluent to the soil surrounding the property.

An Outline of the Septic System

Below is a general outline of the main components of any septic system:

– Sewer line – this is the main waste line leading from your home’s plumbing to the septic tank

– Septic tank – this is the underground tank that receives and treats your home’s waterwaste

– Leaching system – this is the drainage system that allows for waste effluent to be dispersed into the soil

Now that you have a basic understanding of how a septic tank works, you should note that if you are considering buying a home with a septic tank, you should inspect the tank before investing in the home.

Beware of Old Septic Tanks

Because buying a home is a huge investment, you have a home inspector inspect the property before you close the deal. Similarly, septic systems are very expensive, and thus, you should make sure to inspect the system properly or have it inspected so that you know what you are getting into. If your home is older, it may have a septic tank made out of steel or wood. If that’s the case, you will definitely be looking at replacing that septic tank.

Tanks made out of steel inevitably rust and end up needing to be replaced. Similarly, septic tanks made out of wood will end up rotting and also needing to be replaced. These days, septic tanks are manufactured out of concrete, fiberglass or polyethylene. These materials have proven to be more durable and efficient. If the home you are considering buying has an older septic tank made of wood or steel, you can decide to use it as a negotiating point or move on to a different house to save yourself the headache.